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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Suzuka Saturday Notebook

John Dagys’ Saturday notebook from Suzuka ahead of tomorrow’s IGTC round…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

***Augusto Farfus claimed a prize of 1 million yen ($10,000) for scoring pole for tomorrow’s Suzuka 10 Hours, in a surprise run for BMW, which qualified first and third in penultimate round of the the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season.

***When asked by Sportscar365 what he will do with the prize, Farfus replied: “It’s not every day that you become a millionaire!” The Brazilian joked that he will use the money to “invest” in the car’s performance for tomorrow.

***Farfus admitted that the cooler conditions during Pole Shootout benefitted the BMW M6 GT3s.  “We didn’t expect to be up here,” he said. “We knew we would be competitive but the weather changed. It got cooler and helped our car. I did a very good lap.”

***Kelvin van der Linde, whose No. 25 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo will roll off from second, believes they have a strong package for the race. “It was difficult to trim out the car in such little [dry] running time in the car,” he said. “I think we have a good pace for the race tomorrow. I think the goal is quite clear; we’re going to go all in for the win.”

***SRO Motorsports Group has a slightly larger influence in this year’s event, with IGTC race director Alain Adam working alongside the event’s race director with increased responsibilities and Greg Masters having been brought in as a race steward.

***Both Adam and SRO Motorsports America’s Marcus Haselgrove are serving as the English-language liaisons to teams on the radio.

***Improvements have also been made to the timing and scoring and marshaling following a communication breakdown in qualifying last year that delayed the Top 20 Shootout by more than an hour. No such issue occurred on Saturday.

***GruppeM Racing elected to change the location of its pit box overnight after discovering that the first garage stall had been available. The No. 999 Mercedes-AMG GT3 was initially a few boxes further back but still on the far end of the pit lane.

***The SRO’s track categorization for Suzuka has changed from Category B to C since last year’s race. It has impacted the overall Balance of Performance, which is set according to five different track categories (A, B, C, D, H) based on particular track characteristics. 

***The lineup for the No. 108 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 for the season-ending Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup round at Barcelona and IGTC finale in Kyalami has yet to be determined, according to Bentley Motorsport director Paul Williams.

***Williams told Sportscar365 they have “a lot of options” and indicated that Maxime Soulet’s family situation could also play a factor. “We have a large number of guys we’ve worked with at Spa running four cars,” he said. “We’ve got a good collection of drivers with different sets of experience and strengths.”

***The various issues that plagued the four-car factory operation at Spa have been fully diagnosed and analyzed according to Williams, who has taken over duties from the now-retired Brian Gush in what will be his new capacity this weekend.

***Incidentally, Williams holds a number of connections with Gush. Williams has spent roughly half of his life in South Africa and took over as head of powertrain from South African-born Gush when he was promoted to motorsport director. “He’s been a bit of a mentor for me over the years,” Williams said.

***Sunday’s race will mark the largest grid of Honda NSX GT3 Evos since last year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen when four of the mid-engined sports cars were on the grid entered by Meyer Shank Racing, CJ Wilson Racing and HART.

***Stephane Ratel has dismissed the prospects of seeing GT2 cars in an endurance format in the future. “We know for a fact that they can’t last long enough for fuel consumption; they can’t go through the hour with 700 horsepower,” he told Sportscar365. “The speed of the car on brake discs, etc. It was always designed for sprint [racing] so we’ll leave it purely as this.”

***Absolute Racing is working on “possible options” for a return to the FIA GT World Cup in Macau this year, according to team director Ingo Matter, who said it could be with Porsche and/or Audi GT3 machinery.

***The street race event has been re-opened to Silver-rated drivers this year, which expands the possibility of privateer entries.

***Matter said SRO’s evolution of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia calendar to include a three-hour race in Shanghai next year is a “nice compromise” for teams. The event, dubbed the SIC 888, had been run as an 888 km race last year in conjunction with the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup.

***There will be no SIC 888 at Shanghai this year as the event goes into SRO’s hands in 2020.

***An official live stream, featuring commentary from Sam Collins, Sonia Ito and four-time Super GT champion Ronnie Quintarelli will be available on the IGTC website, beginning just prior to the 10 a.m. local time start (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET).  It will be streamed worldwide, with the exception of Japan where it is geo-blocked.

***Eurosport, Motor Trend and Eurosport Asia-Pacific will also carry TV coverage, with a commentary team led by Mark Cole, Tom Gaymor, Martin Haven and Terry Rymer. UK viewers can watch the final three hours from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. BST on Eurosport 2.

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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