MICHAEL VAN ROOYENGTC
An exciting member of the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA squad is GTC racer Michael van Rooyen, who campaigns an all-new Toyota Corolla in the GTC series. Van Rooyen is something of an anomaly in the team: The only driver without a navigator; and the only car that races on slicks. Toyota last fielded an official entry on tarmac back in 2002, when Charl Wilken and Mark Cronje raced the Toyota Corolla RXI in Class B of the SA Production Car Championship. Wilken won the championship that year, and as such Van Rooyen has big boots to fill. “We’ve just got to get on and do the job,” says the 38-year-old father of two. “We’re excited about the new car, as well as the changes to GTC in general. All I want to do is go out there and win races.” Van Rooyen has been around motorsport for the last 18 years, having cut his teeth in karts, before stepping up to Polo Cup in 2005. A stint in Production Cars followed, before Van Rooyen joined the exciting world of GTC in 2016.
The name of Mandla Mdakane has become synonymous with motorsport in South Africa, though the quiet Gautenger has also competed in Asia, where he made his mark on circuits like Sepang and Shangai. Born in 1993, Mdakane was introduced to racing by his father, Hamilton, who was himself no slouch behind the wheel. As is often the case with the children of racing drivers, Mdakane gravitated towards the racetrack, and at the tender age of four, he slid behind the wheel of a kart for the first time. The born-and-bred Johannesburger never looked back, and happily proclaims that he has “loved every moment since then.” Starting in the cadet class, Mdakane worked his way up through the different categories, eventually moving to Asia in order to compete in the Forumla BMW ASIA series. Mdakane, who runs a luxury coach transport company with his father when not racing, is yet to bag his first championship title, but the bachelor has gotten close on a number of occasions. The opportunity to drive as part of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA team has given him the chance to compete at the highest level of track racing in South Africa, and Mdakane is hoping to add some silverware to the team’s display cabinet. With his eyes set on a move to the Endurance series in Europe in the future, Mdakane will be aiming to make the most of his time behind the wheel of the GTC Toyota Corolla (Quest?), and he is waiting impatiently for racing to resume in South Africa.
Saood Variawa is 16 years old and has been racing for 11 years. He is a 3rd generation racing driver, born into Motorsport following his dad and granddads footsteps. His racing career began in karting at the age of 5 and a half years old. Saood won the cadet championship in 2012, he then moved to Mini Rok and Maxterino where he won multiple races in South Africa. In 2014, he began his International racing journey and In 2015, Saood won the Bridgestone Super Cup race, he finished 2nd in the Bridgestone Super Cup Championship and he earned himself Protea Colours in Motorsport. In 2016, Saood raced the WSK (World Series Karting), Italian Championship, Rok Cup, and many once-off races. Racing internationally amongst the best karting drivers from around the world gave Saood great racecraft. Saood had many top 5 finishes in International races. In 2021, Saood debuted in main circuit racing and was the youngest driver to race Supa Cup at the age of 15 years. In his first-ever race, he qualified 2nd and bagged a podium as a Rookie driver. For that year he was the highest-ranked Rookie driver who managed to get 3 podiums. He raced against some of the best drivers in South Africa and finished P5 in the championship. This year Toyota Gazoo Racing has given Saood the opportunity to race in the pinnacle of South African circuit racing in the GTC Toyota Corolla Saood’s goal for this year is to feature on the podium, win races, and bag as many championship points as he possibly can.