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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Marciello Commands Opening Stint of Kyalami 9H

Pole-sitter Raffaele Marciello leads first hour of Kyalami 9H in AKKA-ASP Merc…

Photo: Anton Wannenburg/Mercedes-AMG

Raffaele Marciello took charge of the opening stint at the Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour behind the wheel of AKKA-ASP’s pole-sitting Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.

Marciello held a 10-second lead over Alessio Rovera in the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 at the end of the first hour after the pair started the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season finale from the front row of the grid.

The leading duo initially set a strong joint pace at the head of the field and stood five seconds clear of Come Ledogar’s third-placed Ferrari after 20 minutes, but Marciello managed to draw clear of Rovera in the second half of the hour.

Ledogar, meanwhile, came under pressure from Mikael Grenier in the SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.

The No. 51 Ferrari with Ledogar at the wheel stood 9.6 seconds behind its teammate car on the 60-minute mark, with Grenier’s Pro-Am Mercedes-AMG under a second back.

The Audi Sport entries from WRT and Sainteloc swapped places twice, with WRT’s Mattia Drudi initially getting ahead of Markus Winkelhock for fifth in the early exchanges.

Winkelhock then tailed Drudi, a late stand-in for the unwell Dries Vanthoor, until the half-hour mark when the Italian allowed the No. 25 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo past into Turn 2.

Winkelhock increased the gap between the Audis to around two seconds and also managed to reduce the deficit to Grenier heading toward the first pit stops.

SA GT Racing Series driver Charl Arangies ran as high as seventh in the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo from Stradale Motorsport, with the South African making overtakes on the IGTC Audis from High Class Racing and Sainteloc Racing’s Silver entry early on.

However, shortly after being re-passed for seventh by Sainteloc’s Lucas Legeret, Arangies pitted with smoke coming from the right-rear corner of his Lamborghini, bringing an end to the National-class competitor’s impressive early charge.

Stradale also spent some time monitoring power steering issues, leaving Mikaeel Pitamber and Silvio Scribante to engage in a close battle at the head of the National class.

Scribante’s Lamborghini completed the first hour ahead of Pitamber’s Audi, before both drivers pulled their cars into the pits after completing their full one-hour allocation.

The two Stradale-operated Lamborghinis are continuing for the full nine-hour distance in addition to the IGTC field.

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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