Photo: Audi Sport

Magnus Audi snatches California 8 Hours win in Monterey

Leave a comment

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.

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

Leave a comment

Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”