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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Fuoco Leads Ferrari 1-2 as Indy 8H Reaches Halfway Point

Ferrari first and second at halfway point of Indianapolis 8H; drama for several front-runners…

Photo: Ferrari

Antonio Fuoco held a lead of approximately 28 seconds over his AF Corse Ferrari teammate Come Ledogar at the halfway mark of the Indianapolis 8 Hour presented by AWS.

The two factory-run Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020s took control of Sunday’s Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli round after setbacks for some of the other front-runners including all three Audi crews and Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing.

After rising to the lead during the first round of pit stops under safety car conditions, Fuoco served a drive-through penalty that dropped him outside the top ten but the No. 71 Ferrari managed to fight back to become a contender for the win. 

Crucial Motorsports McLaren driver Paul Holton assumed the lead when the Italian trundled down pit road, but was caught and passed by Daniel Juncadella who moved AKKA-ASP’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo to the head of the field in the second hour.

Juncadella led by around six seconds from Craft-Bamboo’s Maro Engel and Nicklas Nielsen in the No. 51 Ferrari until a third safety car of the race occurred one hour and 40 minutes in.

As was the case during the safety car at the end of hour one, a handful of cars managed to pit before the establishment of the safety car train to gain several positions.

Among those to benefit were the No. 25 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo which cycled into the lead, and Craft-Bamboo’s Mercedes which remained in second.

Markus Winkelhock narrowly led Maro Engel into the third hour, only for Engel to drop away when WRT Audi driver Charles Weerts tagged the Moon Eyes-liveried Mercedes around at the Turn 10 right-hander.

Weerts received a drive-through for his part in the incident, while Engel lost multiple positions but was able to continue racing without needing substantial repairs.

The incident promoted Fuoco’s Ferrari to second, with Ledogar running not far behind in the other AF Corse entry.

Fuoco seized the lead with a braking maneuver on Winkelhock into the Turn 12 right-hander near the end of the Indy road course lap after two and a half hours.

Ferrari then assumed a one-two when the Sainteloc Audi was dealt a drive-through for undercutting its minimum pit stop time, which explained how Winkelhock emerged ahead of Engel despite the pair stopping at the same moment.

The fourth hour saw Rovera gradually increase the No. 71 Ferrari’s lead over Nielsen in the No. 51, although the Italian’s advantage of around 15 seconds came down by a third when he spent several laps trying to put Craft-Bamboo a lap down.

However, the margin went back out to more than 20 seconds when Nielsen’s Ferrari and the GT4-leading Smooge Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4 came together at the penultimate corner.

Nielsen spun into a cloud of tire smoke before continuing but was subsequently handed a 30-second stop and hold penalty for his role in the incident.

Nielsen and Rovera handed their cars back to Ledogar and Fuoco respectively for the run to the halfway mark, with the No. 51 yet to serve its extra visit to the pits.

Ferrari’s closest challenger after four hours was the No. 3 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo which recovered from an early puncture courtesy of a combination of consistent lap times and the issues that impacted some of the main contenders.

Jordan Pepper was 15 seconds behind Nielsen at halfway, and 14 seconds up the road from Audi Sport Team Sainteloc’s Christopher Haase.

AKKA-ASP’s Daniel Juncadella and Crucial Motorsports’ Rob Bell were the other drivers still on the lead lap with half the race remaining.

Smooge Racing’s incident with the second-placed Ferrari promoted the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport to the lead in GT4 after running almost a lap down on the previously dominant Toyota. 

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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