BMW’s Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus clinched the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli drivers’ title by taking victory in the Kyalami 9 Hour season finale alongside Sheldon van der Linde.
A late thunderstorm caused momentum to swing in the direction of the Walkenhorst Motorsport trio after Honda Racing dominated the first eight hours of the event.
Catsburg took the checkered flag under safety car conditions ahead of Frederic Vervisch who finished second with his Audi Sport Team WRT co-drivers Mirko Bortolotti and Charles Weerts.
The arrival of torrential rain with just over an hour remaining caused the Kyalami track to become flooded and resulted in a Full Course Yellow period.
At that stage, Bertrand Baguette led in the No. 30 Honda NSX GT3 Evo from Audi Sport Team Car Collection’s Mattia Drudi, Vervisch in the No. 32 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo and Catsburg.
The first twist occurred when Drudi spun around in the challenging conditions, dropping the Italian’s Audi out of podium contention.
Honda then carried out a full pit stop under the FCY slow period, while some of its rivals including the Walkenhorst BMW elected not to do so, with the need for new fuel and tires looking set to be ruled out by a safety car finish.
Walkenhorst and Audi Sport Team WRT did need to come into the pits to reset their drivers’ seat time clocks, which are capped at 65 minutes, but this cost them less time than the Honda’s full service and allowed them to move ahead of the erstwhile leader.
Vervisch emerged in the lead ahead of Catsburg, but the Audi driver was instructed to give his position back because the BMW was marginally ahead when the pair came past the timing line after Vervisch’s roll through the pits.
A safety car was brought out for the last few minutes, but the weather was too harsh for racing to resume enabling Catsburg to seal the championship for him and Farfus, adding to their Indianapolis 8 Hour victory with Connor de Phillippi.
Van der Linde was Catsburg and Farfus’ fourth different co-driver this season after Chaz Mostert at Bathurst, De Phillippi at Indianapolis and Philipp Eng at Spa.
GPX Racing Porsche drivers Matt Campbell, Patrick Pilet and Mathieu Jaminet completed the podium and took up second place in the IGTC points standings.
Their title hopes were looking strong after six hours with Jaminet running in second, until their No. 12 Porsche 911 GT3 R made an unscheduled stop for a left-rear puncture.
Honda’s trio of Baguette, Renger van der Zande and Mario Farnbacher came through in fourth after dominating the majority of the race from pole position.
While the Honda crew’s lead never exceeded 15 seconds, consistent pace across all three drivers kept the Japanese brand in a commanding position until the rain arrived.
In fifth was the Car Collection Audi driven by Drudi, Christopher Haase and Patric Niederhauser, who got to within 2.5 seconds of the Honda before the thunderstorm prevented any further advances.
The No. 35 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW lineup of Martin Tomczyk, David Pittard and Nick Yelloly came sixth.
Points leaders Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber saw their title chances disappear when their Dinamic Motorsport crew was forced to change the No. 54 Porsche’s front splitter.
Estre finished one lap off the winner, while Team WRT’s No. 31 Audi crossed the line a further lap back in eighth.
Markus Winkelhock tangled with Bentley driver Alex Buncombe on the opening lap, which set the Audi on the back foot for the remainder of the contest.
Bentley’s quest for the IGTC title with Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour winners Jules Gounon, Jordan Pepper and Maxime Soulet ended just after the second round of pit stops when their No. 7 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 suffered an engine failure.
The remaining Bentley driven by the all-British crew of Oliver Jarvis, Seb Morris and Buncombe ended up three laps down in ninth, with its race impacted by an eighth-hour spin into the gravel which caused a short safety car period.
The safety car came out a total of five times, on three occasions for the Bentley incidents, once for Martin Lechman spinning the Silver Cup-class Car Collection Audi into the gravel and once for the rain at the end.
Team Perfect Circle and Lechner Racing finished six laps down in 10th overall and picked up the Pro-Am winners’ trophy as the entry in the class.
The same applied for Car Collection’s privateer Silver Cup Audi driven by Lechman, Milan Dontje and Dennis Marschall which crossed the line a further five laps adrift.
RESULTS: Kyalami 9 Hour