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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Kyalami Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race news and notes from the Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour…

Photo: SRO

***Jules Gounon, Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy delivered Mercedes-AMG’s first Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli race victory in three years and five months, or 1259 days. The last AMG win came at the 2018 Suzuka 10 Hours when Marciello, Tristan Vautier and Maro Engel prevailed with GruppeM Racing.

***AKKA-ASP topped every track session at Kyalami, although qualifying and Superpole did not take place due to heavy rain on Friday. ASP’s domination in the build-up resembled the strong performance of Honda Racing in 2020, except that a late downpour didn’t wipe the leader’s advantage away this time around.

***In the final championship standings, Ferrari’s Alessandro Pier Guidi and Come Ledogar lead the drivers’ table on 55 points, five more than Audi’s Markus Winkelhock and Patric Niederhauser. Christopher Haase and Boguslavskiy both ended up on 43 points.

***AKKA-ASP’s win helped put Mercedes-AMG ahead of Ferrari for second in the manufacturers’ standings. Audi won with 105 points, with AMG and Ferrari on 69 and 60 respectively.

***Kenny Habul added to his two previous IGTC Bronze titles by winning the Intercontinental GT Pro-Am Challenge alongside Mikael Grenier and Martin Konrad.

***Habul’s SunEnergy1 Racing crew only needed to reach 70 percent of race distance to seal the title, since it arrived level on points with the Asian Le Mans Series-bound Inception Racing crew. The team had a scare just before that marker when its Mercedes-AMG was wheeled back into the garage.

***AKKA-ASP technical manager Guillaume Andrieux described what happened: “I think we had a small issue with some gravel going into the Servo cooler,” he told Sportscar365. “That created weak points on the steering, so they had to put the car in the box to repair the cooler. They were losing the power steering.” SunEnergy1 returned to complete the race in seventh.

***There were only a couple of full-time High Class Racing mechanics working on the No. 33 Pro-Am Audi, with most of the crew formed of WRT staff. It’s understood that the High Class share would have been greater if the race had occurred on its original date, rather than this weekend which falls in between the team’s entries for the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Asian Le Mans Series.

***High Class lost three minutes in the early stages of the race after contact between Mark Patterson and Habul bent the Audi’s rear upright.

***Mark Patterson made his first Audi GT3 appearance since the 2014 British GT Championship, which he contested with United Autosports in an R8 LMS ultra.

***Kyalami also marked Patterson’s first race in his birth country of South Africa. The Bronze-rated driver has been based in the U.S for several years. The Durban-based Sharks rugby union team featured on the High Class Audi livery, in a deal that Patterson helped put together.

***Sainteloc Racing’s Silver Cup Audi crew spent most of the race managing a problem with the starter motor. “We lost about five or six laps the first time it happened,” Nicolas Baert told Sportscar365. “We knew what the problem was, so every time we stopped we had to address it.”

***Ferrari’s sports car racing boss Antonello Coletta said that Davide Rigon’s upcoming Asian LMS gig with Rinaldi Racing prompted the manufacturer to swap the Italian out for Miguel Molina at Kyalami. “When we made the lineup in December, Davide was in the No. 71,” Coletta told Sportscar365. “But after that, we took an agreement with another customer team for Asian Le Mans. For this matter, we changed the lineup another time.”

***Alessandro Pier Guidi and Come Ledogar’s IGTC title marked the 107th championship win for Ferrari’s 488 GT3 model, making it the most successful racing Ferrari in history.

***AF Corse played a strategy card early in the race by rolling through the pits to reset each starting driver’s 65-minute maximum stint time rather than pitting around the one-hour mark as standard. Explaining that decision, team manager Bernardo Serra said: “We did a bit of a different strategy. We have tried to reset the stint time and then go for fuel [mileage]. The fuel consumption was a bit more than expected. After the Full Course Yellow, all of the cars were on the same line so we decided to go standard.”

***Raffaele Marciello set the fastest lap of the race – a 1:42.285 – and won a TW Steel watch in the process. The watch was due to be presented to the quickest driver in Superpole, but the cancelation of all qualifying sessions on Friday resulted in the prize being rolled over to the race.

***A pair of drivers jointly held the fastest lap at two stages on Saturday. Gounon and Grenier set identical times in their Mercedes-AMGs before Ledogar and Marciello did the same with a quicker number.

***Grenier is arguably the driver with the busiest schedule in international GT racing at the moment, based on his stretch of seven consecutive endurance events. He has participated in the Gulf 12 Hours, the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai, the Roar Before the Rolex 24, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Kyalami 9 Hour and will do the back-to-back Asian Le Mans Series double-headers.

“Every time I arrive somewhere new, we start driving right away so there are not many breaks,” Grenier told Sportscar365. “But it’s important to try to sleep and not go out. At the end it’s nice because it’s a lot of racing, but the traveling is difficult, especially when it’s long legs all the time.”

***Stradale Into Africa driver Xolile Letlaka described what it meant to drive in the Kyalami 9 Hour, as part of the first all-black African crew in such a race. “It’s been a childhood dream,” he told SRO pit lane reporter Amanda Busick. “Growing up as a young man in the villages, you always dream that one day you will not just get to drive a car, but you get to own one and race one. Here we stand… on one of the best stages of international GT racing.”

***The Stradale Into Africa crew finished second in class and completed 262 laps, 16 behind the class-winning Stradale Motorsport Lamborghini. All three of the National class entries that signed up for the full nine hours reached the checkered flag.

***Audi Sport’s head of customer racing Chris Reinke believed that “from the passionate racer’s point of view” the Kyalami 9 Hour was “not the highlight” of the IGTC season for a couple of reasons. “The race itself, obviously the grid number isn’t where we would have hoped it would be,” he said. “And maybe now the BoP put a gap between the three Pro manufacturers which was not overcome throughout the complete race.”

***Audi was a clear third behind Mercedes-AMG and Ferrari but ran to almost identical BoP settings that it had for the 2021 race, including a 1290 kg minimum weight. Despite missing out on the drivers’ title, Audi drivers claimed the brand’s second consecutive Kyalami podium after WRT finished second in 2020.

***The change for third place in the penultimate hour when Haase put WRT ahead of Sainteloc was a strategic call and not a contested position. WRT’s Haase then spun on his own at Barbeque almost immediately after, handing third back to Niederhauser.

***Sportscar365 understands that the Kyalami 9 Hour was due to have a car count in the low 20s for its original December date.

***The 2022 edition of the Kyalami 9 Hour is due to take place on Dec. 1-3. The new IGTC season is scheduled to start at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour on May 13-15. However, there was some reservation from some key figures among the participants at Kyalami about how much of an international presence there will be for an overseas round taking place in the heart of the European racing season.

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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