Round 4 of the 2023 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA (TGRSA) GR Cup saw the six competing motoring scribes travel to the Friendly City to take each other on at the fast and twisty Aldo Scribante Race Circuit. While expectations were high for tight racing from all six regular competitors, it was points leader Setshaba Mashigo (ASAMM) who stamped his authority on the event.
Mashigo arrived in the city, formerly known as Port Elizabeth, with a seven-point lead over Mark Jones (Citizen) in second; and Chad Lückhoff (Auto Trader) in third. By the time the final lap was completed under floodlights, however, his lead had grown considerably, and the rest of the field will be hard-pressed to make up the ground they lost to the leader over the three remaining rounds.
The weekend also saw Toyota South Africa Motors’ Vice-President for Customer Services, Anand Pather, join the fray as a guest. Pather had previously competed in a round of the GR Cup from behind the wheel of a GR Yaris, but this year’s Cup has utilised the rear-wheel driven GR 86, which is a completely different beast on the track, and Pather was excited to experience the differences in handling between the two halo products.
The weekend started with several practice sessions, which took place in changeable weather and track conditions. But those sessions were all used as preparation for the all-important Qualifying, which would determine the starting positions for the opening race of the weekend.
Setshaba set about his business in fine style, setting the fastest time of the GR 86 drivers, besting Lückhoff by 0.8sec. Denis Droppa (TimesLIVE) set the third-fastest time, a tenth of a second behind Lückhoff, and a tenth ahead of Jones in fourth. They were followed by Pather in fifth; Brendon Staniforth (Maroela Media) in sixth and Reuben van Niekerk (Jumping Kids/Wheels24) in seventh.
When the flag dropped for the rolling start, Mashigo pounded his way to an easy victory, initially pulling away from Lückhoff, before the latter suffered a puncture mid-way through the race, which dropped him down to the back of the pack. This promoted the rest of the field by one position each, with Droppa taking second place and Jones settling for third.
Further back, Van Niekerk managed to make things count during the race, after a disappointing qualifying session. He passed Staniforth for sixth early on, before finding a way past Pather too. With Lückhoff’s demise, Van Niekerk was promoted to fourth place – a solid performance from the motoring writer.
This left Pather in fifth and Staniforth in sixth, despite a spirited race by the trailing bunch in the GR Cup. But there was still a second race to come, with the starting order now determined by the lap times set during Race 1.
This gave Setshaba pole position once again, and again the ASAMM journalist made the most of the opportunity. This time his winning margin was 4sec, again over Droppa in the TimesLIVE GR 86. Lückhoff’s tyres held during Race 2, with the Auto Trader writer bringing his car home in third place, under trying conditions due to the failing late afternoon light. He initially lost two places after starting on the front row of the grid, but found a way past to move back into a podium position.
Van Niekerk lost out in the altercation with Lückhoff, but was happy to settle for another fourth place on the weekend. He described the racing as “clean but good”, and was happy to bag the points for two fourth-place finishes. Jones finished his weekend with a fifth place in Race 2, despite a spirited tussle with the competitors around him.
His biggest challenge came from Staniforth, in the Maroela Media GR 86, who managed to keep the fight clean, but ended as the last of the regular GR Cup competitors. Still, he reported that the race was fun and exciting, despite taking place in extremely low light conditions. Pather had an unfortunate off-track excursion early in the second race. His car was undamaged, but the time taken to get back on track left him out of the fight on that occasion.
The next round of the GR Cup is Round 5, which will take place at the East London Grand Prix Circuit on 21 and 22 July.