Kyalami - a race track rediscovered with Intercontinental GT Challenge

Friday, November 22, 2019

Never having really gone away, it has been a lot of years since we have seen any mainstream international motor racing being beamed around the world onto our TV sets from the historical 4.5km circuit in Kyalami, South Africa.

Whilst hosting the Formula 1 circus for many years in the seventies, it racing history has been  colourful and diverse yet with dark overtones unfortunately taking the limelight from what was always a challenging circuit so it is always good to see new, brighter history being written at this circuit after too many years in the doldrums.

This weekend sees the Intercontinental GT Challenge host its final round of the 2019 season at the now revamped circuit with three Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT3's from two AMR Partner teams taking part in the form of both Garage 59 and R Motorsport for the final nine hours of racing.

From the first track action of yesterday through to the Top 10 shoot out of this afternoon, all three AMR cars have been showing their worth through some truly mesmerising weather conditions around what is an circuit.

The first Practice session of yesterday was conducted from under an incredible sunset, one that would go head to head with the likes of Bathurst and into full darkness with both Pro class R-Motorsport cars figuring prominently with their mixed driver line ups to what we have been previously used to.

The the #76 car, Maxime Martin would be again joined by Jake Dennis but also with the GT debuting Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year finalist's Enaan Ahmed. Their sister #62 would be made up of Marvin Kirchhofer, Ricky Collard and Hugo de Sadeleer - all well known within the team from the teams respective Blancpain GT Series activities of this year.

Joining these and still relatively 'fresh' from the podium finish in the last round of the Challenge series in Suzuka are the #188 Pro-Am Garage 59 crew of Alex West, Chris Goodwin and Come Ledogar.

The grid would be made up of twenty eight cars, most will be competing within the full Pro Class with three Silver, two Pro-Am, three Am class and two national entries including the likes of Charlenes Arangies who previously raced a V12 Vantage GT3 in the National GT arena with great success it must be added.

Moving into the three Qualifying sessions of this afternoon, each driver would have fifteen minutes to post their best time before all three driver times would be totalled and averaged out to determine which top ten cars would go into todays later Top 10 Shoot Out to determine the formation of the start of the grid.

Q1 started on a dry, warm track but had an obviously storm front moving towards the circuit with the forecast of more torrential rain with thunder and lightning probably.

West, Collard and Martin were all out first with the two R-Motorsport cars conducting only a series of installation laps in the first instance whilst West quickly got down to business with half the allotted time gone before either the #62 or #76 had actually set any lap time. Then out of the blue, Martin set the fastest lap of the weekend so far to claim provisional pole by over 0.1 of a second to the then pace setting Honda NSX. Collard would also set a decent lap time to finish in P12 but he would be pinged from track limits, losing his time on that lap to drop down to P26. West would eventually finish P22.

Next up in Q2 and with the rain getting ever closer and lightning now striking the ground in the suburbs around the track were Goodwin, de Sadeleer and Ahmed. Lap times were only showing their own lap times and their accumulative times rather than their times relative to one another in Q2.

On the timing board, all three cars were running in close formation to one another but as the rain began an error from Goodwin caused the rear of his #188 car to come around through the Esses and spin around to become beached on the fringe of the gravel trap forcing the session to be red flagged.

With just a few minutes lost to aid the recovery of the stricken AMR, cars in pit lane were all keen to get going before the rains really arrived - too keen for the #76 car in fact as Ahmed stuck the nose of his car out into the fast lane only for it to be clipped by a passing Audi. That error would ultimately cost them more track position at the end of the session after their unsafe release penalty was applied.

By now the wind and rain had really arrived on track with rain pouring down onto a circuit for of cars on slick tyres and wind ripping off the advertising hoardings as the wind speed hit gusts of nearly 50mph!!!

As a result of that, Q3 would be declared a wet session with headlights and high intensity rear lights all on but not all cars on wets. That quickly became apparent as Nick Tandy understeered his Porsche into the tyre wall to prompt another red flag which at least the remaining drivers to come to their senses to fit wet tyres during the short break.

Now more appropriately attired, it didn't take Dennis too much longer to get going as he battled with two Porsches for the honours of the top three positions - stealing P2 for a time before a last lap lunge from one of them dropped the #76 back down to P3. Still, that was a Top 10 Shoot Out place.

For both Kirchhofer and Ledogar, Q3 wasn't particularly productive for them (for unknown reasons) that left the #62 back towards the rear of the Pro class in P19 and the #188 the fourth placed non Pro car in P22. The #76 would go into the later Top 10 Shoot out for Dennis to finish in P7, 1.117 seconds off the lead pace but a further grid penalty would see that car drop to P12 for tomorrow's race.

Of course, being a nine hour race Qualifying doesn't really mean a lot as it is usually where you finish at the fall of the chequered flag that counts rather than from where you start. The start of the Kyalami 9Hr begins at 13:00hrs (local)

Good luck to you all!

Photo credits - R-Motorsport / Garage 59 / IGTC

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