- Full field of 22 Volkswagen Polos provided epic spectacle
- Volkswagen’s investment bears fruit with Jonathan Mogotsi claiming maiden career victory
- Juan Gerber the big winner on the day ahead of Mogotsi and Darren Oates
Close racing with only fractions of seconds separating more than 20 identical cars around Port Elizabeth’s Aldo Scribante racing circuit was the highlight of the Volkswagen National Race Day, an event that also hosted round 5 of the 2017 Engen Volkswagen Cup. To add to the success of the very popular one-make series, Port Elizabeth will now also be fondly remembered as the place where 2016 Volkswagen Driver Search winner Jonathan Mogotsi scored an emphatic maiden victory in front of an appreciative crowd.
“The racing in both heats of the Engen Volkswagen Cup quite literally had the crowd on their feet. And to top it all off, our Volkswagen Motorsport’s very own Jonathan Mogotsi showed skill and class beyond his years to be the first car across the line in race 2, and that in only his fifth event at this high level,” said Mr. Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport at the end of a very successful race day for the marque who also calls the Eastern Cape home. It was clear from very early in the weekend that Mogotsi had good pace, but it was championship leader Devin Robertson and arch rival Juan Gerber who set the initial pace in the early practice sessions. Robertson’s current good run of form continued when he also managed to set the fastest time in qualifying, just 0.05 seconds faster than the fastest time set by Gerber. Mogotsi was hot on their heels and in third, ahead of Clinton Bezuidenhout and Shaun La Réservée who rounded off the top 5.
With the first 17 cars all covered by less than a single second following qualifying, it was pretty clear that racing was going to be close and true to form, the Engen Volkswagen Cup did not disappoint. Most of the field could be covered by a blanket for the majority of the 12 laps that made up race 1, and when the flag was waved to signal the end of the race, it was pole-sitter Devin Robertson who crossed the line first. Another victory did his championship aspirations no harm at all, but his joy was short lived as shortly after he received a penalty for a jump start, dropping him way down the order. This meant that Gerber finally claimed a much-deserved victory ahead of Bezuidenhout, La Réservée, Darren Oates and Matt Shorter. Mogotsi crossed the line in a very credible sixth place, but the youngster had more plans for race two. “I drove here in a 3-Hour endurance race late in 2016 as part of the Volkswagen Driver Search Programme, so I know the circuit and enjoy driving here. I have a good feeling going into the second race,” said Mogotsi during the lunch break.
All the holes in the Swiss cheese were lining up for the young man as he also drew P2 for race two which meant he started from the front row, but with a big target on his back. This would prove to be his biggest test yet in his short racing career, but Mogotsi rose to the occasion by hanging on by the skin of his teeth to record a very popular victory, just meters ahead of Justin Oates and Devin Robertson who completed the race two podium. Juan Gerber could only manage a sixth place finish this time round, but when the times for both races one and two were added up, he emerged as the overall winner for the day, less than a second ahead of Mogotsi who was followed by Darren Oates, Tasmin Pepper and the second of the Oates twins Justin.
“We are very pleased that the Engen Volkswagen Cup continues to thrill and provide such a great spectacle, but the Volkswagen National Race Day in Port Elizabeth will be remembered for a different reason. The inaugural Volkswagen Driver Search Programme in 2016 came with some risks and costs, but today we showed what can be achieved and that we have loads of raw talent in this country. We just have to keep providing the opportunities and platforms for this talent to develop, but for now, we are more than pleased that our investment in South Africa, motorsport, and the future is already paying dividends,” concluded Mike Rowe. All eyes will be on the Engen Volkswagen Cup when the series returns to Gauteng for Round 6 to be hosted at the Zwartkops Raceway to the west of Pretoria in August.