Audi, Aussie on top at Laguna Seca

AUDI has stormed to their third-straight Intercontinental GT Challenge Manufacturers title via a crushing 1-2 result in the California 8 Hour at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the final round of a series that started at the 2018 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. 

Meanwhile, Aussie Kenny Habul clinched the Bronze drivers championship in a tense finish for his Mercedes-AMG that was only just classified the finisher.

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The leading No. 29 Audi Sport Team Land Audi R8 LMS driven by Kelvin van der Linde, Christopher Haase and Christoper Mies edged out the No. 19 Audi Sport Team WRT entry of Bathurst winners Robin Frijns, Dries Vanthoor and Markus Winkelhock by less than 10 seconds in a close finish.

It was the third ICGT title from three attempts for the German marque in a campaign that started with victory for the WRT Audi team at the Bathurst 12 hour this February.

It also delivered van der Linde back-to-back victories in the US-leg of the ICGT series, having stormed to victory last year – ironically over a Team Land Audi.

“This weekend I had an unbelivable team. Both the Chris’ did an unbelivable job in the car,” van der Linde said.

“Last year I was the hunter and this year we went to being the hunted.

“I was always looking in the mirror seeing Dries closing up, but he took a bit too much out of his tyres and I was able to hold on from there.”

The SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Maro Engel, Maxi Buhk and Tristan Vautier finished third outright, delivering Vautier the Pro and outright drivers championship in the process.

Vautier finished second in the 12-Hour this year and, like Audi, anchored his strong season on the back of his 12-Hour performance.

The sister car of Mikael Grenier, Luca Stolz and Australian Kenny Habul limped to the finish after suffering damage earlier in the race.

The car was just classified within 70% of the winners final distance ensuring Habul would clinch the Bronze drivers championship in a banner day for the two-car SunEnergy1 Racing AMG outfit.

Habul was joined by Vautier, Jamie Whincup and Raffaele Marciallo on the Mountain in February this year.

The 8 hour enduro was a pitched battle between Audi and Mercedes-AMG with both brands in contention throughout and few others getting a look in.

The AMG contenders looked strong in the middle stages of the race with strong pace and track position, however Safety Car interruptions later in the race shifted the advantage back to Audi in the second half.

Four different brands filled the top six finishing positions outright, the No. 911 Porsche GT3R of Roman Dumas, Fred Makowiecki and Dirk Werner finishing fourth – one lap behind the leader.

The No. 17 Audi Sport Team WRT R8 LMS of Sheldon van der Linde, Alex Ribiras and 12-hour winner Stuart Leonard finished fifth while the No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 of 12-hour regulars Vincent Abril, Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet finished sixth.

Audi backed up their outright victory with success also in the GT4 class, with Porsche and Mercedes completing the podium.

The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour kicks off the 2019 ICGT Challenge season next February, while the Laguna Seca event moves to earlier in the calendar.

The Total 24 Hours of Spa, Suzuka 10 Hours and a brand-new enduro event at Kyalami, in South Africa, complete the championship.