Frederic Vervisch admits that his chances of becoming Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli champion on Saturday look difficult given the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo’s current lack of pace so far this weekend.
The Belgian heads into the Kyalami 9 Hour just six points behind points leader Maxi Buhk and stands as Audi’s best chance of securing a title, having been ruled out of the manufacturers’ title hunt.
However, after finishing 17th and 19th in the first test session on Thursday morning, Vervisch said he’s concerned about a lack of pace for the pair of factory-backed Audis at the newly-updated Kyalami circuit.
“Here, it’s unknown, and it’s again a new track and another kind of track at a different altitude, and we are suffering a lot,” Vervisch told Sportscar365.
“At the moment, honestly, a race has to be driven but I don’t see we have a chance in points. Purely on speed, from what I see now, we are really, really off.
“I hope we will find some more speed because otherwise, it will be quite an easy win for Mercedes. We won’t give up and we are a strong group of drivers in a strong team, so strategy is important.
“I hope I don’t need to count on [strategy], and I hope we have the pace like, maybe not Suzuka where we were really strong, but close to that so that we can at least fight for the top spot and not have to rely on others making mistakes.”
Vervisch believes the high altitude of Kyalami, at 5,029 ft (1,532 meters) is having a negative effect on the naturally-aspirated Audis, along with Balance of Performance changes.
“There was a BoP change since Suzuka so we have more kilos, some others have less kilos and more boost pressure,” he said.
“I think here, with the high altitude, we are last and fourth-last in the top speeds. It’s a very quick track so we just have no power.
“The first time we went out, it was like standing still. Even with cold tires, no wheel spin, nothing, in first gear, so it was quite surprising.
“There is no power and I think maybe the BoP has to be readjusted a bit, but it is up to them. It feels like we are quite off, but definitely we can improve the car as well and we are working now on that.
“Otherwise, we will just fight for it, it’s a nine-hour race and a lot will happen, I hope. For overtaking, it will not be so spectacular because everything is too quick, but we need to see how it goes.”
While Christopher Haase is also in the title hunt, his 24-point deficit would require poor results or retirements from several leading cars for him to take the title, making Vervisch Audi’s best hope.
As a result, Vervisch says the entire Audi presence at Kyalami is behind him, with a lot of focus fixed on making him champion, along with Chris Reinke’s priority of ‘writing history’ by winning the first edition of the revived race.
“Definitely, we will work together to bring me as far as possible so I can do this for all of us,” he said.
“My name is on it but it is a team thing so it depends where we are and whatever.
“If we win, we are definitely champion, but in second or third, it depends what the others do. If we win, it doesn’t matter what the others do. For sure, it’s a really good chance and for Audi it’s almost our only chance.
“There is one mathematical chance for Haase but many people would have to [drop] out.
“Definitely, it’s possible, and if you see the points you would say for sure, and if you see the pace from Suzuka it’s for sure possible, but after our first Free Practice, it will be difficult.”