The 2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge will have its final round at the Laguna Seca Raceway California 8 Hours.
The longest race on the Monterey peninsula will not only see the contenders in the only global GT3 championship vie for the 2018 trophies, there will also be plenty of GT4 and TCR cars fighting for class honours. In total no fewer than 33 cars will be on the grid on the morning of Sunday October 28th.
After competing in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, the Total 24 Hours of Spa and the inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours, the second edition of the Laguna Seca Raceway California 8 Hours will be the deciding round for the 2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge.
In the fight for the Manufacturers’ Title, two manufacturers still have a shot at the crown. After their perfect score in the Suzuka 10 Hours, Mercedes-AMG leads the standings with 104 points, nine more than their only remaining competitor Audi. With 43 points (25 for the winner, 18 for the second-placed car) up for grabs, anything is still possible.
Mercedes-AMG will nominate four cars in Laguna Seca, entered by Strakka Racing and Sun Energy1 Racing. Audi will try to close the gap with three R8 LMS and is represented by two cars from Audi Sport Team WRT and one from Audi Sport Team Land, all trying to repeat last year’s win for the manufacturer with the four rings, which could bring a third consecutive Intercontinental GT Challenge title as well.
The duel between Mercedes-AMG and Audi is also reflected in the quest for the Drivers’ title. Raffaele Marciello and Tristan Vautier lead the overall drivers’ standings, with a 15-point advantage over Maro Engel. To maximise their chances for the drivers’ crown, Mercedes-AMG decided to split up Marciello and Vautier for the season finale: the Italian shares the #43 Strakka Racing machine with Maxi Götz and Lewis Williamson, while Vautier drives the #175 Mercedes-AMG Team Sun Energy 1 Racing GT3 with German drivers Maxi Buhk and Maro Engel.
For the latter, this means that he is effectively eliminated from the title fight.
The only two contenders for the Mercedes-AMG duo are reigning Intercontinental GT Challenge champion Markus Winkelhock and his countryman Christopher Haase.
The German duo has raced together for the first three rounds of the season – scoring maximum points in Spa – but to maximise their chances they will now also compete on two separate cars: Winkelhock will share the #19 Audi Sport Team WRT R8 with Robin Frijns and Dries Vanthoor (both winners in Bathurst), while Haase is at the wheel of the #29 Audi Sport Team Land R8 with Christopher Mies and Kelvin van der Linde. The latter shared last year’s Laguna Seca winning car with Markus Winkelhock.
Porsche, third in the manufacturer’s standings with 51 points, brings two 911 GT3 R to Laguna Seca, entered by American squads Wright Motorsport and Black Swan Racing.
The former will have three factory drivers at the wheel, while Black Swan Racing team owner Tim Pappas will not only try to score points for Porsche, but also have a shot at the inaugural Bronze Drivers’ title of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. To claim the crown Pappas will have to close a 20-point gap towards Kenny Habul, competing in the #75 Sun Energy 1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Habul scored maximum points in Bathurst and Suzuka and added a second place in Spa to his tally.
The fourth of the Intercontinental GT Challenge manufacturers, Bentley, brings three Continental GT3 cars to Laguna Seca for the first time: two in the hands of British Bentley Team M-Sport and one for American squad K-Pax Racing, recently crowned Pirelli World Challenge GT Sprint team champion.
But those are not the only GT3 machines at the start in California. Vital Speed Motorsports brings its spectacular Ferrari 488 GT3 and there will be a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 as well, entered by American team PPM. The latter will compete in the GT3 Pro-Am category, together with at least three Mercedes-AMG, one of which is entered by American squad DXDT.
That makes a grand total of 16 GT3 cars, and six manufacturers, for the second edition of the Laguna Seca Raceway California 8 Hours.
Thirteen GT4 cars will be at the start this year, representing eight manufacturers: Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ford, Ginetta, Mercedes-AMG, Panoz and Porsche squads – all American based – will be part of the show.
Also keep an eye out on the three TCR cars on the grid. The category sees one Audi RS3 LMS, entered by Canada-based team M1GT Racing, a squad that has raced in the Pirelli World Challenge for several seasons in the GT, GT4, and Touring Car categories.
Click here for the full entry list.