Connect with us

Intercontinental GT Challenge

Kyalami “Good Preparation” for AKKA-ASP’s European Season

IGTC race at Kyalami useful for AKKA-ASP ahead of GTWC Europe Endurance season…

Photo: Kyalami 9 Hour

The rescheduled February edition of the Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour is “good preparation” for the upcoming European GT racing season, according to AKKA-ASP team principal Jerome Policand.

Kyalami was due to stage the 2021 Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season finale last December but the event was canceled due to travel restrictions amid the rise of Omicron COVID-19 cases in South Africa.

This weekend’s rearranged date comes at a time when the participating IGTC teams from Europe are finalizing their summer racing plans.

AKKA-ASP is poised to return to its familiar territory of multi-car efforts in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS with its fleet of Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos.

Policand told Sportscar365 that in addition to being the IGTC finale and title decider, Kyalami comes at a useful time for his organization during the European off-season.

“It’s good to finish this championship, even if it feels crazy to finish the 2021 championship in 2022,” he said.

“But in one way, it’s a good preparation for the season. It keeps the drivers and crew more [sharp], especially when you do endurance racing. I don’t say that sprint is easy, but in terms of logistics and people it is.

“Every time we start at the first race in Endurance Cup, it’s like everybody is a little bit rusty for strategy and pit stops and so on. To have a training here, it’s a good point for the team.

“The only difficulty we have is to get the car back in time for Imola [on April 1-3].”

AKKA-ASP is making its Kyalami debut with two Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos, one under the team’s own name and the other under Kenny Habul’s SunEnergy1 Racing banner.

Two HWA engineers are in the AKKA-ASP pit box to provide setup data that can help the team adapt to a circuit that was visited by other Mercedes-AMG teams in 2019.

Black Falcon, SPS Automotive Performance, Strakka Racing and GruppeM Racing represented the marque for the first-ever African IGTC race just over two years ago.

“Usually for the long-distance races we have a report from all the data [AMG] have from the past, and we have a report about things like degradation of the tire and average speed of corners,” Policand explained.

“So quite a lot of useful information. It means we can play with the basic setup which is more or less the same as on other European tracks.

“This morning it worked. The only thing we face, maybe, is that today it’s very hot and we overheated the front tires a little bit.

“That has happened at Misano in Sprint, but in Sprint you change the tires after half an hour so it’s a 20-lap stint, not a 40-lap stint.

“If it stays like this with the high temperatures, maybe we’ll struggle a little bit with the front axle.”

AKKA-ASP Undecided on 2022 Season

Policand indicated that he doesn’t know whether AKKA-ASP will return for a sophomore IGTC campaign in races beyond the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, which also forms part of the GTWC Europe schedule.

He definitively ruled the team out of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour due to a date clash with a GTWC Europe Sprint Cup round, which ASP again plans to enter with multiple cars.

That would preclude AKKA-ASP from contesting the full season, but Policand noted that he has seen value in the series despite the 2021 IGTC being heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and associated transport delays.

“It was maybe not the best year to do IGTC!” Policand joked. “Suzuka was canceled, at Indy we got the car [to the circuit] on the limit… it was maybe not the best move for the team, but in terms of experience it was very important to do it.

“For next season, I don’t know the schedule because I don’t know what will happen to Bathurst in May.

“For sure we cannot go there because we have the sprint races at Magny-Cours, with both GT3 and GT4. Even if I have a car there, I have no people to take care of it.

“But it’s a good experience. It means there is no hole in the calendar. It’s difficult for the people, but in one way it’s good because you keep the drivers, teams, mechanics and engineers on fight.

“When you arrive at the regular season in GT World Challenge, you get used to the rules and the pit stops. In a way it’s good, but I don’t know if this year we will do IGTC.”

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.

Click to comment

More in Intercontinental GT Challenge