Farfus, Catsburg win Drivers’ title
Augusto Farfus and Nick Catsburg are the 2020 Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli champions after winning the Kyalami 9 Hour alongside their Walkenhorst Motorsport team-mate Sheldon van der Linde in the BMW. Audi Sport Team WRT drivers Frederic Vervisch, Mirko Bortolotti and Charles Weerts came home second ahead of Matt Campbell, Patrick Pilet and Mathieu Jaminet (GPX Racing) who sealed the Manufacturers’ crown for Porsche in third overall.
The BMW M6 of Walkenhorst Motorsport spent most of the race inside the top-five but didn’t become a serious victory or championship contender until the final hour when a heavy thunderstorm turned the outcome on its head. A final necessary fuel stop for Team Honda Racing and WRT’s need to re-set Vervisch’s stint length left the BMW in prime position when conditions required Full Course Yellow and Safety Car periods through until the chequered flag.
The polesitter NSX shared by Mario Farnbacher, Renger van der Zande and Bertrand Baguette had dominated up until that point. Indeed, the sole Honda – which needed to win to have any realistic chance of scooping the Drivers’ crown – remained the de facto race leader for almost eight hours after initially resisting Jordan Pepper’s Bentley into Turn 1.
It only faced serious pressure in the seventh hour when Audi Sport Team Car Collection’s Patric Niederhauser moved to within 1.5 seconds. At that stage the winner would also lift the Drivers’ crown, but Midrand’s famously unpredictable weather was about to deny both entries.
90 minutes remained when the day’s first meaningful rain caught out Alex Buncombe whose stranded Bentley called for a Full Course Yellow. Walkenhorst were first to react to the deluge, which subsequently sent everyone into the pits for wet tyres. This was the moment that effectively ended Honda’s challenge: unlike its rivals, the team opted against also taking on fuel, leaving no choice but stop again for a full service before the finish.
Of course, the team wasn’t to know that, barring a few racing laps in torrential conditions, the rest of the race would be run either under FCY or behind the Safety Car. And with the lower speeds also reducing fuel consumption, the Honda ultimately lost out to those that only required a trip through the pits without stopping to re-set their stint lengths.
Car Collection’s chances ended when Mattia Drudi span in the treacherous conditions, which – with just over an hour remaining – prompted the FCY’s return, Honda’s final full service and Walkenhorst’s trip through the pitlane to re-set Catsburg’s stint time.
By contrast, Audi Sport Team WRT opted to delay its final re-set. But when Vervisch finally emerged from the pitlane, the BMW had done just enough to take the lead.
Reversing those positions would have handed Campbell, Pilet and Jaminet the Drivers’ crown. However, third place for GPX Racing’s trio was more than enough for Porsche to retain its Manufacturers’ championship. The 911 yo-yoed up and down the order all afternoon after an unscheduled pitstop for a cut tyre left it out of sequence. The Honda came home fourth – an undeserved result after dominating eight of the nine hours – while Car Collection’s Niederhauser, Christopher Haase and Drudi all starred at various points before the latter’s spin in torrential rain denied the Audi a genuine victory shot.
Walkenhorst’s second M6 couldn’t match the sister car but helped BMW secure second in the Manufacturers’ table by finishing sixth. But there was disappointment at Dinamic Motorsport whose race slowly unravelled after Earl Bamber’s initial charge from 10th. His and Laurens Vanthoor’s championship chances were effectively ended by a cracked splitter, which required a lengthy pitstop to repair. The Porsche came home one place ahead of WRT’s second Audi, which was forced in at the end of lap one after tangling with the #8 Bentley.
Indeed, the British manufacturer endured a disappointing end to its factory GT3 story when a day that started so well for the championship chasing #7 crew went literally up in smoke at the start of hour three. Pepper and Jules Gounon ran second throughout their stints before Maxime Soulet’s day ended almost before it began. Lechner Racing’s local Team Perfect Circle Porsche crewed by Andre Benzuidenhout, Saul Hack and Dylan Pereira completed the points-paying positions in 10th.
Intercontinental GT Challenge
9H Kyalami, 12 December 2020
- Nicky Catsburg / Augusto Farfus / Sheldon Van der Linde (BMW M6 GT3 / Walkenhorst Motorsport) 9:00:30.467, 977 laps
- Mirko Bortolotti / Frederic Vervisch / Charles Weerts (Audi R8 LMS GT3 / Audi Sport Team WRT) 0.220
- Matt Campbell / Mathieu Jaminet / Patrick Pilet (Porsche 911 GT3 R / GPX Racing) 1.731
- Bertrand Baguette / Mario Farnbacher / Renger Van der Zande (Honda NSX GT3 / Team Honda Racing) 3.054
- Mattia Drudi / Christopher Haase / Patric Niederhauser (Audi R8 LMS GT3 / Audi Sport Team Car Collection) 51.090
- Nicholas Yelloly / David Pittard / Martin Tomczyk (BMW M6 GT3 / Walkenhorst Motorsport) 1 lap
- Earl Bamber / Kevin Estre / Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R / Dinamic Motorsport) 1 lap
- Kelvin Van der Linde / Dries Vanthoor / Markus Winkelhock (Audi R8 LMS GT3 / Audi Sport Team WRT) 2 laps
- Alex Buncombe / Oliber Jarvis / Seb Morris (Bentley Continental GT3 / Bentley Team M-Sport) 3 laps
- Andre Bezuidenhout / Dylan Pereira / Saul Hack (Porsche 911 GT3 R / Lechner Racing) 6 laps
- Milan Dontje / Martin Lechman / Dennis Marschall (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 11 laps
Not classified: Jules Gounon / Jordan Pepper / Maxime Soulet
Fastest lap: Matt Campbell / Mathieu Jaminet / Patrick Pilet (Porsche 911 GT3 R / GPX Racing) 1:42.021, 95th lap