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Phoenix Audi Wins Sepang 12H; Vanthoor Crowned IGTC Champion
- Updated: December 10, 2016
Laurens Vanthoor has been crowned the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge champion, having claimed victory in his final race for Audi in Saturday’s weather-impacted Motul Sepang 12 Hours.
Audi, meanwhile, also picked up the IGTC manufacturer’s title, thanks to a win and third place overall finish for the Audi Sport Team Phoenix squad, after early race issues for title rival McLaren GT.
Christopher Haase took the winning No. 15 Audi R8 LMS across the line one-lap ahead of the No. 911 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R in second, in a race that was turned upside down when rain first hit in the fifth hour.
The No. 911 Porsche dominated the early stages, with the pair of factory entries running 1-2 until a well-timed pit stop for the two Phoenix-run Audis and a switch to wet tires put them ahead and in control, effectively to the end.
A fuel-only stop while under the second Full Course Yellow, which turned into a safety car period, saw the No. 15 Audi jump ahead of the sister No. 16 car through the first of two rain-soaked periods.
Both Porsches uncharacteristically dropped back in the rain, with two off-course excursions by Nick Tandy delaying the once-leading No. 911 car and a brake change for the No. 912 entry in the sixth hour relegating Michael Christensen to sixth at the time.
While the No. 911 Porsche incurred a further delay for a precautionary brake change, a charge through the field by Earl Bamber, who jumped from fourth to second in a late restart, ensured a runner-up finish for Bamber, Tandy and Patrick Pilet.
Vanthoor and Haase, meanwhile, shared the winning Audi with Robin Frijns, which started from the pit lane after replacing its alternator less than hour before the race.
The No. 16 Audi of Rene Rast, Markus Winkelhock and Pierre Kaffer completed the overall podium in third, despite losing out after pitting just prior to the fourth and final FCY and subsequent safety car, costing them nearly a lap.
A spin by Kaffer resulted in further lost ground for the all-German crewed Audi, leaving the team left to gamble on having Rast finish the race on slicks, which only saw marginal gains in the closing minutes.
Michele Rugolo brought the No. 50 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 car home in fourth overall, after impressive race-contending stints by himself and co-driver Alessandro Pier Guidi, but ultimately lost time with third driver Pasin Lathouras, particularly in the wet.
The No. 912 Porsche of Christensen, Richard Lietz and polesitter Fred Makowiecki completed the top-five, with the No. 35 HubAuto Racing Ferrari of Hiroki Yoshimoto, Morris Chen, Shinya Hosokawa and Hiroki Yoshida taking GT3 Pro-Am class honors with a sixth place finish overall.
IGTC championship contender Shane van Gisbergen was effectively eliminated from the title race in the third hour, when his No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 suffered suspension failure, resulting in a lengthy stay in the garage.
The American squad returned to action, only to face an ill-handling car, and multiple off-course excursions, but managed to finish 10th overall with van Gisbergen, Alvaro Parente and Come Ledogar.
GTC class honors went to the No. 26 B-Quik Racing Audi R8 LMS in 12th overall, while the No 69 Ayelzo Ecotint Racing Ginetta G55 GT4 took the GT4 class win, finishing 17th.
Remarkably, all 25 starters finished the around-the-clock enduro, marking the first professional endurance race over six hours in length with a 100 percent finishing record.
RESULTS: Sepang 12H