Among three factory Audi Sport entries fielding Audi R8 LMS GT3 cars at the Intercontinental GT Challenge’s inaugural U.S. race, the California 8 Hours, the local team from U.S. shores emerged with the victory.
Audi Sport Team Magnus, with its No. 44 Audi driven by Kelvin van der Linde, Pierre Kaffer and Markus Winkelhock, took the lead in the final 20 minutes of the race after a dramatic final 75 minutes where the two other Audis, the dominant entry in the polesitting No. 29 Audi Sport Team Land car, and the No. 11 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car, ran aground of a pair of problems.
At their last pit stops, both the No. 29 and No. 11 Audis committed pit stop delta infringements, completing their services sooner than the minimum pit stop time of 1 minute, 57 seconds. The No. 29 Audi (1:27.326) and No. 11 Audi (1:18.426) went shorter on their scheduled stops on purpose, took drive-through penalties for missing the minimum delta, and then the No. 29 car driven by Christopher Mies emerged ahead of the No. 11 car driven by Robin Frijns, but only just.
The two drivers looked set to duke it out for the win between them but it all went wrong just in the final 50 minutes. Lapping a slower TRG Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 at Turn 10, Mies went to the outside of the right hander and Frijns went to the inside as they split the Aston Martin. The two got past the Aston Martin but then crashed into each other at Turn 10. Frijns was beached in the gravel trap, which brought out a full course caution, while Mies made it back onto the road but with right front aero damage.
That brought Mies back into the clutches of van der Linde, in the Magnus Audi, who completed the ultimate pass for the win on Lap 300 of the race. He went around the outside of Mies at the left-hand Turn 5, completing the pass through corner exit on the run up the hill to Turn 6. Within a lap, the gap was 0.614 of a second to Mies and the race win was cinched there.
With van der Linde completing the pass of the Land Audi, it left the German team but with U.S.-based Starworks Motorsport’s logistical and strategic support less than an hour shy of its second major U.S. endurance race victory in as many weeks. Mies finished second with Connor De Phillippi and Christopher Haase in a separate chassis than what Mies, De Phillippi, and van der Linde’s younger brother Sheldon van der Linde drove to a GT Daytona class win in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale, Motul Petit Le Mans.
WRT’s demise left the final podium spot open to, like Magnus, another Pirelli World Challenge regular team in K-PAX Racing. Alvaro Parente, Bryan Sellers and Ben Barnicoat shared the No. 9 McLaren 650S GT3.
Adorned in a throwback red and white livery, the No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 of Ryan Eversley, Tom Dyer and new Acura Team Penske driver Dane Cameron came home fourth overall with the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen and David Calvert-Jones fifth overall.
The Black Swan Porsche was the top GT3 Pro-Am finisher, and Bleekemolen held off Frijns’ fightback for an overall top five position. Frijns shared his car with Jake Dennis and Stuart Leonard.
The No. 193 MARC Mazda 3 V8 (Jake Camilleri, Hadrian Morrall, Morgan Haber) and No. 26 Rearden Racing Porsche GT4 Cayman MR (Jeff Kearl, Jeff Westphal, Sean McAlister) were Invitational and GT4 class winners on the day.
Heartbreak struck the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R crew of Porsche factory aces Patrick Long, Joerg Bergmeister and Romain Dumas with a fueling apparatus issue in the final couple hours, and the second RealTime Acura, the No. 93 car of Peter Kox, Mark Wilkins and Jules Gounon, with a cooling system issue in the first hour.