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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Sainteloc Relishing Being “Back on Top” After Indy Win

Sainteloc Racing reflects on outright Indianapolis 8 Hour victory after “very difficult” race…

Photo: Fabian Lagunas/SRO

Sainteloc Racing’s technical manager said it was satisfying for the Audi team to get “back on top” with a major endurance race win at the Indianapolis 8 Hour presented by AWS.

Patric Niederhauser, Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock teamed up to deliver Sainteloc’s most notable outright GT3 victory since its TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa triumph with the German manufacturer in 2017.

Haase and Winkelhock both formed part of the French team’s Spa lineup four years ago alongside Jules Gounon.

Sainteloc initially appeared to have earned a double success but its Silver Cup crew of Lucas Legeret, Nicolas Baert and Aurelien Panis lost their class win to a post-race time penalty.

Sebastien Breuil was nonetheless pleased with the team’s showing on Sunday that saw it claim Audi’s third Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli win on U.S. soil.

“IGTC is the biggest GT championship in the world, so we are very proud of the team and Audi,” said Breuil. “It’s very nice to be back on top.

“It was very difficult. The race has been hard and also the ways the safety cars were deployed was very unusual for us, coming from Europe. But we managed and in the end we won.

“It was unpredictable. You need luck [to play] a big part. We made the race without mistakes, so that was good.

“We took the decision to put new tires on the last stint while the others did not, to try to gain some time. But the pace was awesome at the end.

“The new tires are what made the difference probably.”

Niederhauser ran a close second behind AF Corse Ferrari driver Callum Ilott heading into the final hour.

Sainteloc blinked first in an attempt to undercut the leader, but ended up in front regardless due to Ilott retiring after contact with a GT4 car in the Turn 1 braking zone.

Niederhauser was then pushed back to third at the ensuing safety car pit cycle when WRT’s Dries Vanthoor and Craft-Bamboo’s Gounon jumped ahead with shorter stops.

The Swiss driver, whose car underwent a full service of fuel and new tires, dropped far behind the safety car train and needed to push hard to get back into contention.

He told Sportscar365 that he felt the race “might have been over” at that stage, until a final safety car for an incident involving Gounon’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo enabled Niederhauser to catch up.

A penalty for Vanthoor then returned Sainteloc to the lead.

“Shortly before the end, when we caught the safety car right before the pit stop, that was a tough one because I really thought it was game over from that point onwards,” said Niederhauser.

“But then we were a bit lucky at the end to gain the positions. I never gave up. I thought it might be over, but it’s never over until the checkered flag falls.

“It’s a massive relief because I was second at Spa last year [with Attempto Racing] and was on the road to winning Kyalami [with Car Collection] last year: we were a bit unlucky at the end and lost it. I thought, no way man! This time it’s ours.

Audi Sport’s head of customer racing Chris Reinke lauded Sainteloc’s Indianapolis win as an “exceptional” achievement on a “special day” for the manufacturer, which came one step closer to winning the IGTC title.

“We have seen a dramatic race with a lot of dramatic turns, changes and fortunes that make motor racing exciting,” Reinke told Sportscar365. “To me, it was a very diverse and unique event.

“It was also very intense with a charging sister [WRT] car that eventually didn’t make it to the very front. It was a dramatic race with a fantastic end.”

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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