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Kyalami Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook from Kyalami after qualifying…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

***Kyalami 9 Hour pole-sitter Nick Tandy said he never experienced anything like Friday afternoon’s weather conditions in qualifying, which was impacted by thunder and lightning prior to a sudden downpour in Q3. “I don’t think I’ve ever experienced it, to be honest,” he said. “When you actually see the lightning as you’re driving around the circuit.”

***R-Motorsport’s No. 76 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 has been given a five-place grid penalty for an unsafe release during qualifying that sent GT debutant Enaam Ahmed into the path of the Audi Sport Team Land car, resulting in slight contact. The Aston will now start from 12th, having initially qualified 7th in the Pole Shootout.

***Frikadelli Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 R will start from pole position, with six manufacturers now represented in the top-ten positions on the grid after the Aston Martin dropped back to 12th. Porsche, Audi, Mercedes-AMG, BMW, Honda and Nissan will all have cars represented in the front five rows.

***It came following a pre-qualifying Balance of Performance shakeup that saw the Kyalami circuit reclassified from Category C to the Category H BoP table.

****Bentley Team M-Sport has done work in both short and longer bursts of rain, in anticipation for an afternoon rain shower in the race tomorrow, according to its motorsport director Paul Williams, who grew up in South Africa and splits his time between here and in the UK.

“We spent time yesterday experimenting a bit running in the wet,” Williams told Sportscar365. “If it goes super wet, you’ve got no choice. But like it was yesterday where it rained in portion, dried in portion and rains a bit, then you can make the choice and decide what to do.”

***Michael Christensen says it’s “great to be back” reunited with the same GPX Racing lineup that won the Total 24 Hours of Spa after what was initially a one-race deal. “I didn’t really think of anything [past] that race before and after, but of course we stayed in touch with the team and suddenly everyone was keen to do another event and adventure,” he told Sportscar365.

***The GPX crew this weekend includes Adam Hardy, who usually serves as Christensen and Kevin Estre’s race engineer in the FIA World Endurance Championship. ”We trust him 100 percent and we work very well with him so it was very natural and I would bring him to any race if I could, so that’s something that me and Kevin like, and for sure, Richard also knows him well,” added Christensen.

***Earl Bamber, who took part in the A1 GP race here in 2009, has given high praise to the modifications made to the circuit in the years since, following Toby Venter’s purchase of the facility in 2014.

“They managed to keep the parts that made it Kyalami and the old-school myths of it while incorporating a modern standard circuit,” Bamber told Sportscar365. “I think they’ve done an absolutely fantastic job. It’s really nice because everything from Turn 6 onwards is still original.”

***Both Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor have admitted it’s been a “challenge” working with a new team in Dinamic Motorsport this weekend, citing the language barrier as one of the difficulties. Vanthoor, however, said that he understands Italian but “hasn’t told the team yet”, thanks to the Belgian’s karting days.

***Edoardo Mortara didn’t compete in any GT races between last year’s FIA GT World Cup at Macau and this year’s running, which was held last weekend. His preparation to reacclimatize with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 package included taking part in a 36-hour endurance test for the 2020-spec GT3 Evo at Slovakiaring, where the Swiss-Italian driver completed 11 stints.

***Reigning Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour winner Matt Campbell isn’t sure if a return to Bathurst will take priority over the planned WEC race that weekend. The WEC date, originally reserved for Sao Paolo, could move if required by a replacement venue.

“It’s up to Porsche but obviously WEC is an Am program (with Dempsey-Proton Racing in GTE-Am) and IGTC is a Pro program and starting a new championship. This is up to them but we’ll be working through this and hopefully we can get an answer soon,” the Australian told Sportscar365.

***Williams told Sportscar365 that an announcement on Bentley’s 2020 programs is expected within the next month, although indicated that a return to IGTC is planned.

***Former Bentley Motorsport director Brian Gush is on-site this weekend as a guest along with his family. The South African, who retired earlier in the year, got his start in motorsports by selling race programs at Kyalami as a kid.

***KCMG was handed a €1,000 penalty after Pre-Qualifying for a number of violations on its No. 35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, including a lack of working pit lane gantry camera, the car being stopped nose-in during a stop, and an unsafe release. The team acknowledged these violations and said the unsafe release was caused by a near-stall that slowed the car’s exit from the box.

***Saturday’s Kyalami 9 Hour will get underway at 1 p.m. local time (6 a.m. EST / 11 a.m. GMT) and run until 10 p.m. With sunset at 6:41 p.m., almost a third of the race will run in darkness. Coverage will be available on the GT World YouTube channel with commentary from David Addison, John Watson and Bruce Jones. 

John Dagys contributed to this report

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

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