Christopher Haase reckons the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli title decider will be a “tough challenge” as Audi and Ferrari drivers bid for championship honors in this weekend’s Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour.
All five of the Pro-class IGTC entries for the 2021 season finale contain title protagonists after both Audi and Ferrari elected to split up their contending crews.
Haase is the only member of the No. 32 Audi Sport Team WRT lineup who is capable of winning the championship, with his co-drivers from the earlier rounds, Markus Winkelhock and Patric Niederhauser, remaining at Audi Sport Team Sainteloic.
While Audi is defending a clear lead in the IGTC manufacturers’ standings, its drivers will need to come from behind if any of them are to clinch the drivers’ crown.
Haase, Winkelhock and Niederhauser are chasing Ferrari drivers Alessandro Pier Guidi, Come Ledogar and Nicklas Nielsen. Pier Guidi and Ledogar are sharing the No. 51 car while Nielsen has been moved over to the No. 71 in another strategic lineup shuffle.
AKKA-ASP driver Timur Boguslavskiy is also in contention but has a 15-point deficit to erase with the No. 89 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
“We are two points behind the leaders, so everything is possible,” Haase told Sportscar365.
“It’s not a lot of cars here, but I feel like this is going to be a tough challenge because all of the cars are really strong. We need everything: strategy, being clever to stay out of trouble and also speed.
“We all know there are thunderstorms here and it’s very unpredictable, so there are many circumstances that will make the champion in the end. Anything is possible.
“Kyalami is always a nice place to have this long-distance race.
“I like the track because you don’t have to discuss track limits. In two corners you have to be patient, but in all the other corners it’s proper racing.
“If you go off, you go off. If you stay on track, you stay on. I really, really like that.”
Despite the low car count of eight IGTC entries, Haase indicated that the Kyalami 9 Hour will be about quality over quantity with four of the five Pro-class machines containing drivers who are gearing up for a title scrap.
“From the outside, if you have 12 or 15 strong cars, you can call it more difficult but it doesn’t change how you act,” he said.
“In the end, it only counts who is P1. It doesn’t matter if you are second, third or whatever. For me, this is what makes it the same toughness as if there were more cars.”
Haase reckons that the Audi Sport crews “could be at an advantage” over Ferrari at Kyalami courtesy of their greater experience at the 2.8-mile South African circuit.
Factory-supported Audis raced at Kyalami the last two years whereas Rinaldi Racing’s privateer entry in 2019 caps the extent of Ferrari’s GT3 running at the venue.
“This could be an advantage,” Haase suggested. “But they are really, really good. We have seen that at Spa. It is easy to make mistakes here, but for sure experience helps.
“I see that we maybe have an advantage in this case, but it doesn’t mean anything that it’s going to be that way.”