For the second consecutive race, Strakka Racing took the spoils in the Pro-Am class as Christina Nielsen, Dominik Baumann and Adrian Henry D’Silva were victorious in their #43 Mercedes-AMG GT3 at the Kyalami 9H. In the final race of the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge and Strakka’s last outing for the year, there was disappointment for the #44 Pro after the crew were forced into retirement at the three-hour mark.
Car #43 (Christina Nielsen, Dominik Baumann, Adrian Henry D’Silva) – P1 Pro-Am Class
Arriving in South Africa with the same line-up that scored Strakka’s first race win of 2019 at the last IGTC round in Suzuka, the #43 crew qualified second in the Pro-Am class ahead of Saturday’s race. D’Silva took the class lead for the trio on the fourth lap and thereafter the team enjoyed a smooth race to take a second consecutive Pro-Am victory on an historic day at Kyalami; the first time the 9 Hour event has been held in 37 years.
Car #44 (Tristan Vautier, Gary Paffett, Lewis Williamson) – DNF
After a strong performance in all the practice sessions, the crew were disappointed to qualify on the tenth row. However, a strong first stint saw Gary Paffett gain seven places up to 13th and then, a clever strategy decision saw him pit only for fuel and double stint the tyres to emerge in second place overall, and in real contention for a podium finish. Tristan Vautier took over driving duties heading into the third hour and kept hold of second place until a messy restart from a safety car period saw him drop to fifth. Shortly after contact with the #31 Porsche he encountered a brake issue which caused him to hit the tyre wall, forcing the #44 into retirement.
Christina Nielsen, #43: “It was a nice way to finish the season with Strakka. Back to back Pro-Am victories in the IGTC is a great achievement. It was a flawless race for us in terms of execution; we had no penalties or contact. The strategy was good, the car handled well, we were consistent, overall it was a great team performance. Victory in Pro-Am is definitely a nice way to end the season.”
Tristan Vautier, #44: “We started the race very strong with a smart strategy from the team and then I was fighting for fifth position with the Bentley. Arriving in Turn 13 I had what seemed to be some sort of brake failure and I went straight into the wall at full speed, so the race was over. We have to investigate the cause; I had slight contact with a car at the restart so we’ll look to see if it was related or not and move on from there. It’s a big disappointment for the team; we were aiming to end the year strong and we wanted to bring points home for Mercedes in the Constructor’s championship but we now have to move forward.”
Gary Paffett, #44: “It’s a real shame today because I had a great start, made up some good places and we had a really good strategy. We double stinted the tyres, the pace we had on old tyres was mega and we moved from P20 to P5 in the first two hours. Then we were in P2 with Tristan and genuinely looking really strong. The car was very quick but then unfortunately we seemed to have a problem with the brakes later on and it was the end of the race. We had made up for the bad qualifying within two hours and were looking really strong so I think we had a chance for a podium and maybe even the win today so it’s disappointing to end so early.”
Jay Davenport, Strakka Racing Director: “It’s one of those days that is bittersweet. I’m thrilled to have consecutive wins in Pro-Am and to end the year with a race victory is the way you want to finish; that allows you to carry the momentum through the winter break. But it also feels like a ‘what could have been’ with the #44 as we were genuinely in with a shout at the podium from early on in a very encouraging comeback after our qualifying didn’t quite go to plan. We have a lot of positives to take into the off season and we hope to start 2020 in the best way.”