The four-race Intercontinental GT Challenge concludes this weekend with the California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, with close battles in the manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships.
Following the Bathurst 12 Hours, the 24 Hours of Spa and Suzuka 10 Hours, the second California 8 Hours will be the deciding round for the 2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge, with Mercedes-AMG leading Audi by nine points.
There are 43 points (25 for the winner, 18 for the second-placed car) available, and Mercedes will nominate four cars – from Strakka Racing and SunEnergy1 Racing – while Audi have three, two Audi Sport Team WRT entries and another from Audi Sport Team Land.
Meanwhile the leading representatives from the two classic German marques are also tussling over the drivers’ title. On the Mercedes side, Raffaele Marciello and Tristan Vautier hold a 15-point lead over their fellow Benz driver Maro Engel, the trio having won the Suzuka 10 Hours together. However, to maximize their chances, the leaders have been split, with Vautier joining Engel in a SunEnergy1 entry, and Marciello in a Strakka car. This unfortunately eliminates Engel’s title challenge before the drop of the green flag, while either Vautier or Marciello is also going to be left gutted on Sunday evening.
Either… or both, since Audi’s reigning IGTC champion Markus Winkelhock and his countryman Christopher Haase are also in the hunt, lying 18 points adrift of Vautier/Marciello. However, Audi too has elected to split this well-established pairing, so that Winkelhock will race a WRT car with Bathurst winners Robin Frijns and Dries Vanthoor while Haase will compete for Land with Christopher Mies and Kelvin van der Linde.
Elsewhere, Tim Pappas will compete in Black Swan Racing’s Porsche 911, trying to clinch the inaugural Bronze Drivers’ title, but currently lies 20 points behind Kenny Habul of Sun Energy1, while a couple of Italian-built cars may have an influence over how the championship plays out. Vital Speed Motorsports has entered a Ferrari 488 and PPM is bringing a Lamborghini Huracan.
Eight manufacturers are represented in the GT4 category, with reigning Pirelli World Challenge champion team GMG Racing and its champion driver James Sofronas one of the firm favorites in the Audi R8. It can expect strong opposition from the PWC GTS class’s most prolific winner in 2018, the Panoz Avezzano which is wheeled by Ian James, Preston Calvert and Matt Keegan.
US RaceTronics team brings its Lamborghini Huracan over from Super Trofeo as the only GT Cup car, which contains 15-year-old Steven Aghakhani in its lineup.
There are just three TCR cars on the grid, two of which are Huyndai i30s run by Bryan Herta Autosport – which includes team owner and Laguna Seca specialist Bryan Herta in the lineup, along with Harding Racing’s new IndyCar signing, his son Colton. The Hyundai pair will face the Audi RS3 LMS run by Canadian team M1GT Racing as seen in the Pirelli World Challenge.
Testing for the race begins on Thursday Oct. 25 while Friday is for practice and pre-qualifying. Saturday’s qualifying starts at 10.35am local (Pacific time) time and sees the three drivers in each car getting 15 minutes to set a lap, and the average of these three lap times will set the grid. The top 15 will then get a further SuperPole shootout qualifying session at 2.40pm. The race begins at 9.15am local time on Sunday.
California 8 Hours entrylist
7 Jordan Pepper, Steven Kane, Jules Gounon – Bentley Team M-Sport – Bentley Continental GT3
8 Vincent Abril, Andy Soucek, Maxime Soulet – Bentley Team M-Sport – Bentley Continental GT3
9 Alvaro Parente, Rodrigo Baptista, Bryan Sellers – K-PAX Racing – Bentley Continental GT3
17 Stuart Leonard, Sheldon van der Linde, Alex Riberas – Audi Sport Team WRT – Audi R8 LMS
19 Robin Frijns, Dries Vanthoor, Markus Winkelhock – Audi Sport Team WRT – Audi R8 LMS
29 Christopher Haase, Kelvin van der Linde, Christopher Mies – Audi Sport Team Land Audi R8 LMS
42 Nick Leventis, Felipe Fraga, David Fumanelli – Strakka Racing – Mercedes AMG GT3*
43 Maxi Goetz, Lewis Williamson, Raffaele Marciello – Mercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing – Mercedes AMG GT3
44 Jack Hawksworth, Christian Vietoris, Adrien Tambay – Strakka Racing – Mercedes AMG GT3
46 Brandon Gdovic, Shinya Michimi, Steve Dunn – PPM – Lamborghini Huracan GT3*
54 Tim Pappas, Patrick Long, Jeroen Bleekemolen – Black Swan Racing – Porsche 911 GT3 R
63 David Askew, Ryan Dalziel, Mike Hedlund – DXDT Racing – Mercedes AMG GT3*
75 Kenny Habul, Mikael Grenier, Luca Stolz – SunEnergy1 Racing Team – Mercedes AMG GT3*
87 Marino Franchitti, Trevor Baek, Jeff Westphal Vital Speed Motorsports – Ferrari 488 GT3
175 Maxi Buhk, Tristan Vautier, Maro Engel – Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 – Mercedes-AMG GT3
911 Dirk Werner, Romain Dumas, Frederic Makowiecki – Wright Motorsport – Porsche 911 GT3 R
2 James Sofronas, Jason Bell, Andrew Davis – GMG Racing – Audi R8 GT4
10 James Pesek, Jade Buford, Scott Maxwell – PF Racing – Ford Mustang GT4
12 Drew Staveley, Frank Gannett, Ian Lacy – Ian Lacy Racing – Ginetta G55
22 Charlie Putman, Charles Espenlaub, Eric Lux – Automatic Racing – Aston Martin Vantage GT4
34 TBA, Matthew Fassnacht, Christian Szymczak – Murillo Racing – Mercedes AMG GT4
50 Ian James, Preston Calvert, Matthew Keegan – Team Panoz Racing – Panoz Avezzano
65 Tim Probert, Jeff Mosing, Justin Piscitell – Murillo Racing – Mercedes AMG GT4
66 Derek DeBoer, Sean Gibbons, Spencer Pumpelly – The Racers Group – Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4
67 Chris Bellomo, Tom Dyer, Robert Orcutt – The Racers Group – Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4
88 Gregory Liefooghe, Henry Schmitt, Sean Quinlan – Stephen Cameron Racing – BMW M4 GT4
91 Jeff Burton, Jessica Burton, James Burke – Rearden Racing – Audi R8 GT4
113 Jon Miller, Daren Jorgensen, Brett Strom – RHC Jorgensen-Strom – BMW M4 GT4
626 Jeff Kearl, Vesko Kozarov, Lara Tallman – Rearden Racing – Audi R8 GT4
6 Steven Aghakhani, Taylor Proto, Richard Antinucci – US RaceTronics – Lamborghini SuperTrofeo Huracan Evo
23 Walter Bowlin, Jerimy Daniel, Lars Viljoen – M1GT Racing – Audi RS3 LMS
98 Bryan Herta, Colton Herta, George Kurtz – Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai i30-N
99 Michael Lewis, Mark Wilkins, Mason Filippi – Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai i30-N
BHA’s California 8h entry to feature Bryan and Colton Herta
California 8 Hours: Haase puts Land Audi on pole