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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Three-Way Fight for Inaugural IGTC Title in Sepang

Three-way fight for Intercontinental GT Challenge title in Sepang…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

This weekend’s Motul 12 Hours of Sepang will crown the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge champions, with both drivers and manufacturers’ titles still up for grabs heading into the around-the-clock Malaysian enduro.

Laurens Vanthoor enters the title-decider with a six-point lead over McLaren GT’s Shane van Gisbergen, with fellow Audi GT factory driver Rene Rast still in with a chance of the championship as well, just one point down from the Kiwi.

Vanthoor, the newly crowned FIA GT World Cup Champion, in his final race for Audi, having been confirmed as a new Porsche factory driver, will share an Phoenix Racing-entered Audi R8 LMS with Christopher Haase and Robin Frijns.

“It is an important race for me,” Vanthoor said. “Not only because we have won it last year, but also because there is a possibility to claim the Intercontinental GT Challenge title, and I would love to add it to the championships that I have won in the past.

“Sepang will be special for another reason as well, and I hope I can finish the season on a high.”

Audi’s other challenger, featuring Rast, Markus Winkelhock and Pierre Kaffer will be looking to help carry the German manufacturer to the title.

Audi currently sits third in the Manufacturers’ Championship, eight points down on leader Bentley, which has elected not to enter Sepang with any cars. Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, sits second but is only being represented by a single Pro-Am class entry from Japan.

McLaren GT, which had a race to forget at the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the most recent IGTC round, trails Audi by nine points and only has a single 650S GT3 entered for Sepang.

Newly crowned Pirelli World Challenge GT champions K-PAX Racing is set for its overseas debut with van Gisbergen, Come Ledogar and Alvaro Parente at the wheel of Parente’s title-winning McLaren.

For van Gisbergen, who recently clinched the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship and also won the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup title, he’ll be looking to close out the year in the same way he started out 2016, with a win.

Van Gisbergen anchored Tekno Autosports’ victory in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, which opened the three-round IGTC season in February.

“It’s been an awesome year for McLaren in GT racing with race and championship wins across the world, and to be a Kiwi and a part of it is very special,” van Gisbergen said.

“The Intercontinental GT Challenge trophy is up for grabs; hopefully we can have a good result and finish this year on a high.”

Two wild cards in Saturday’s race are the Manthey Racing-entered Porsche 911 GT3 Rs, featuring all-factory lineups in the first works effort for the car since the Nürburgring 24.

While not in with a chance of the title, both the No. 911 entry of Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Patrick Pilet, plus the Fred Makowiecki, Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen-driven No. 912 Porsche will likely be fighting for top race honors.

Practice gets underway on Thursday evening, with qualifying and a Top-15 Shootout set for Friday and the race set for a 12 p.m. start on Saturday and running until midnight.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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