AMR runners miss out in rain affected IGTC finale

Monday, November 25, 2019

Last weekends final round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge from the rejuvenated Kyalami race track in South Africa was very much a breath of fresh air in the world of motorsport with all too many events these days taking place at sterile, more heartless and lack lustre venues.

Obviously, the Kyalami of today differs greatly to that of the seventies when Formula 1 commanded and got the admiration of the world at large that it deserved back then even though there were all too many darkened days amongst them. Last weekends event however, was conducted in more notably enjoyable surroundings as the international racing community finally accepted this iconic name back into its fold with local fans in their thousands coming out to catch up on what they had so far been missing.

Whoever devised the day into night Free Practice and the similar nine hour race format was a stroke of genius as having the best the GT3 racing world could offer, all competing on a track brand new to most together with the unpredictable sub-tropical weather that the southern tip of Africa can come up with made the event what is was despite results not going the way of the Aston Martin Racing runners.

Having already contended with some truly remarkable weather patterns moving in across the circuit during the course of Free Practice and Qualifying, the start of the race on Saturday at least started under clear blue skies and increasing track and cockpit temperatures as the twenty eight starters got under way.

For the #188 Garage 59 Pro-Am entry, the race sadly never really got underway as an uncharacteristic gearbox failure aboard their AMR V8 Vantage GT3 sluiced oil onto the rear wheels of the car, putting starting driver Chris Goodwin into a half spin and through the gravel trap before making heavy contact with a sausage kerb with the front end as he began the recovery process to the pits. That was only his third lap!!

That combination of damage at either end of the car would consign them to the garage for the next two hours of the race - effectively ending their podium bid unless they could later complete 70% of the race winners distance. Co-drivers Alex West and Come Ledogar would have to sit patiently for their turn.

Garage 59's misfortunes meanwhile left the reigns of the AMR brand firmly in the hands of the two R-Motorsport GT3's with them having started from a post Qualifying penalised P12 (#76) and P19 (#62) for their starting drivers of Maxime Martin and Hugo de Sadeleer respectively.

Despite both cars competing in the full Pro class, each car carried a non full Pro driver in the form of World Challenge Europe Silver Cup winner De Sadeleer in the #62 and single seater racer but GT rookie Enaam Ahmed in the other. Their performance on track however far from compromised the cars overall performance as the #62 raised itself as high as P2 overall just after the halfway mark with the #76 hovering around P17.

Just as the light began to fade, incidences began to happen on track and the threat of rain before the end of the race began to hold some real likelihood. A huge tyre blowout on the #108 Bentley threw up the need for another FCY following on from one earlier to recover a stricken Lamborghini from the local trio within the National Cup class in what had been a reasonably clean race so far. By then the Garage 59 crew had already worked their wonder on the #188 car with Goodwin already having completed his 'opening stint' before handing over to Alex West for his first laps in the race.

With the clock counting down to just three hours remaining, the #62 car still looked a menacing threat to the leading Porsches as the grey and blue liveried car circulated just 40 seconds back from the leader in P6 having themselves lost track time for an earlier drive through penalty for track limits.

Then everything got turned upon its heads!!

The #108 Bentley that earlier suffered a massive blowout suffered a more significant dilemma as it nosedived heavily into the tyre wall - another FCY was needed to recover it and repair the barrier damage just as the rain began to fall. Not slowly and progressively like we maybe more used to in Europe but with an off to on effect, quickly swamping the track with rivers of water for it to suddenly stop as quick as it had started.

Twenty five minutes behind the Safety Car later and it wasn't looking good for a restart anytime soon as the rain came and went only to return again as progressively longer and intense downpours. This, together with the poor weather forecast for the remaining two hours proved to be the end of the race for the #188 Garage 59 car as it was returned to the garage - not with any technical issue other than not being able to make up its minimum race time to be able to be classified by the chequered flag. They would finish their IGTC finale some 50 laps + short.

For the best part of the next ninety minutes, the remaining field tried to tippy toe around the 5.45km circuit as the thunder, lightning and rain continued to hammer down around the circuit as rivers of flood water washed over the circuit. At times it appeared impossible to simply drive around the circuit at the slowest of speeds yet alone race at any significant speed.

Collard in the #62 (P9) and Martin in the #76 (P17) were the ones having to keep themselves alert enough not to loose the car off the track from either aquaplaning or collect the car in front as speeds behind the Safety Car fluctuated as an when conditions allowed.

Then, and with just 25 minutes remaining on the clock, Race Control let the pack go with a final dash to the flag for the ten cars that remained on the lead lap as a small break in the weather saw the rain stop and a drier line soon establish itself on track. 

For the remaining two AMR cars, the #62 car would eventually finish highest in P10 overall for the Collard/Kirchhofer/De Sadeleer trio whilst the #76 car would finish P14 but three laps down to the leader following earlier issues.

With neither team in any Championship position at this season finale in South Africa anyway, attention has already turned to the 2020 season of the Intercontinental GT Challenge that starts in little over sixty days at the 12hours of Bathurst in Australia at the end of January.

This is where the new AMR Vantage GT3 finally make its full debut in Australia having missed out on homologation rules at this years event.

Whats there not to like about this series?

Photo credits - Garage 59 / R-Motorsport / IGTC

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