Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Michael van Rooyen had an excellent outing in East London, where he recorded two second place-finishes in Round 6 of the 2019 Global Touring Car championship.
The Toyota Corolla driver started the weekend as the second-fastest car in qualifying, and maintained that position throughout the weekend, to bring home more points than any other GTC driver over the weekend. This moves Van Rooyen up into third place in the overall standings, just 11 points off the lead.
“Yes, it was a fantastic weekend for us,” said the Rustenburg Rocket after the event. “We were quick in qualifying and missed out on pole by just 0.1sec.”
Starting from second place for Race 1 put Van Rooyen on the outside of the track – a daunting position considering the high-speed Potter’s Pass, which is Turn 1 at the East London Grand Prix circuit. Even so, the Rustenburger found some space to slot into, right behind pole sitter, Keagan Masters (Volkswagen).
“Having Keagan so close to the front of my Toyota Corolla caused a bit of understeer into Potter’s, but I managed to catch up on the rest of the circuit,” said Van Rooyen. “We had a great ding-dong battle, but in the end, Keagan took the victory, while I settled for second place.”
Race 2 saw a reversed grid, based on the results of Race 1. This saw Van Rooyen start in sixth place – a position he quickly set about improving.
“Luckily for me, Simon (Moss – Audi) made a mistake early on, and this let me through into fifth place. Then I caught up with one car after the other and used my Push-to-Pass opportunities to get up into second place.”
Only Tschops Sipuka (Audi) remained ahead of the flying Toyota Corolla driver, but “he drove really well, defending with conviction. I had no option but to settle for another second place.”
The two podium finishes saw Van Rooyen bring home a mass of points, while championship leader, Simon Moss, failed to score anything of consequence. As a result, the Audi driver ceded his position at the top of the standings to Volkswagen driver Keagan Masters; while Van Rooyen leapfrogged into third place in the standings.
“It was a great weekend for us,” said Van Rooyen. “Slightly frustrating to lose out on wins in both races, but we’re now just 11 points off the top of the table – while we were more than 20 points adrift before the weekend. So, we really can’t complain.”
Two race events remain in the 2019 season, with the first taking place in Cape Town next month. “We have four more chances to score points, and if anything, this weekend proved that a lot can change in a single weekend – so we have to remain focussed and push for maximum points towards the end of the season. Who knows what could still happen?”