The 2023 Global Touring Cars (GTC) season was balanced on a knife-edge, going into Round 7 at the Zwartops International Raceway, on 14 October, 2023. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA’s (TGRSA) Saood Variawa, driving in his first GTC season, was only three points adrift of the championship leader, Robert Wolk, in a privately entered Toyota Corolla GTC. With such a small deficit, the final round became a ‘winner-takes-it-all’ event, with massive pressure on young Variawa to perform during each part of the weekend.

First up was Qualifying, which took place early on the Saturday morning. Variawa pushed for pole position, but in the end, Wolk managed to beat the works driver by just 0.88sec, setting the scene for a mighty battle. Race 1 was always going to be a tough fight, and several on-track tussles saw all three TGRSA cars out of the results, and Variawa’s championship in tatters.

When the lights went green for the final race of the season, the TGRSA drivers quickly fell into lock-step, having started in first, second and third place. Variawa was at the head of the field, followed by Msimanga and Van Rooyen. The latter made his car as wide as possible, ensuring that the TGRSA drivers made the most of the opportunity. In the end, Variawa finished in 1st place, Msimanga in 2nd and Van Rooyen in 3rd – bagging enough points to ensure championship victory for Variawa.

The result was only confirmed by Motorsport South Africa after a protracted appeals process, which was finalised during mid-February 2024. TGRSA will now be turning its attention to the upcoming season, where the GTC Championship will now be known as the South African Touring Cars Championship.

“Our three TGRSA GTC crews have shown exemplary tenacity throughout the season,” said Toyota SA Motors’ Vice-President of Marketing, Glenn Crompton, after the weekend’s racing. “The teamwork and dedication, especially during the last race of the season, was nothing short of spectacular. We are very proud of everything they’ve achieved, and we would like to congratulate Saood on his championship.”