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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Suzuka Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday notebook following rain-soaked day in Suzuka…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

***Heavy rain impacted the opening day of on-track activity at Suzuka Circuit, which saw a near-washout of the Paid Practice session. The first round of qualifying for the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup was canceled in the early afternoon prior to Free Practice 1 for the Suzuka 10 Hours, which also intermittent showers halt action.

***More than 1.3 inches of rain fell on Friday, although conditions are expected to improve tomorrow and Sunday’s race forecasted to be dry.

***Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has stretched its resources across two continents this weekend, with team boss Vincent Vosse and the GT3 squad’s usual sporting director Thierry Tassin at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz for the 500th DTM race. Pierre Dieudonne, who oversees the team’s WTCR operations, has stepped in as sporting director in Suzuka.

***Several motorsports manufacturer bosses are in attendance of their first IGTC race of the season outside of Spa, including Lamborghini’s Giorgio Sanna and Ferrari GT and Corse Clienti racing director Antonello Coletta.

***Honda/Acura NSX GT3 program manager Lee Niffenegger is also on-site this weekend instead of his initial assignment of Virginia International Raceway for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race, which sees Acura currently leading the GT Daytona class championship. 

***Porsche 911 GT3 R project manager Sebastian Golz believes its new-for-2019 car has solved the German manufacturer’s weak link of only being able to single-stint drivers in last year’s race. “That will be a thing of the past thanks to the active driver cooling system, which ensures a constant driving performance,” he said.

***This weekend’s race features a number of special awards, including prizes for the top-placed Super GT entrant, the Asia Award for best-placed crew featuring two or more Asian drivers, as well as the Spa-Suzuka Award for the team that completes the most cumulative laps between the Total 24 Hours of Spa and Suzuka 10 Hours.

***The second seat in the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup entry that will take part in next year’s Suzuka 10 Hours will be determined this weekend based on the cumulative results from the pair of single-make races from its GT3 competitors.

***Anthony Liu has already been guaranteed a spot in three-driver crew, having scored the most cumulative points in the Chinese R8 LMS Cup rounds, while the third seat will be determined based on the combined results from the races at Adelaide and November’s season finale in Sepang.

***The initiative follows an Audi Sport customer racing Asia-entered car that contested last month’s Total 24 Hours of Spa featuring R8 LMS Cup drivers that earned seats in similar ways over the corse of the 2018 season.

***Suzuka marks the second joint event between the R8 LMS Cup and a major GT endurance race, with the Asian-based single-make series competing as a support race to the Nürburgring 24 last year. “This weekend is another sign how the motorsport community of Audi grows together,” said Martin Kuehl, head of Audi Sport customer racing Asia.

***Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke hopes they can “play a role” for the drivers’ title with Christopher Haase the closest-placed Audi driver in the championship race, 12 points behind leaders Maxi Buhk and Maxi Goetz.

***While not mathematically out of the manufacturers’ championship, Audi trails Mercedes-AMG by 45 points, with a maximum of 86 points still up for grabs. Audi has been undefeated in the IGTC manufacturers’ championship since its launch in 2016.

“We will for sure give everything to have a premium result here at Suzuka and then see,” Reinke said. “I think it’s important to show strong here and if look at championships, I think it makes more sense to look at the drivers’ championship.”

***The Mercedes-AMG GT3, which claimed victory here last year, is running 5 kg heavier compared to its 2018 specification, with other minimal Balance of Performance adjustments having been made by SRO since the race 12 months ago.

***SunEnergy1 Racing’s Mercedes is being run by Black Falcon this weekend, with the German squad set to operate the Australian entry in the Kyalami 9 Hour for Kenny Habul, Thomas Jaeger and Bernd Schneider, who will be taking part in his final professional race.

***Habul confirmed to Sportscar365 plans of contesting the full IGTC season in 2020, with Scott Taylor Motorsport operating his car in Bathurst and Black Falcon likely for the remainder of the year.

***Mercedes-AMG head of customer racing Stefan Wendl has backpedaled on previous claims that it would not launch a GT2 car next year. Wendl told Sportscar365 on Friday that a GT2 model “could be” announced but said they would first would need a production car to fit within the regulations, which calls for 700-horsepower race cars.

“We’re negotiating the topic but it’s really interesting,” Wendl told Sportscar365. “At the moment I can say we have no road-legal car that fits to the GT2 regulations. Obviously our [Mercedes-AMG] GT-R is not powerful enough. That’s the status at the moment.”

***SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel revealed during last month’s annual press conference that three additional GT2 manufacturers are expected to launch cars in 2020, with a third manufacturer, believed to be McLaren, set to announce its car during the Blancpain GT Series round at Barcelona next month.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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