SPS automotive performance celebrated class victory in the Pro-Am class at the Kyalami 9 Hour. Kenny Habul (AUS), Yannick Mettler (SUI) and Jules Gounon (AND) triumphed in the #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3 at the second event of the Intercontinental GT Challenge season in South Africa. The sister car #20 with Reece Barr (IRL), Miguel Ramos (POR) and Luca Stolz (GER) rounded off the strong result for the Willsbach-based team with third place.
Both driver trios showed strong early form in the practice sessions at the second Intercontinental GT Challenge race of the season at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit. In qualifying, both teams confirmed their performance. The #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3 set the fastest combined lap time in its class to claim pole position in the Pro-Am category. The #20 sister car started the nine-hour race from the third grid position in the Pro-Am class.
At the start of the Kyalami 9 Hour, Kenny Habul as the starting driver of the #75, which started under the SunEnergy1 by SPS entry, initially dropped a few positions. But in the early stages, the trio in the eye-catching Mercedes-AMG GT3 fought their way back to the top of the Pro-Am category. With fast lap times that were among the fastest in the entire grid, the drivers extended their lead over their rivals. Particularly in the second half of the race, the team maintained its lead, which had now grown to two laps, with consistent stints and a good strategy. At the end of the race, final driver Jules Gounon was flagged off as the confident winner of the Pro-Am class, which also meant an excellent fifth overall position. This made the #75 the best-placed Mercedes-AMG on the grid of this top-class racing series.
The sister car #20 also let a few competitors pass at the start in the face of the long race duration, but recovered to third position in the course of the first quarter of the race. For long periods of the race, the trio fought against their competitors for second position in the Pro-Am category. Just under four hours before the end of the race, Miguel Ramos, who was at the wheel of the silver-black #20 at this point, finally captured second place in the Pro-Am class. The team defended this position for a long time, but had to give it back about an hour and a half before the end. Luca Stolz, who was piloting the Mercedes-AMG GT3 at the end, battled for second place right up to the chequered flag, but finally crossed the finish line in third place. The number 20 team thus rounded off the excellent team result this weekend.
Already in March the next challenge is waiting for SPS automotive performance. The team will contest the 12-hour race of the 24H Series in Mugello, Italy, from March 25-26.
Yannick Mettler, #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Kenny and Jules are already a super team and I am the new one on the team here, so I had to prove myself, of course. That worked out well. The guys made it easy for me. I had a steep learning curve throughout the weekend. In the race, it went super. At sunset, we already had a two-lap lead. Like that, we were able to take it slightly easier in the final stints. Now, I am overjoyed and I thank the entire team of Mercedes-AMG and SPS.“
Jules Gounon, #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We managed to stage a perfect race. We have secured the class win with a two-lap margin. All three of us were quick and very consistent throughout the race. All in all, it was a perfect team effort: no mistakes, no penalties, trouble-free pit stops and a super car. The Pro-Am class win is cool and leaving Kyalami as the leader in the IGTC standings is a great feeling.”
Luca Stolz, #20 Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We can be happy with P3 in the Pro-Am class. We have made a few strategic errors in the pit lane. Had it not been for these, it would probably have been a 1-2 in class for Mercedes-AMG. But the race as such was great fun. There were only few cars on track and therefore the pace was decisive, and for us, the pace was all right.”
Stephan Sohn, team principal SPS automotive performance: “We are very happy with the result. We called on our performance throughout the weekend and were then able to turn it into a strong result. We drove straight through without any major problems and, as in our last IGTC event, we were the best-placed Mercedes-AMG. That makes me very proud. Many thanks to my team and our drivers for this great performance.”