A CAMPAIGN that began with a stirring drive at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour in February has ended with Laurens Vanthoor winning the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge.
In his final drive for Audi Vanthoor, Christoper Haase and Robin Frijns won a wet Motul Sepang 12 Hour in Malaysia early on Sunday morning, winning the race by a lap and giving enough to give the Porsche-bound star a championship title in his final race for Audi.
“This was the last race I drove for Audi, and to win and take the championship is the perfect way to end it,” Vanthoor said.
“It was so busy during the weekend and during the race, I only realised it was over when I did the in-lap of my last stint. When I got out of the car, I gave it a little tap on the roof. Now, it’s time for a new chapter.”
At the start of thrace, the weather conditions at the Sepang International Circuit were excellent for racing and that is exactly what some of the best GT-drivers in the world did. Earl Bamber (#911 Manthey Racing Porsche) took a brilliant start, jumping from third to first. Behind him there was a great scrap for second, between the #9 K-PAX Racing McLaren, the #912 Manthey Racing Porsche and the #50 Spirit of Race Ferrari.
For almost a complete stint the trio went nose to tail over the Malaysian asphalt. At this point in the race both the Audi Sport Team Phoenix cars had some problems in matching the speed of the leaders. Christopher Haase (#15 Audi R8 LMS) had started from the pitlane due to an electrical issue, but climbed from dead last to seventh by the end of the first hour.
Except for the #9 KPAX Racing McLaren dropping out of contention due to suspension problems, that hierarchy barely changed during the first couple of hours, with the #50 Ferrari using an alternate strategy to take the lead on a couple of occasions. However, during the fifth hour, the running order completely changed. The first raindrops fell on the Sepang circuit and the Audi cars were the first to shod rain tyres.
That moved them both into the top three, with the #15 R8 in first place and the #16 in third. After some great driving in difficult conditions – the track went from wet to dry and back several times – it looked like the Team Phoenix cars were heading for the double, but a safety car intervention some two hours from the end meant that the #16 car fell back into the claws of their competitors. When the green flags were waved, Earl Bamber took it upon himself to swiftly pass the #50 Ferrari and the #16 Audi to claim second for the #911 Porsche. René Rast brought the #16 Audi home in third.
It was an emotional victory for Vanthoor, for Sepang means the end of his long collaboration with Audi. Theirs has been one of the most successful combinations in the history of GT racing, with titles in the FIA GT Series, the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup and the overall Blancpain GT Series, as well as wins in the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the FIA GT World Cup and the Motul Sepang 12 Hours.
Now Laurens Vanthoor adds the drivers’ title in the very first edition of the Intercontinental GT Challenge to this impressive list of accomplishments.
The Sepang result also meant that Audi took the manufacturers’ title in the Intercontinental GT Challenge. McLaren took the win in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, Mercedes-Benz took top points in the Total 24 Hours of Spa, but by winning the Motul Sepang 12 Hours – and scoring points with the second car as well – the brand with the four rings jumped to the first spot in the standings with 86 points, beating Bentley by a clear 35 points.
McLaren and Mercedes-AMG both scored 49 points.
Exciting class battles In the Pro-Am class of the GT3 category in the Motul Sepang 12 Hours: the fight between the #35 HubAuto Racing Ferrari and the #11 Prancing Horse of Singha Motorsport Team went down to the wire. The cars eventually finished in sixth and seventh overall, with the win narrowly going to the HubAuto Ferrari, driven by Morris Chen, Hiroki Yoshimoto, Shinya Hosokawa and Hiroki Yoshida.
In the GTC class, the #26 B-Quik Racing Audi and the #67 GDL Racing Team Asia Lamborghini ruled the race, with the Huracan having a slight advantage during the early hours, when the bumblebee-coloured Audi was hit by tyre trouble after only three laps. However, Henk Kiks, Daniel Bilski and Peter Kox staged a great comeback with their yellow-and-black Audi, to claim the class win and finishing just outside the top ten overall.
In the MARC category the fraternal duel between the #91 Focus V8 and the #93 Mazda 3 V8 turned out in favour of the latter, despite its early race off-track excursion. Jake Camilleri, Morgan Haber and Rob Thompson drove faultlessly after that, beating their MARC-teammates by two laps.
GT4 was always going to be dominated by the Ginetta G55 cars and for a long time there was little between the #55 Simpson Motorsport car and the #69 Aylezo Ecotint Racing G55. When the rain came down heavily some two hours from the end, the #55 Ginetta had some issues in leaving the pitlane, effectively ending the class battle. Zen Low, Darren Burke and Dan Wells took the top step with the #69 Aylezo Ecotint Racing G55.
In the Touring Car division the polesitter, the #77 Jim Hunter Motorsport Subaru, had to start from the pitlane after an engine change, and although the Australian squad managed to fight its way back to the front, they eventually had to bow to the quick #100 Amuse & SPV Racing Toyota, driven by Takashi Oi, Hitoshi Matsui, Takashi Ito and Kenny Lee.
Thanks to www.sepang12hours.com.