To the season highlight of the year 2019 it went for our team from SPS to South Africa, more exactly to the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit where the season final of the IGTC – Intercontinental GT Challenge took place. The rebirth of the 9 hours of Kyalami. This race was last held in 1982. Since then there has been no international race on this circuit – until then.
The start was with 2 Mercedes AMG GT3:
#40 (AM) / Valentin Pierburg, Miguel Ramos, Tim Müller
#10 (PRO) / Maxi Götz, Luca Stolz, Yelmer Buurman.
So the team debuted as AMG factory / performance team with the #10 this weekend. The excitement around this race was accordingly high, because on the one hand we were never allowed to experience a GT3 race in South Africa and on the other hand we were allowed to drive together with AMG for the driver as well as the manufacturer title of the IGTC. All changes to the car setup led to very well balanced cars, which in turn was reflected directly in the training results. In the first two sessions, the #10 was constantly in the top 5, while the #40 was very well on P2 in the AM class – at the same time P24 overall. With these positive impressions from the test sessions on Thursday we went with high expectations into the Friday, where the qualifying took place. This qualifying is very special for the IGTC.
First there will be a qualifying 1, 2 and 3, each lasting 15 minutes. Each of the 3 drivers of a car must complete one of the 3 qualifying sessions and try to achieve a best time. The respective best time of each driver is then added and divided by 3, so that at the end you have an average time. If a car with this average time is in the top 10, then qualified for the so-called Pole Shootout, in which the top 10 may drive separately again 15 minutes around the pole position. If you manage to qualify for this shootout, a good starting position for the race is almost guaranteed.
After Q1, 2 and 3 we were on P6 (#10) and P24 (#40) with our cars. From this it follows that we qualified for the pole shootout with the PRO car and then drove to P8, so we started the race from the following starting positions: #10 – P8 / #40 – P24, P2 in the AM class.So it was finally time for the Main Event – the Kyalami 9 Hours on Saturday, on the #10 Maxi Götz drove the start and on the #40 it was up to Miguel Ramos to finish the first hour of the race. Both managed the same very well. Maxi could win 3 positions directly at the start and could follow the leading group on P5. Miguel could also win places and drove the entire first in the fight for P1 in the AM class. Both cars were able to maintain their leading positions in the race, thanks to good driving performance and a good strategy on the part of the team. Towards the end of the race, the cards were shuffled again when it started to rain heavily. But also here one could make up time for the competition with well timed and fast pitstops and so one was on the way to victory with the #10 20 minutes before the end. But unfortunately the Mercedes on the Pirelli tyre is not really competitive in the rain, because there is not enough grip on the rear axle in the rain.
So after a hard fight with the cars on P1-5 you had to be satisfied with P5 in the last 20 minutes. The #40 was able to secure the 2nd place in the AM class and in the end you just lost both championships. Mercedes AMG had to admit defeat due to 5 points Porsche and Maxi Götz was only runner-up with 3 points behind. Nevertheless there was a good reason to celebrate due to the strong race of the AM car. All in all we can be very proud of ourselves, because no one would have thought that we as debutants in the IGTC would directly take the victory.For this reason the whole team deserved a huge praise, because every pitstop was done perfectly and there were also very good strategy calls from the engineers and thanks to our drivers this weekend Valentin Pierburg, Miguel Ramos, Tim Müller, Maxi Götz, Yelmer Buurman and Luca Stolz, who all did a mega job and who now thinks that the motorsport season 2019 is over for us, is wrong. Already in 2 weeks our team will continue with the 12 hour race in AbuDhabi.