BMW and Sheldon van der Linde triumph in rain hit Kyalami 9-Hour

Saturday's Kyalami 9 Hour race was won overall by South Africa’s Sheldon van der Linde, the Netherlands’ Nicky Catsburg and Brazilian Augusto Farfus, in the Walkenhorst BMW M6 GT3. Picture: Dave Ledbitter.

For the second year in a row, a Highveld thunderstorm predicted the outcome.

It was a crying shame that Saturday’s Kyalami 9 Hour race had to be held without the presence of live spectators. Instead, South African enthusiasts had to watch on television how a typical Highveld thunderstorm, coupled with some awesome driving throughout the day, saw a South African standing on the winners’ podium.

The race – the final round of the 2020 Intercontinental GT Challenge – was won overall by South Africa’s Sheldon van der Linde, the Netherlands’ Nicky Catsburg and Brazilian Augusto Farfus, in a Walkenhorst BMW M6 GT3. They led home the Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Mirko Bortolotti (Italy), Charles Weerts (Belgium) and Frederic Vervisch (Belgium) plus the Porsche 911 GT3 of Matt Campbell (Australia), Patrick Pilet (France) and Mathieu Jaminet (France).

Fourth was the Honda NSX of Bertrand Baguette (Belgium), Renger van der Zande (Netherlands) and Mario Farnbacher (Germany). The Honda and its crew were real heroes of the race, leading the event overall from pole position at the start until 90 minutes before the end, when a massive rainstorm turned Kyalami into a huge ice rink.

The Honda NSX of Bertrand Baguette (Belgium), Renger van der Zande (Netherlands) and Mario Farnbacher (Germany) led until 90 minutes before the end, before a Highveld thunderstorm caught the team on the back foot. Picture: Dave Ledbitter..

Everybody converged on the pits for wet-weather tyres, but the Honda team decided to take on petrol as well, hoping to grab back the lead when the rest of the field would be forced to refuel later. That never happened – with deep water running over the track at various points, the organizers had no choice but to run the rest of the race under Full Course Yellow and Safety Car conditions. Hence, crawling around the track at half throttle or less, nobody needed to refuel, and the bitterly disappointed Honda crew had to be satisfied with the fourth place overall.

Another bitterly disappoint crew was that of South African Jordan Pepper, Jule Gounon (France) and Maxime Soulet (Belgium), when their Bentley Continental GT3 dropped out of second place with a blown engine after 63 laps. The winning BMW’s Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus ended up as joint 2020 Drivers’ Champions, while Porsche clinched the year’s Manufacturers’ title holder. The South African Perfect Circle Porsche crewed by Andre Benzuidenhout, Saul Hack and Dylan Pereira finished in 10th place.

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