Rookie racer Kumbi Mtshakazi recounts GR Cup baptism of fire

Published Mar 28, 2024


By: Kumbi Mtshakazi

I tackled Killarney International Race Circuit for the opening round of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Cup in the Toyota GR Corolla, and it left me with a lot of scars, which I intend to fix by the time we return for round six in September.

Arriving in Cape Town, I felt both excited and scared. Friday would be the first day of practice, following about 30 laps from the shakedown and some practice laps at Zwartkops. I had studied the Killarney circuit from when I received the calendar, but there is only so much theory before 'analysis paralysis', so I had to wait until Friday's practice to test my knowledge and acquire a feel for my car on the track.

When we arrived my stomach turned because we were really doing this. We sat in our cars, dressed in our racing gear, and wished each other the best of luck. On the first practice lap, I made a rookie mistake by not warming my tyres effectively, and the vehicle spun off the course, reminding me that this was not a joke.

While the GR Corolla is an excellent track companion, I needed to get all of the basics right. With seasoned driver Sean Nurse leading the way and doing everything well, I finished last in 1:33:826.

After some advice from last year's GR Cup winner Setshaba Mashigo, I was ready to give the second and third practice rounds a shot, and it appeared to have worked because more than four seconds were shaved off, with a personal best time of 1:29:124.

Race day the Cape Town weather threw a spanner in the works: rain. That meant we would qualify in the wet, another first for me. It turned out to be a round I would rather forget because with 1:43:983 I had a lot to learn and I would start at the back of the grid, trailing my other media colleagues Sean Nurse, Hannes Visser, Alex Shahini, Jaco van der Merwe, and Bernie Hellberg.

Lights out, and for the first race, it appeared like the universe was on our side. I finished fifth ahead of van der Merwe, who sustained a puncture while battling Shahini in the middle of the pack. My lap time also improved, which boosted my confidence.

We lined up for the second race and this time, the competition was tight, but after a few laps, the basics caught up with me again.

Missing a couple of gears in the GR Corolla allowed the pack to open the gap ahead of me and this time Lady Luck would not be on my side, and I finished last, with a lot to learn for the next round at Kyalami International Circuit, and The GR Corolla handled the hard laps around Killarney without hesitation.

The Dunlop Direzza semi-slicks, along with the Ferodo brake pads and powerbrakes, performed admirably and all of the vehicles crossed the finish line without any issues or missing body parts.