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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Spa Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook from Total 24 Hours of Spa…

Photo: SRO

****Maro Engel scored his second 24-hour race pole in a one-month period, with the German having also taken Black Falcon to top qualifying honors in the Nürburgring 24. “Being on pole for this legendary race is fantastic. Doing Nürburgring and Spa pole in one year is great but once the flag drops it doesn’t matter,” Engel said.

***Three different GT3 manufacturers qualified in the top three, with Engel edging out the No. 117 KÜS Team 75 Bernhard Porsche 911 GT3 R of Laurens Vanthoor by 0.017 seconds and Davide Rigon third in the No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3. 

***Vanthoor joked about the razor-thin margin in saying that he should have “gone to the toilet once more; it would have helped.”

***Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke believes there will not be any pre-race Balance of Performance adjustments, despite both the Bentley Continental GT3 and BMW M6 GT3 having struggled for pace so far. “Obviously we saw the trouble with the turbo cars yesterday,” Reinke told Sportscar365. “We expected Ferrari, BMW and Bentley to be stronger, but as with all the turbocharged cars, we assume it was temperature-related.”

***The record-breaking heatwave is set to turn into showers and possible thunderstorms this weekend, which Reinke believes will be the “deciding factor” in the race. 

***Oman Racing with TF Sport’s replacement Aston Martin Vantage GT3 chassis returned to action in yesterday’s qualifying sessions, although it will start from the back of the grid because of the team’s car switch.

***In the only notable change to the sporting regulations for this year’s race, the pit lane will be closed the moment the 20-second warning is given for for Full Course Yellows.

***Starworks Motorsport boss Peter Baron, who has returned to Land Motorsport as race strategist/assistant team manager, believes there could still be other loopholes to maximize strategy. Last year, Baron orchestrated a reset of the 65-minute stint length rule by bringing the car in for a drive-through the pit lane, a tactic later picked up by other teams.

 “There’s always opportunities,” Baron told Sportscar365. “The nice thing is that it’s so weird and confining with the rules but there’s at least flexibility within the rules to do something.”

***Walkenhorst Motorsport’s Am Cup car has been served a five-minute stop-go penalty to be served during the race after Don Yount was found to have driven the wrong direction on the track during qualifying.

***GruppeM has been handed a €350 fine for having a photocopied car park pass. The team is running one of four IGTC-nominated Mercedes-AMG GT3s.

***SRO Motorsports Group’s annual press conference took place on Friday afternoon, hosted by founder and CEO Stephane Ratel. It included schedules for 2020, further details on the integration of GT2 machinery and SRO’s future outlook, including electrification plans.

***This weekend’s race marks the 25th consecutive year in partnership with Total. The French oil company has 20,000 customers on site at Spa.

***The first multi-manufacturer GT2 race is set to take place as part of the Blancpain GT Sports Club finale at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in September, following the single-make Porsche races at Spa this weekend. Egidio Perfetti took victory in Race 1 on Friday.

***Reinke says Audi, as the only other confirmed manufacturer so far, isn’t likely to commit a large effort for the Barcelona race. “We will try to arrange something,” he told Sportscar365. “It will probably be one of our test cars. It won’t be a customer car for sure because we won’t have cars in customers’ hands by then.”

***Marco Bononami and Hideki Mutoh will join Bertrand Baguette in Honda Team Motul’s factory NSX GT3 Evo for next month’s Suzuka 10 Hours, replacing Mario Farnbacher and Renger van der Zande in the lineup for the fourth round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season.

***Farnbacher, who currently leads the IMSA GT Daytona class championship in a Meyer Shank Racing Acura, will be on duty at Virginia International Raceway, while van der Zande had initially been expected to be part of an all-IMSA prototype driver McLaren 720S GT3 effort, which appears to not have materialized.

***Longtime Honda factory driver Mutoh got his first laps of the JAS-built car during a large-scale test at Misano in May, while Bononami has served as a development driver for the NSX GT3 Evo in Europe, alongside Baguette.

***Honda’s lineup for the season-ending Kylnami 9 Hour has yet to be determined, according to a team representative.

***Season 2 of ‘World’s Fastest Gamer’ has kicked off, with a prize worth in excess of $1 million, including a season’s drive in European GT3/GT4 competition with R-Motorsport. Former Nissan LMP1 boss Darren Cox is behind the esports scheme, which was won by 26-year-old Rudy van Buren, who beat more than 30,000 contestants in Season 1.

***Van Buren, who along with Juan Pablo Montoya will serve as a judge for Season 2, went on to become one of McLaren F1’s simulator drivers and is making his Porsche Supercup debut this weekend in Hockenheim.

***ByKolles Racing LMP1 team principal Manfredi Ravetto is at Spa assisting with driver management for multiple Super Trofeo and GT3 clients.

 ***A Toyota Motorsport Group representative was spotted in the paddock talking to teams about the Japanese manufacturer’s GT Supra GT4 customer program, which is launching next year.

***SRO Motorsports America is hosting several of its key series partners this weekend at Spa, with representatives from VP Racing Fuels, CrowdStrike, AWS and Opti-Coat all having made the trip.

John Dagys & Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist. He is a graduate of Politics and International Relations.

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