Grand finale at the debut in South Africa: The Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC) is visiting the African continent for the first time from November 21 to 23, on the occasion of closing its season. Audi Sport customer racing will have the chance of winning its sixth title in the only worldwide GT3 racing series there. Two teams and six drivers are representing Audi Sport on the circuit at Kyalami between Johannesburg and Pretoria.
South Africa marks the end of a long journey: The IGTC consists of five major endurance races, one per continent, beginning with the Bathurst 12 Hour in Australia in February and followed by the California 8 Hours in March, the Spa 24 Hours in July, the Suzuka 10 Hours in August and, now, the Kyalami 9 Hours. In the first four rounds, four different driver combinations from three automobile manufacturers clinched victories. Most recently, Audi Sport drivers Kelvin van der Linde/Dries Vanthoor/Frédéric Vervisch in an Audi R8 LMS celebrated a dominant victory at Suzuka. Like in Japan, this trio will be racing with Audi Sport Team WRT in South Africa. Their fellow Audi Sport drivers Christopher Haase, Christopher Mies and Markus Winkelhock will be sharing a cockpit in Audi Sport Team Land. Sporting zebra liveries, both Audi R8 LMS cars are continuing a cherished Audi Sport graphic design tradition that also serves as a symbol of respect for the hosting countries: with specially designed graphics for Australia, California, Macau and, now, South Africa, the brand has repeatedly created a look reflecting local color in recent years.
“The time before the finale at Kyalami is marked by special suspense,” says Chris Reinke, Head of Audi Sport customer racing. “On the one hand, it’s great that South Africa is now part of the calendar and that the Kyalami 9 Hours is reviving a great sports car tradition after a 37-year break and on the other, Frédéric Vervisch has the chance of being in contention in the race for the drivers’ title. Last but not least, we have a driver from South Africa – Kelvin van der Linde – on board who will no doubt be thrilling his home crowd.” Frédéric Vervisch is currently the best Audi Sport driver in the standings. He is sitting in third position, just six points off the top. Neither of the two rivals in front of him has so far won an IGTC race this season. If the Belgian were to decide the race in an Audi R8 LMS in his favor, he would be sure to win the championship title. However, from a purely mathematical perspective, many other constellations are also conceivable in the top group of drivers. Plus, there are several pursuers breathing down Vervisch’s neck, so suspense is guaranteed. Since 2016, Audi has won the IGTC manufacturers’ title three times and the drivers’ championship twice.
Audi last won a major title in Africa in 1996, in the Super Touring Car era with the A4 quattro. There were also stand-alone events at the time, such as the Kyalami International race, in which Vincent Vosse, now WRT’s team principal, was one of the participants. Kyalami was the country’s internationally best-known race track even back then. The circuit inaugurated in 1961 has seen multiple modifications in its history and, after 2014, was most recently updated to its current state due to a new owner. Today, the race cars are driven counter-clockwise on the 4.5 kilometers of the circuit. The six right-hand and nine left-hand turns feature a great diversity of radii and noticeable elevation differences make for plenty of variety, too. 30 GT sports cars from nine brands, driven by the best GT3 pros, as well as by Pro-Am and amateur drivers, will be competing in South Africa’s most important international auto race in recent history that will start on November 23 at 1 PM local time.