The 2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge Season began at Bathurst and wrapped up in Monterey, California with the California 8 Hours. Coming into the weekend Audi and Mercedes-AMG found themselves within grasp of the manufacturer’s trophy.
Tristan Vautier, Raffaele Marciello — now in separate cars — would battle with Markus Winkelhock and Christopher Haase who were also split up for the best chance at taking the title. Also in the mix for the driver’s championship was Maro Engel who would pair with Vautier to aid in their championship hunt.
Taking home the win in the race was the #29 Audi Sport Team Land Audi R8 LMS. The crew’s day began from pole but their race did not go as smoothly as the team would have liked. Kelvin Van Der Linde was nabbed for passing under yellow, and Christopher Mies was penalised for an unsafe release. That earned the German team two drive-through penalties.
From there, Mies, and the man who put the car on pole, Christopher Haase would work to regain the lost time. Their efforts were successful and the car was handed back over to Van Der Linde for the final sprint to the finish.
Second in GT3, and making it a 1-2 finish for Audi was the #19 Audi Sport Team WRT Audi R8 LMS. This finish from Robin Frijns, Dries Vanthoor, and Markus Winkelhock helped secure the manufacturer’s championship for Audi, its third in a row.
“I’m absolutely proud of everyone involved its really special…” said Chris Reinke, the Head of Audi Sport Customer Racing. “We came to fly the banner with the stars and stripes and now we get to the fly the Audi banner on the podium.”
Third in the class was the #175 Sun Energy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Tristan Vautier, Maro Engel, and Maximilian Buhk. Engel and Buhk were both brought into this #175 Mercedes-AMG GT3 team to help Vautier secure the driver’s championship, which is exactly what they did. Despite finishing behind their championship rivals, Vautier had enough of a points gap to take the title.
“It was a very intense day and it was a very close fight. It came down to timing and strategy and there was a lot of pressure and it was really whoever was going to stay cool.” Said Tristan Vautier after the race. “It’s a real team effort I have to thank them, they did a fantastic job.”
Lewis Williamson and Maxi Goetz paired up with Raffaele Marciello to try and help the Italian take the title. Their #43 Team Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 lead in the early part of the race but soon fell back as strategy calls did not fall their way. A late-race puncture with twenty minutes to go put the final nail in the coffin of Marciello’s championship hunt — they would finish seventh.
Strakka Racing did enjoy better fortune with its #42 Mercedes of team founder Nick Leventis, David Fumanelli and Felipe Fraga, the car winning the Pro/Am class, scoring the British outfit its first race win of 2018 and its first with Mercedes.
“I’m very happy for the whole of Strakka Racing to get the ProAm win,” Leventis said. “It was a pretty uneventful race for the #42; we just stayed out of trouble and kept it clean and brought it home in P1. It was an unlucky race for the Pro guys. We had an incident with the #44 under the safety car, which cost us potentially a very good result, and we were in the fight for the overall win with the #43 for most of the race and we were a bit unlucky, but that’s racing sometimes.
“It marred what could have been a double victory for the team but we are very happy to have the victory in ProAm and the Pro guys did a top job and should be proud of themselves. We go into the off-season knowing we’ve had a great first season with Mercedes-AMG. We’re really happy with the partnership and we look forward to bringing the cars out again at Bathurst.”
It is also worth noting in the GT3 class that Kenny Habul secured the Bronze Driver’s Championship in his #75 Sun Energy1 Racing Mercedes AMG-GT3. There was some late-race worry though for Habul as the car barely completed the 75% of laps required to score points.
In GT4 the #626 Rearden Racing Audi R8 GT4 of David Roberts, Vesko Kozarov, and Max Faulkner took home the win, finishing roughly one lap clear of the next placed car.
That next placed car was the #66 TRG Porsche Cayman Clubsport of Derek Deboer, Sean Gibbons, and Spencer Pumpelly.
Rounding out the GT4 podium were the IMSA-regulars of Murillo Racing and their Mercedes-AMG GT4. Justin Piscitell, Tim Probert, and Jeff Mosing piloting that car this weekend, and making it three different chassis in the top three of the always competitive GT4-class.
In TCR the #98 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai I30-N of George Kurtz, and Bryan, and Colton Herta took home the win the two-car class.
They finished over 200 laps ahead of their teammates in the #99 Bryan Herta Autosport I30-N. Mason Filippi, Mark Wilkins, and Michael Lewis’s day coming to an early conclusion due to damage resulting from contact in the race’s third hour.
The GTC class featured just one car, the #6 US RaceTronics Lamborghini Trofeo Huracan EVO. That meant that Steven Aghakhani, Taylor Proto, and Richard Antinucci took home the win, while also finishing last.