The opening round of the 2024 South African Touring Cars (SATC) championship brought mixed results for the three-car TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA (TGRSA) squad, at the Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town on the weekend of 15 and 16 March. The team campaigns three SATC GR Corollas in the championship, with defending champion, Saood Variawa, the favourite for the 2024 season.

But Variawa found himself in fifth place on the starting grid after qualifying, with teammate Michael van Rooyen just ahead of him in 4th. The team’s youngest member, Nathi Msimanga, flew the flag for TGRSA by going third-fastest, just 0.45sec behind pole position.

When the flag dropped for the start of Race 1, both Msimanga and Van Rooyen got off to a flying start, both passing Julian van der Watt, who had started in second place. They were hot on the heels of polesitter, Robert Wolk, but a coming-together between Variawa and Van Rooyen early in the race saw both TGRSA drivers drop down the order, finishing 5th and 6th as a result. Msimanga fought off the chasing pack with aplomb, to finish in second place in the opening race – a power performance by the youngster.

The grid was reversed for Race 2, with Van Rooyen now starting in pole, with Variawa beside him. Msimanga started in 5th place, and would have a mammoth task ahead of him, trying to make his way to the head of the field. In the end, however, it was Variawa who took the win from Van Rooyen by just 0.220sec, while Msimanga had to settle for 7th after a tough outing.

SATC SupaCup

The weekend also saw the debut of the TGRSA SupaStarlet – the team’s entry in the highly competitive SATC SupaCup. Seasoned racer Bradley Liebenberg was behind the wheel of the new car for the opening weekend, and he set the 6th-fastest time during the Saturday’s Qualifying session.

He maintained this position throughout the 12-lap opening race, keeping his nose clean and giving the SupaStarlet a solid first outing. He improved to 4th place in Race 2, clearly showing the potential of the new car.

The next event on the calendar is the Extreme Festival at Kyalami, which takes place on 12 and 13 April.