In the end, this year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge series was settled in the final 25 minutes of Saturday’s Kyalami 9-Hour race – on a soaking wet circuit.
During that time period, Porsche managed to claw to the race victory and another podium place, clinching the 2019 Manufacturers’ title, while their driver, Dennis Olsen, was crowned as the overall Drivers’ champion. History will recall that the works Frikadelli team’s pole-winning Porsche 911 GT3 R shared by Olsen, Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet enjoying a perfect day that included the event’s quickest lap and victory.
They were followed over the finish line by Christian Krognes, Mikkel Jensen/Nicky Catsburg (Walkenhorst BMW M6 GT3), Richard Lietz, Kevin Estre/ Michael Christensen (GPX Porsche 911 GT3), Christopher Haase/ Markus Winkelhock/Christopher Mies (Audi Sport R8 GT3), Yeimer Buurman/ Maximilian Gotz/ Luca Stolz (Mercedes-AMG GT3) and Alexandre Imperatori/Eduardo Liberati/Oliver Jarvis (KCMG Nissan GTR GT3).
The first South African driver was Sheldon van der Linde, in seventh place with the Schnitzer BMW M6 GT3 he shared with Augusto Farfus and Martin Tomczyk. Rounding out the top 10 places were Laurens Vanthoor/ Earl Bamber/ Matt Campbell (Dynamic Porsche 911 GT3), Romain Dumas/ Sven Muller/Dirk Werner (KUS Porsche 911 GT3) and Ricky Collard/Hugo de Sadeleer/Marvin Kirchhoefer (Aston Martin Vantage GT3).
The Mercedes-AMG onslaught on both the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ title chases were struck heavy blows when their leading car, the Gruppe M GT3 of Maxi Buhk/ Rafaele Marchello/ Margo Engel stopped with electronic maladies just two corners after the start. Then the Strakka Mercedes-AMG of Gary Paffett/Tristan Vautier/Lewis Williamson ran out of brakes and crashed at the bottom of the Mineshaft with Vautier at the wheel.
Other notable retirements were those of Marco Bonanomi/ Bertrand Baguette/Dan Cameron, whose Motul Honda NSX GT3 blew an engine after three hours, and the works Bentley Continental GT3 of Steven Kane/Andy Soucek/Rodrigo Baptista, which had a rear tyre explode at high speed with massive resultant bodywork damage.
A huge Highveld storm interrupted proceedings with two hours left to run, and the field went around behind the Pace Car until just 25 minutes from the end, when the race director decided it was safe enough to resume full speed competition. That was when the Porsche team made its final bid, to pull off the race win, plus the year’s Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ titles.
South Africans Kelvin van der Linde (Audi Sport R8 GT3) and Jordan Pepper (Bentley Continental GT3) were placed 11th and 12th respectively. Placed 17th and winning the Amateur class overall were local lads Gennaro Bonafede and Michael van Rooyen, with Henry Walkenhorst in a BMW M6 GT3, while Kishoor Pitamber/Lee Thompson and Michael Stephen took their Pablo Clark Ferrari 458 Italia to the National class win.
The Stradale Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Charl Arangies, Craig Jarvis and Dawie Joubert was running steadily when Joubert lost it at the bottom of the Mineshaft after two hours and crashed heavily. He was not injured, but the car was reduced to a wreck. Finally, the Perfect Circle Porsche 997 GT3 of André Bezuidenhout/Franco Scribante and Silvio Scribante proved troublesome all weekend, finally retiring with a broken gearbox three hours in.
An estimated 11 000 people attended the event, and the visiting teams expressed their delight with Kyalami, the flawless organisation, plus South African hospitality.