Audi Sport Team Saintéloc was victorious in the Indianapolis 8 Hour after its main rival, AF Corse, crashed out while leading in the final hour and WRT were hit by a late penalty. Despite a superb race for both AF Corse Ferraris and WRT Audi, it was the #25 Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Patric Niederhauser, Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock that steered clear of trouble and with a mostly clean and equally strong performance grabbed the win.
Throughout the day, the French squad was a consistent frontrunner. The only setback came in the third round when Winkelhock – absent for the podium celebrations as he left the track before the finish to be with his girlfriend for the birth of their child – had to serve a drive-through penalty for a pit stop infringement, but Haase and Niederhauser overcame the setback in the remaining hours.
While Audi Sport Team Saintéloc kept its eye on the lead the whole time, that actual position was first held by the pole sitting #51 AF Corse – Francorchamps Motors Ferrari 488 GT3 of Alessandro Pier Guidi, Côme Ledogar and Nicklas Nielsen until the #71 sister car took over with quick thinking during an early-race pit stop just when the safety car – one of many – was called to neutralise the race. Several high-paced stints by Antonio Fuoco, Alessio Rovera and Calum Ilott put the Ferrari in top contention for the win as the final hour arrived.
Having dueled with Niederhauser before the Swiss dove into the pits for his final stop of the day, Ilott set out for a flying in-lap. However, coming up to the slower #09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of Mikel Miller, Ilott misjudged the GT4’s intentions and in trying to avoid rear ending it, squeezed himself between the Turn 1 wall and the Aston but couldn’t avoid a collision. This ended both their races and shattered AF Corse’s dreams of adding winning at Indy to its 2021 victories.
A late charge by Dries Vanthoor in the #32 Audi Sport Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 saw the Belgium make the most of the next safety car interruption and take his final pit stop under yellow, slotting back on track in the lead after the final round of pit stops. With the win within reach, a penalty for ‘failing to follow instructions’ took WRT out of contention and cleared the way for Niederhauser to drive to Saintéloc’s first big victory since the Spa 24 Hours in 2017 in the remaining 26 minutes.
Like Vanthoor, Jules Gounon in the #99 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 also pitted during the late caution and jumped to second but as he was swarmed by lapped cars at the restart, the Frenchman had the #59 Crucial Motorsports McLaren 720S GT3 come across his bow spinning both men out of the race.
Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP started out the weekend with a loaned car until their own #89 Mercedes-AMG GT3 arrived at the track on Saturday morning. Having led the race in the second hour, the team got caught out several times during safety cars leaving Daniel Juncadella, Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy unable to challenge for victory in the last hours and having to settle for second place.
The final step on the podium was occupied by the #3 K-Pax Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Jordan Pepper, Andrea Caldarelli and Mirko Bortolotti. Their success came after an early puncture sent the American team scrambling for an alternative strategy. Running out of sync for the remaining 7 hours and 30 minutes, Pepper appeared in the lead several times throughout the mid-race safety car interruptions while Caldarelli and Bortolotti successfully held the car within reach of the podium.
Having stumbled in the final phase of the race due to a second drive-through penalty for sending the #77 Compass Racing Acura NSX GT3 of Matt McMurry for a long trip through the grass, Alessandro Pier Guidi brought the #51 AF Corse – Francorchamps Motors Ferrari 488 GT3 home in fourth place, denying the team the result that would’ve accurately reflected both Ferraris’ speed and performance at Indy.
The second penalty followed an earlier 30-second stop-and-go given to Nicklas Nielsen after colliding with the GT4 class leader. Attempting to overtake John Geesbreght in the #68 Smooge Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4, the two met at the apex of the second to last corner, spinning the Ferrari around. Luckily for the Dane, a quick sling around of the Ferrari and he was back on his way having held on to second place.
Geesbreght, however, wasn’t so lucky to continue, forced to steer the Supra into the garage with terminal damage. The penalty that followed signalled the beginning of the downturn for the Italians.
Also held back by penalties was the #32 Audi Sport Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Dries Vanthoor, Charles Weerts and Christopher Mies. Two penalties – the first for pushing Maro Engel in the #99 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing into a spin and another for ‘failing to follow instructions’ – cost the Audi a very real shot at the win. Vanthoor took the final penalty with 26 minutes remaining while leading the race, dropping the Belgians to sixth place at the finish.
Saintéloc Racing had the Silver Cup slip through their fingers after a post-race penalty for entering a closed pits given to the #26 Saintéloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Aurelien Panis, Lucas Legeret and Nicolas Baert relegated the team from fourth overall and first in Silver Cup to seventh place behind the Silver Cup winning #77 Compass Racing Acura NSX GT3 of Matt McMurry, Ashton Harrison and Mario Farnbacher. The eventual class winners were fighting for third overall in the final hour when McMurry got tapped by Pier Guidi and sent off track.
Fellow NSX crew Racers Edge Motorsports finished eighth and third in the Silver Cup with their #93 Acura NSX GT3 driven by Taylor Halger, Jacob Abel and Dakota Dickerson.
The top 10 was completed by the #6 K-Pax Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Marco Mapelli, Corey Lewis and Giovanni Venturini in ninth with tenth place and Pro-Am victory going to the #75 SunEnergy 1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Kenny Habul, Martin Konrad and Mikaël Grenier.
In the GT4 class BimmerWorld won with Bill Auberlen, James Clay and Chandler Hull piloting the #36 BMW M4 GT4.
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