Drivers and team personnel have supported SRO Motorsports Group’s call to restart the Kyalami 9 Hour after almost two hours running behind the safety car in torrential rain conditions.
The Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli finale got back underway with 25 minutes on the clock after most of its nighttime running had been neutralized due to rain and thunderstorms.
While some drivers admitted conditions were challenging, most agreed with the decision and didn’t think it should have been made earlier, later or that the race should have been red-flagged completely.
“I must be honest, at one point it was hard to see the edges of the track,” Walkenhorst Motorsport’s Nick Catsburg, who finished second with a late-race move on Richard Lietz, admitted to Sportscar365.
“I honestly thought at the beginning of the crazy rain that they were going to red-flag it and I was also asking for it because it was insane.
“We were spraying so much water, but in the end, I thought it could be time to race.
“I think they did a good job with the safety car, they shouldn’t have gone much earlier because there were still lots of standing water and you don’t want to have any massive accidents.”
Race winner Nick Tandy echoed Catsburg’s thoughts and added that he was “hopeful” the race would go back to green flag conditions, owing to the Porsche 911 GT3 R’s strength in wet conditions.
“I think the race director and the SRO made the right call,” he said. “We waited until it was safe to do so but in the end, the track was good enough to go racing.”
Stefan Wendl, Mercedes-AMG’s head of customer racing, explained that he initially didn’t think conditions were fit for racing but changed his mind after seeing cars back on track.
“I didn’t expect the restart to come but at the end, seeing the pictures, there was nothing speaking against it, seeing it afterwards,” he told Sportscar365.
“That’s why I have nothing against the race control, for sure.”
Reinke: Green Flag Should Have Been “Far Earlier”
One paddock figure to speak out against SRO’s decision is Audi Sport’s head of customer racing Chris Reinke, who wanted green-flag conditions to come considerably earlier.
The pair of Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos were stronger in wet conditions all weekend and Christopher Haase took advantage of this by moving up to fourth after the restart.
“Obviously, yes we would have liked the safety car to come in far earlier and Haase proved what the potential of the car was in the wet by bringing it up to fourth place,” Reinke told Sportscar365.
“We had races this year where we didn’t even have a safety car in worse conditions, and here, it’s wet but there’s not even rain and they keep the safety car out.
“If there is in anything to be criticized, we’ve got to have one line. Sometimes no safety car goes out and it’s completely wet then I have the safety car out.
“For us, we would have liked it to have come in far earlier and I think the conditions, if there is no rain, if the cars go, the quicker the track will dry out. There is no need to crawl around behind the safety car.”
Despite Haase’s late-race pace in the rain, Reinke says he doesn’t think an earlier restart would have given enough time for the Audi Sport Team Land driver to challenge for the lead.
“I don’t know if he would have made it,” he said.
“Tandy was super strong all weekend and I’m not standing here and saying we could have caught him. At least, we could have climbed up further.”
John Dagys contributed to this report