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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Suzuka Post-Race Notebook

John Dagys’ notebook from fourth round of Intercontinental GT Challenge season…

Photo: Suzuka Circuit

***Audi claimed its first victory in Suzuka’s Summer Endurance Race, in the event’s 48-year history dating back to 1966. It became only the third German manufacturer to do so, joining Porsche and Mercedes-Benz.

***The German manufacturer also locked up the DTM title on Sunday, with four races still to spare. Nico Mueller and Rene Rast claimed victories in the pair of races at the Eurospeedway Lausitzring over the weekend.

***Its Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli title hopes, however, have been eliminated, with Audi now at a 44-point deficit to leaders Mercedes-AMG heading into November’s season-ending Kyalami 9 Hour. A maximum of 43 manufacturer points are on offer.

***Audi looked set to collect maximum IGTC manufacturer points on Sunday until its second-place No. 125 Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo had a refueling issue on its final stop, relegating the Chinese-run entry to a seventh place finish.

***Had the Christopher Haase, Markus Winkelhock and Christopher Mies-driven Audi finished second, Audi would have been at 83 points, compared to Mercedes-AMG’s 110 points.

***Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke told Sportscar365 that it was a “heartbreaking thing” particularly from a championship situation. “Especially as AMG inherited that very position, it was kind of a double loss,” he said. “We lost it and they won it and therefore it makes a big difference [in the points].”

***Both Frederic Vervisch and Dries Vanthoor, who claimed victory in this year’s Nürburgring 24, have become first-time Suzuka winners alongside Kelvin van der Linde and the Vincent Vosse-led WRT squad, which adds another key endurance race win to its CV.

“After Bathurst, Dubai, Nürburgring, Spa, Sepang and Zolder, we won at Suzuka, which is a superb trophy to include in our shelve!” said Vosse. “Moreover, it has been a victory resulting from a perfect performance by the entire team. The car worked perfectly, the team and the drivers put on an exceptional and faultless performance, and everything worked smoothly.”

***GruppeM Racing won the Spa-Suzuka Cup, which awarded the team that completed the most cumulative mileage between the Total 24 Hours of Spa and Suzuka 10 Hours. Its No. 999 Mercedes-AMG GT3 completed 4,131 kms (2,566 miles) between the two enduros.

***Other award winners included KCMG’s No. 35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 of Tsugio Matsuda, Katsumasa Chiyo and Josh Burdon, which picked up the Asia Award for the best-placed crew featuring two or more Asian drivers, having finished sixth overall.

***The top Super GT team, for the second consecutive year, was the No. 00 Goodsmile Racing Mercedes, which came home in tenth overall. The Japanese squad, featuring Toyota LMP1 star Kamui Kobayashi, had been the highest-placed Mercedes in the early stages of the race before slipping back in the final hours.

***Head of Mercedes-AMG customer racing Stefan Wendl said the overall win was “beyond reach” due to the outright performance from the No. 25 Audi. “We slightly lacked the basic speed for that,” he said. “But we have achieved the maximum that was possible today: second place overall, three further cars in the top-ten, three class wins and the defense of the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championship lead.”

***Mika Hakkinen, in his return to racing, recorded a 22nd overall finish in his Gainer-run McLaren 720S GT3. The two-time Formula 1 world champion ran as high as fifth, courtesy of pit stop cycles,  although became dehydrated after his opening stint. The Finn returned later in the race but elected not to do any night driving.

***Pirelli circuit technical manager Matteo Braga said the cooler ambient temperatures in this year’s race made conditions “not critical” for its PZero DHD2 tires, which performed better-than-expected according to the majority of teams in terms of tire degradation.

***Braga said track temperatures peaked at 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday after initially expecting it to be in the 45-46-degree range (113-115 F).

***Van der Linde said the cooler temperatures “definitely” played a role in Audi’s success after struggling in last year’s heat. “Tire deg was massive for us last year compared to Merc,” he told Sportscar365. “Every little bit that helps in term of long distance tire life was going to help us.”

***Maro Engel said he was “pretty upset” at himself for making a mistake in his Super Pole lap that put the GruppeM Mercedes 9th on the grid and made for a challenging first half of the race. “We had to play the patience game,” said Engel, who said the second place result felt “like a win.”

***The No. 27 HubAuto Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 was classified in 32nd overall after a challenging day marred by accidents. An out-of-control Honda NSX GT3 Evo clobbered Nick Cassidy in the third hour, while the Super GT driver made a rare mistake of his own at 130R three hours later and ended up in the barriers.

***Cassidy managed to limp the Taiwanese Ferrari back to the pits, which saw an extensive rebuild and return to action in the final hour. It marked the second consecutive major accident for the team following its early retirement at Spa.

***Schnitzer, which scored pole on Saturday in the hands of Augusto Farufus, made its first appearance at the Suzuka Summer Endurance Race since 1997 when J.J. Lehto and Steve Soper’s McLaren F1 GTR finished fourth in what was then the Spa 1000km.

***Audi’s Reinke told Sportcar365 it’s “too early” to say whether they will retain the same driver pairings for Kyalami, which sees Vervisch only six points behind leader Maxi Buhk in the title race. Audi is expected to again have two factory-backed cars, one of them entered by WRT.

***The three-day weekend attendance was reported at 51,000 spectators. It included sold-out pit walks and autograph sessions on Saturday and Sunday.

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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