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Intercontinental GT Challenge

AF Corse Leads Opening Hour Until Safety Car Shuffle, Penalty

AF Corse Ferraris take turns to lead Indianapolis 8H before Rovera serves penalty…

Photo: Keith Rizzo/SRO

AF Corse’s No. 71 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 held the net lead of the Indianapolis 8 Hour presented by AWS net after one hour of racing courtesy of a well-timed opening pit stop, before losing ground due to a drive-through penalty.

Callum Ilott started round two of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli from fourth on the grid but his co-driver Alessio Rovera emerged ahead of the early front-runners after ducking in shortly before a safety car period late in the first hour.

That strategic maneuver elevated Rovera to the net lead, only for the Italian to be called back to the pits by the stewards for his car not being properly grounded at its stop.

The sanction handed the upper hand to Paul Holton whose Crucial Motorsports McLaren 720s GT3 was another fast-reacting car when the safety car was prepared due to a spin into the gravel for an Am-class Ferrari.

Ferrari’s pole-sitter Alessandro Pier Guidi made a strong start in the No. 51 AF Corse machine, building a two-second lead over Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Maro Engel in the first couple of laps before an early safety car period occurred.

The interruption was caused by Jason Harward’s Zelus Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo rotating at Turn 2 after a touch with Erin Vogel’s DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.

Pier Guidi continued where he left off at the restart, re-establishing a clear gap to Engel who in turn came under pressure from Ilott with three factory-supported Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos in the background.

One of those Audis dropped out of contention in the opening hour after Robin Frijns was hit by Inception Racing McLaren driver Brendan Iribe in the Turn 1 braking zone.

Frijns’ No. 37 WRT machine lost three minutes to repairs, with the Dutchman reporting a damaged splitter and heavy understeer.

The same car was also dealt a drive-through penalty for jumping the start.

Pier Guidi led Engel by 5.5 seconds when the second safety car period occurred on 44 minutes, however both lost ground in the net order due to the timing of other cars’ pit stops.

Ilott was the quickest driver to respond to the intervention, the Brit the pits before Pier Guidi caught the safety car.

Engel jumped the 24 Hours of Spa-winning No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari as Pier Guidi swapped out for Nicklas Nielsen, but their duel was no longer the battle for the lead.

Before his penalty Rovera led from Holton, Daniel Juncadella in the AKKA-ASP Mercedes and Audi drivers Charles Weerts and Patric Niederhauser.

Bill Auberlen took an early GT4 lead for BMW outfit BimmerWorld and was over seven seconds ahead when the safety car occurred.

As was the case in GT3, the GT4 order shuffled around during the safety car pit stops with Tom Dyer emerging as the leader in Stephen Cameron Racing’s No. 119 BMW.

Dyer led at the restart from Kevin Conway, whose Smooge Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4 started from the back of the grid after receiving a late post-qualifying penalty that stripped it of its pole position. 

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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