For the second round of the 2021 Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC), the series raced at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In total, seven Mercedes-AMG GT3s were on the grid for the Indianapolis 8 Hour.
The first three hours of the endurance race on Sunday also marked the end of the season in the GT World Challenge America, in which DXDT Racing (#04, #19, #63) and WINWARD Racing (#33) competed for the final championship points of the season.
On Saturday, the qualifying sessions for the high-class GT3 field had been scheduled. Here, all the four Mercedes-AMG GT3s eligible to score IGTC points qualified for the subsequent Pole Shootout of the 15 fastest cars at the 3.925 kilometres long circuit: the two Mercedes-AMG Teams Craft-Bamboo Racing (#99) and AKKA ASP (#89) as well as SunEnergy1 Racing (#75) and WINWARD Racing.
It was Jules Gounon (#99) who secured the best grid position of all the Mercedes-AMG GT3s with third place in the 20-minute session. Marvin Dienst (GER) posted the seventh-fastest time, equalling pole position in Silver Cup. SunEnergy1 Racing also started the race on Sunday from first place in its class (Pro-Am) following Mikael Grenier’s tenth place overall. Raffaele Marciello, meanwhile, qualified the #89 Mercedes-AMG GT3 one place further up on the grid (P9).
With optimal track conditions on Sunday, starting driver Maro Engel (GER) from Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing had a good start into the eight-hour race, moving up into second place after the first corner already. In the opening stages marked by position fights, the Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Teams used the first safety car interventions for pit stops and driver changes.
Subsequently, Mercedes-AMG Teams Craft-Bamboo and AKKA ASP established themselves in the group at the front of the field. After two hours at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Maro Engel had a heart-stopping moment: following contact by an opponent, his car with starting number 99, running in second place, came off the track, but was able to continue the race in twelfth place without damage.
Philip Ellis (SUI) with the #33 WINWARD Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 had been less fortunate a little bit earlier: following a collision with the fellow Mercedes-AMG drivers from DXDT Racing (#19, #63), the race was over due to broken steering. The car with starting number 19 was also out of the race with 62 laps completed.
After driver changes by Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP – starting driver Daniel Juncadella handed over to Timur Boguslavskiy, followed by Raffaele Marciello – the car with starting number 89 was in fifth place at the halfway point of the race. Luca Stolz (GER), who was driving the Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 after Engel, was in eighth place after four hours. In the Pro-Am class, SunEnergy1 Racing cemented its lead more and more with Mikael Grenier, Kenny Habul and Martin Konrad in twelfth place overall and didn’t lose it anymore until the end of the race, notwithstanding a time penalty. Tenth place overall equalled the class win.
After two safety car interventions shortly after the halfway point, the two Mercedes-AMG Teams came to the fore: #89 AKKA ASP now in second place and within touching distance from the leader, #99 Craft-Bamboo Racing had improved to sixth place. Following another pit stop, Stolz temporarily moved up into the lead with three hours remaining behind the wheel of the Craft-Bamboo car. As a result of the numerous safety car interventions, also later on, the race and pit stop strategy came into the spotlights more and more.
Following another full course yellow with a little less than one hour still to go, the strategy of the Mercedes-AMG Teams seemed to be paying off: Jules Gounon, driving the final stints in the number 99 car, was in second place after the subsequent restart. In the close position fight at the end of the main straight, however, he was hit by an opponent who had been lapped already and dropped back. Damage to the Mercedes-AMG GT3 resulting from the contact was too big. As a result, the race was over for the team 37 minutes before the chequered flag was out.
Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP with Raffaele Marciello benefited from a drive-through penalty for the race leader, having completed its final pit stop at an early stage already and now running in second place. After 265 laps, the Italian crossed the finish line to secure the podium result for his team. The Intercontinental GT Challenge will have its season finale in South Africa from 2-4 December with the Kyalami 9 Hour.
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