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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Suzuka Post-Race Notebook

John Dagys’ post-race notebook from third round of Intercontinental GT Challenge…

Photo: Suzuka 10 Hours

***While Mercedes-AMG took home the hardware and the lead of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, its customer teams earned significant prize money, with winners GruppeM Racing claiming 30 million Yen ($270,000 USD) and runner-up Strakka Racing with 15 million Yen ($135,000).

***The inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours offered a total weekend purse of 100 million Yen ($900,000).

***The No. 43 Strakka Mercedes-AMG GT3 was nursing a damaged splitter in the closing stages following a “moment” by Alvaro Parente with about three hours to go. It dropped the British-run entry out of striking distance and nearly lost second in the end.

***Lewis Williamson, who took the wounded Mercedes to the finish, praised the British squad for its early charge from 12th on the grid. “I don’t think we had enough for the win but the team did an awesome job with strategy at the beginning of the race,” he said.

***The result tied Strakka’s best-ever finish with Mercedes, having also claimed second in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup season opener, also with Parente and Maxi Goetz at the wheel.

***Both Raffaele Marciello and Maro Engel completed day-time double stints in the winning GruppeM entry, as one of the only cars to do so amid the scorching heat. The team opted for consecutive doubles for Marciello-Engel-Marciello to close out the race. “It was hot out there!” Engel told Sportscar365 post-race.

***None of the Pro class GT3 entries were running air conditioning systems, due to the weight and performance disadvantage, leaving teams largely with helmet blowers and cool suits in the near-100 degree Fahrenheit heat.

***WRT, however, found another way to keep its drivers cool, as the Belgian squad had inflatable pools with ice water behind its pit.

***The GruppeM Mercedes led 222 of the 276 laps, which saw only a single Full Course Yellow and safety car period in the third hour for a heavy accident for the No. 58 Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3 of Come Ledogar, who had contact with the No. 07 Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 of Jules Gounon.

***Ledogar was deemed responsible for the incident by race control some two hours later, although the drive-though penalty was unable to be served due to the car’s retirement.

***It could have been McLaren GT’s final bow in IGTC competition, with the Andrew Kirkaldy-managed GT3 operation reportedly unlikely to contest October’s season-ending California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, despite being a full-season manufacturer entry.

***Kirkaldy’s organization gets replaced by an all-new in-house effort from McLaren Automotive, headed up by former Strakka Racing team principal Dan Walmsley, with the new 720S GT3, which has begun an extensive testing and development program ahead of a 2019 customer racing debut.

***Bentley’s hope of a top-five finish for its new-generation Continental GT3 were dashed after multiple incidents for its No. 07 car, which included contact with the No. 27 HubAuto Ferrari 488 GT3 of Matt Griffin that resulted in a drive-through penalty for Jules Gounon and a trip to the garage for the Taiwanese Ferrari, having sustained suspension damage.

***The No. 23 KCMG Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, another early race-contending entry, retired in the fourth hour with electrical issues. Mazda factory driver Oliver Jarvis had featured in the lineup.

***All three factory-supported Porsche 911 GT3 Rs faced varying degrees of issues, with pit lane miscues, a mid-race clash with the Craft-Bamboo entry and final hour spin from Dirk Werner relegating the No. 911 Manthey Racing entry to 12th overall.

***The Earl Bamber and Sven Mueller-driven No. 7 D’station Porsche, meanwhile, retired in Hour 3 after Bamber ran over a curb and damaged an oil line, leading to engine failure.

***Mercedes-AMG turned a seven-point deficit to Audi into a nine-point lead in the IGTC manufacturers’ standings heading into the Oct. 26-28 season finale at Laguna Seca.

***Marciello and Vautier, meanwhile, take over the lead of the drivers’ championship. The pairing are set to remain teamed with Engel, but in an AKKA ASP-run Mercedes for the eight-hour enduro in two months’ time. Kenny Habul, who claimed Pro-Am class honors on Sunday, provisionally leads the Bronze drivers’ championship.

***While weekend attendance numbers have not yet been published, it’s understood to have been less than the reported 72,000 fans from last year’s Suzuka 1000 km, which promoters had used as a baseline for this year’s race.

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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