BMW M Team WRT has scored a controlling 1-2 result in the Kyalami 9 Hour, marking the first Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli victory for the BMW M4 GT3.
Local hero Sheldon van der Linde drove the No. 32 BMW to a 1.778-second win over the sister No. 33 entry of Maxime Martin following the race’s only Full Course Yellow and safety car period that came out with 30 minutes to go for a beached Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
It set up a 20-minute shootout between the top four cars, although the pair of Belgian-entered BMWs remained out front after dominating the proceedings from the middle of the opening hour.
While the No. 999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes of Maro Engel started on pole, van der Linde and teammate Augusto Farfus both got around the German driver by Lap 11 and essentially had clear sailing for the duration.
The closest challenge came from the No. 66 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II, which saw Ricardo Feller pressure Philipp Eng for second prior to sunset.
The two cars ran nose-to-tail for nearly a stint although the gap increased in the closing two hours in full darkness.
Van der Linde shared top honors with Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor, who set the race’s fastest lap in the Shell-liveried BMW.
It marked WRT’s second victory after only three starts in its new partnership with the German manufacturer following the team’s triumph in the 24H Dubai in January and fourth and sixth place finishes at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
Feller, Mattia Drudi and Patric Niederhauser completed the podium in their Audi, ahead of the sister No. 99 car driven by Markus Winkelhock, Dennis Marschall and Alex Aka, which served a drive-through penalty for a pit stop infringement with 1 hour and 30 minutes to go.
SunEnergy1 by SPS Claims Pro-Am Win in Dominant Drive
Pro-Am class honors went to the No. 75 SunEnergy1 by SPS Mercedes of Jules Gounon, Yannick Mettler and Kenny Habul, which recorded a fifth place overall finish and third-place points in the overall IGTC drivers’ championship.
It was the highest-placed Mercedes in the race after gearbox trouble struck the GruppeM entry just prior to halfway.
Engel and Mikael Grenier limped the Pro class entry, which finished third Bathurst, around the track for nearly two hours without functional first, second and sixth gears before it was sent to the garage with two hours and 15 minutes to go while in sixth before retiring in the final 20 minutes.
The car, which also featured Raffaele Marciello, completed more than 70 percent of the race distance, which was needed to score points.
The No. 4 Grove Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of Earl Bamber and Stephen and Brenton Grove finished second in Pro-Am, which overcame an early race puncture and two pit lane penalties to jump the No. 20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes in the closing 90 minutes.
Stradale Motorsport’s Mercedes of Charl Arangies, Arnold Neveling and Clint Weston ended up the highest-placed local entry in eighth overall, despite making multiple trips to the garage.
The No. 3 NGK Pablo Clark Racing Mercedes of Mikaeel Pitamber won the Kyalami Supercup race-within-a-race, which concluded at the one-hour mark for three of the 13 cars that started the South African enduro.
RESULTS: Kyalami 9 Hour