GT: Dubai team GPX Racing dominates and accomplishes its mission at Kyalami 9H
Intercontinental GT Challenge, round 5, Kyalami
21-23 November 2019
Four months after its sensational victory in the 24 Hours of Spa, GPX Racing returned to the track in the final round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, the Kyalami 9 Hour. Its aim was to help Porsche win this prestigious GT3 Championship that enjoys incontestable international renown as the five events take place on the five continents! As in Belgium works Porsche drivers Kevin Estre, Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen, all GT world title holders, formed a dream team in the #20 911 GT3 R and led for most of the race. They finally finished on the third step of the podium having played a major role in helping the Zuffenhausen manufacturer to clinch a brace of titles in South Africa!
At the end of September, GPX Racing announced its participation in the Kyalami 9 Hour just before achieving its best result of the year in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. In Barcelona, Benjamin Goethe, Jordan Grogor and Stuart Hall finished fourth in their category and ninth overall.
The wave of momentum that began in mid-season continued at Kyalami when the team managed by Pierre-Brice Mena made its return to the Pro category. #20 was among the quickest in the practice sessions and set the fourth-fastest time in qualifying, which it retained in the grid lineup after the pole shootout.
Estre immediately fought his way up into second place in the first corner and then snatched the lead at the end of the first half hour. Lietz took over from him and kicked off the first double stints. The team sought to make the most of the different circumstances and neutralisations that occasionally wiped out the lead built up by its drivers. But apart from the out-of-sync strategies adopted by some of its rivals the Porsche in Gulf colours continued to lead the dance. At the start of the fifth hour the other Porsche driven by Nick Tandy tipped Michael Christensen into a spin despite which the Danish driver held onto first place!
With 2 hours and 15 minutes to go to the finish the race was turned upside down. As night fell in South Africa a cloud burst flooded the circuit. The Full Course Yellow procedure was followed by a safety car that backed up the favourites throwing into jeopardy the outcome of the battle for the Intercontinental GT Challenge Manufacturers’ title. With 1h33m to go to the flag Porsche was the virtual champion. With 52 minutes to go, Mercedes led by 133 to 120 points!
Finally, the field was unleashed for a 30-minute sprint! Lietz got past the Mercedes, which had slipped back in front at the final pit stop before the interruption. Shortly afterwards, the Austrian was overtaken by the Porsche crewed by Nick Tandy, Mathieu Jaminet and Denis Olsen who was in the running for the IGTC Drivers’ title. A BMW also got involved in the battle and no. 20 finished third. But the mission had been accomplished, Porsche was the intercontinental champion!
Pierre-Brice Mena: “We could say that GPX Racing led for eight of the nine hours of the race, but then the restart half-an-hour from the finish reshuffled the cards. The race was completely open again. First of all, we came here to help Porsche win the IGTC and there was a fair bit of pressure in the final decisive half-hour to snatch back the advantage from the Mercedes and keep it behind us. We can be very proud of our race. We again proved that our victory at Spa owed nothing to chance. Mission accomplished and we’re delighted to have done our bit to help Porsche win this prestigious title. The drivers made no mistakes, the pit stops were almost perfect and our performance ticked all the boxes. In the heat of the moment our result felt a bit frustrating, but taking a step back and analysing the race as a whole we have nothing to reproach ourselves. We did the job in style. Each time somebody closed the gap we upped the pace. And the cherry on the cake is that in all the races lasting more than six hours in which we’ve taken part in less than six months, Portimao, Spa, Barcelona and Kyalami, we’ve scored 100% podium finishes!”
Michael Christensen: “It’s hard to find the right words to describe the feeling I have about the end result of the race. Anyway, we finished 3rd, and happy to help Porsche and Dennis Olsen with winning the championships. Thanks to the whole GPX Racing team for another great performance!”
Kevin Estre: “We’ve led most of the Kyalami 9 Hour but ended up P3… It was again a pleasure to drive with GPX Racing! Hopefully we’ll come back soon”
Richard Lietz: “Leaving Africa with a smile. P3 at the end. Great day for Porsche! Thanks to the Team GPX Racing and my mates Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen.”
All that remains is to finish this incredible season in a blaze of glory at Abu Dhabi. While a lot of good news is beginning to circulate in the background for GPX Racing, we’ll just announce the two driver lineups for the 9th staging of the Gulf 12 Hours.
The Pro line-up comprises three Silver drivers including Benji Goethe and Stuart Hall, and in Pro-Am, the team can count on Stanislav Minsky, Fred Fatien, Nico Pronk and Klaus Bachler, the Austrian who won the opening round of the Blancpain Endurance Championship at Monza. The two six-hour races will take place on Saturday 14 December.