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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Kyalami Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Thursday notebook from the IGTC paddock at Kyalami GP Circuit…

Photo: Audi

***Clear summer skies and warm temperatures greeted competitors, but later gave way to clouds and distant lightning, at the start of the weekend for the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli’s third visit to Kyalami for the classic nine-hour race.

***Despite being held in February 2022, the race is officially the 2021 Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour, having retained its original title from when it was due to be held last December.

***A pair of paid test sessions took place on Thursday, ahead of Free Practice which was led by Raffaele Marciello. The eight IGTC cars entered for the Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour completed a two-hour test in the morning that Marciello also paced with a 1:43.267 on board the No. 89 AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.

***The five cars entered by local teams then joined the IGTC contingent for a second two-hour test in the afternoon. Marciello’s co-driver Jules Gounon went quickest on a 1:43.454 as AKKA-ASP swept the available sessions on Thursday.

***Ferrari’s Nicklas Nielsen told Sportscar365 that his car experienced a “minor cut-out” due to a fuel-related issue near the end of Free Practice. The Dane parked the car between Barbeque and Sunset corners, bringing out a red flag late in the session.

***Eight drivers traveled to Kyalami straight off the back of last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona: Marciello, Gounon, Mikael Grenier, Kenny Habul, Nielsen, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Antonio Fuoco and Alessio Rovera. Some drivers came straight to South Africa from the U.S, while others stopped off in Europe on their way to the southern hemisphere.

***The new date for the Kyalami 9 Hour revives the tradition of a major GT3 endurance race being held on the weekend after Daytona. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rolex 24 would be immediately followed by the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour IGTC round.

***Audi Sport has retained the special ‘safari’ liveries for its factory-supported cars from Team WRT and Sainteloc Racing that were revealed before the event’s original December date. The cream-colored design has been transferred from the withdrawn No. 37 Audi to the present No. 32 car. Audi Sport Team Sainteloc has adopted the dark green that was initially due to feature on the No. 32.

***Audi Sport has also christened its two factory-backed cars with special names. The No. 25 is Elisa, named after Markus Winkelhock’s daughter who was born right after his Indianapolis 8 Hour victory in October. The No. 32 is Ida Lorena, named after the daughter of one of the car’s mechanics.

***Teams are using the Pirelli P Zero DHE tire at Kyalami, with the rollout of Pirelli’s new DHF product due at a later date when the 2022 seasons get underway.

***IGTC entries are allowed 14 sets of slick tires from Free Practice onwards. Three sets of new slick tires must be used during the three-driver combined qualifying session, while the locally-based entries in the National class have a 12-set limit in total.

***This weekend’s event also forms a non-championship round of the SA GT Racing Series, which was established last year as a new reference GT racing competition for South Africa in place of the SA GT Racing Association. 2022 marks its first season since gaining official championship status in the eyes of Motorsport South Africa, the sport’s national governing body. The first points-paying round will be held at Zwartkops on April 1-3.

***The GT3 and GT4 Audis from MJR Motorsport are slated to contest a one-hour support race on Friday, ahead of their participation in the Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour on Saturday. The GT3 Audi is only confirmed to do the first hour of the IGTC race.

***Lamborghini remains “very interested” in IGTC according to Giorgio Sanna, who is not at Kyalami this weekend. “For sure we are looking to attend the entire [2022] championship: maybe at Bathurst we will have some local teams running,” he told Sportscar365. “It is something we are exploring. But for sure we will have more Pro cars at Spa and we are looking with interest to be at Indianapolis again.”

***Lamborghini’s only representatives at Kyalami are in the National class and are not eligible for IGTC points. One of the two Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evos being campaigned by Stradale Motorsport is known to be an ex-Ombra Racing model.

***The Kyalami 9 Hour gives the opportunity for South African teams to test themselves on a global stage. “This is why we decided that we have to be part of this,” Stradale team principal Harry Arangies told Sportscar365. “We don’t really get seen around the world, so for South African guys to see what the professional guys do, we’ve got to get on that level. We’ve got to learn from them.”

***AKKA-ASP is running the SunEnergy1 Racing program at Kyalami. The two organizations previously joined forces for the 2018 California 8 Hours IGTC event. They also linked up for the Hungaroring GTWC Europe Sprint Cup round in the same year.

***ASP is racing at Kyalami for the first time, but its team principal Jerome Policand has already been successful here as a winner of the 1998 International Sports Racing Series round, sharing a Riley & Scott Mk. III with Gary Formato. The following year, Jean-Marc Gounon won the same event. Gounon’s son Jules is driving for Policand’s AKKA-ASP team this weekend.

***Policand has fond memories of his 1998 win: “I was not supposed to do it because I was a substitute for Philippe Gache,” he told Sportscar365. “He was racing in the [Andros] Ice Trophy and there was a clash. The sponsor of the car was Speedy and I was under contract with them in Clios or Porsche Cup. They asked me if I wanted to go to South Africa: I jumped in the car and won the race!”

***The GT3 Audis are all running in Evo specification, rather than the Evo II kit that the manufacturer is introducing this year. Rutronik Racing today became the first customer team to collect an Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II.

***Friday’s track action begins with a one-hour, 45-minute Pre-Qualifying practice session starting at 10:35 a.m. local time (3:35 a.m. ET). Three-driver average qualifying is then due to take place at 3:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m ET) followed by Superpole at 6 p.m. (11 a.m. ET).

***The fastest eight cars in the preliminary qualifying session will take part in Superpole. The National cars will be filtered to the back of the grid to start behind the IGTC runners.

***All sessions from Pre-Qualifying onwards will be streamed live on the GT World YouTube channel. Bruce Jones and John Watson form the commentary team.

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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