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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Kyalami Friday Notebook

News and notes on a wet qualifying day for the IGTC season finale at Kyalami…

Photo: SRO

***Friday is believed to have marked the first time that Pre-Qualifying has been used to set the grid for an SRO Motorsports Group GT3 race, after qualifying and Superpole were both canceled due to torrential rain. Pre-Qualifying is used in the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS. View the official starting grid here.

***Mercedes-AMG driver Jules Gounon remarked on taking pole in an unconventional manner: “I never did a pole like this before,” he told Sportscar365. “We knew this morning that there was a high risk of storms at night, so we tried to do a quali sim in Pre-Quali. That gave us pole position, so it was a good idea from the team to do it.”

***SRO Motorsports Group issued an updated Balance of Performance at 6:30 p.m. on Friday evening, after the grid had been set for the nine-hour race. The only adjustment is a 5 kg minimum weight increase for the two Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos. 

***Stradale Motorsport’s Into Africa-backed Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo is set to take part in the race after its accident in Pre-Qualifying. The car sustained some damage to the right-front corner after Tschops Sipuka’s off at Clubhouse, but the team has replaced the bumper and will be ready to go on Saturday.

***The other Stradale Motorsport Lamborghini underwent an alternator change during the worst of the weather this afternoon. Cars in the National class including the Stradale Huracans are running to Motorsport South Africa regulations.

***The SA GT Racing Series previously planned to hold a standalone support race on Friday morning, but that was canceled due to a lack of entries. An additional practice session was held instead as teams geared up for the Kyalami 9 Hour.

***Some of the vehicles in action during a separate sports car support race on Friday included a Pilbeam MP91 LMP2, a pair of Ginetta G57s and plenty of local specials.

***AF Corse is receiving support from Kyalami-based Ferrari outfit Pablo Clark Racing, in the form of some pit equipment and personnel. It’s understood that the Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020s present this weekend were originally shipped to South Africa for the original December date, before being shipped away for winter racing and testing and then returning to Kyalami by air.

***The IGTC-entered Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos have been stationed in their paddock containers since late November, along with both Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos.

***The minimum refueling time has been set at 68 seconds for IGTC competitors, while the maximum stop time for a short two-tire-only service is 37.99 seconds. The National class has a minimum pit lane time of 83 seconds, with the option to perform a short stop with the same limit st the IGTC field.

***Audi confirmed that Dries Vanthoor was not at the track on Thursday despite timing and scoring data showing him as a driver of the No. 32 WRT car during paid testing. Vanthoor withdrew from the Kyalami 9 Hour due to illness and has been replaced by Mattia Drudi, who turned laps in Pre-Qualifying.

***Team WRT will likely run a pair of Pro cars in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS this year, team principal Vincent Vosse confirmed to Sportscar365. One of the lineups will involve nine-time Grand Prix motorcycling world champion Valentino Rossi, as announced last month. WRT only ran one top-category Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo in Endurance Cup last season.

***Vosse raced at Kyalami in 1995, driving an Audi 80 Quattro in the Kyalami Super Touring International against the likes of John Cleland, Anthony Reid and Shaun van der Linde, the father of GT3 racers Kelvin and Sheldon.

***The Q&A section of his profile in the race day program for that event asked Vosse what his profession would be if he wasn’t a racing driver: The answer: ‘team manager’.

***AKKA-ASP is aiming to retain its factory Pro-class lineup of Gounon, Raffaele Marciello and Daniel Juncadella in GTWC Europe Endurance Cup next season, according to team principal Jerome Policand. The team can be expected to run two Mercedes-AMGs in Endurance – one in Pro and one in Silver – and three or four total in Sprint Cup. Gounon told Sportscar365 that he could have as many as five full-time programs in 2022.

***Raffaele Marciello still has the orange-dyed hair that he sported during last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. The Swiss Mercedes-AMG factory driver’s Daytona teammate Kenny Habul is no longer topped in bright orange.

***Audi Sport’s Head of Customer Racing Chris Reinke hopes the Kyalami 9 Hour creates a “spin-off effect to grow future ambitions” for local teams. Audi is the only manufacturer represented by cars on both the IGTC and National grids this weekend, and in GT4 as well.

***Reinke told Sportscar365: “This is exactly how it should be, that we come here with supported entries, raise attention, and hopefully with that attention raise new customers for the future.”

***Audi Sport does not have a customer racing network in Africa. Rather, new car sales and associated support are directed from the company’s main headquarters in Germany.

***Reinke thought that Ferrari would split its Kyalami lineups from the start, rather than making a late driver lineup adjustment that was communicated this week. “I was surprised that they didn’t do it from the beginning,” he said. “It’s back to expectation now.”

***Spectators are permitted at the Kyalami 9 Hour, but the event is operating to a maximum capacity of 2000 people as part of a national limit imposed to control coronavirus transmission in South Africa. The spectator numbers limit has been in place for all sporting events since October 1, 2021, when the country entered ‘Alert Level 1’.

***SRO founder and CEO Stephane Ratel made a flying visit to Kyalami on Friday, staying for a handful of hours before setting off for the UAE to attend the upcoming Asian Le Mans Series, which his organization will co-manage with the ACO from next year.

***Audi Sport leads the IGTC manufacturers’ standings by 36 points and can only lose the title if the AF Corse Ferraris finish first and second, combined with Audi scoring less than nine points between its two cars. The top two IGTC-nominated cars from each brand will score manufacturer points on the 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.

***The Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour is set to start at 1 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET) on Saturday. Current weather forecasts show potential for some showers in the opening stages, followed by cloudy but non-threatening skies through to the 10 p.m. finish.

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

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