Intercontinental GT Challenge title race hots up @ Indianapolis 8 Hour

Intercontinental GT Challenge title race hots up @ Indianapolis 8 Hour

First opportunities for BMW and Hui to wrap up IGTC championships
Overall drivers’ crown cannot be decided at The Brickyard
IGTC nominations: Indianapolis 8 Hour Presented by AWS
 
 

Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli champions could be crowned this weekend when the Indianapolis 8 Hour Presented by AWS hosts round four of the globe-trotting GT3 series’ 2023 campaign.


Of the 22 cars entered, 13 are eligible to score Intercontinental points in some form. BMW, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche have each nominated four official representatives, two of which are also eligible for Independent Cup honours, while a third such car completes IGTC’s contingent at the Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS season finale.


But what of Intercontinental’s title contenders?


Well, BMW and Jonathan Hui can both clinch their respective manufacturers’ and Independent Cup crowns at The Brickyard where Craft-Bamboo, Mercedes-AMG, Raffaele Marciello, Daniel Morad and reigning IGTC champion Dani Juncadella triumphed 12 months ago.


But the overall drivers’ championship cannot be officially decided at Indy despite Gounon leading Luca Stolz and Philipp Eng by 15 points, and Augusto Farfus and Maxime Martin by another five. The French-Andorran could knock all four out of contention by winning or even finishing as low as fourth. However, his result would be matched by co-driver Marciello who starts 19 points adrift – six fewer than available for winning IGTC’s finale at the Gulf 12 Hours on December 10. 


The duo also share a Mercedes-AMG in Fanatec GT Europe and clinched the Endurance Cup title together at Barcelona last weekend. However, and subject to results at Indy, they will become Intercontinental championship rivals if they are split in Abu Dhabi.


Meanwhile, BMW’s nine-point lead in the manufacturers’ standings gives it a mathematical chance of taking the title at Indianapolis. It will need a 44-point advantage – something only achievable if one of its nominations wins – if it’s to celebrate with a round to spare.


Elsewhere, Kenny Habul’s withdrawal means three drivers are fighting for Independent Cup honours this weekend. However, only Sky Tempesta’s Jonathan Hui can wrap up the championship before Abu Dhabi. He’s currently 13 points clear of Stephen Grove, while Antares Au – who scored the maximum 25 points at the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa – starts five further back. If both retire, Hui needs only to finish to be crowned champion.


It would mark the second title in less than a week for Hui who won the Fanatec GT Europe Bronze crown with Sky Tempesta, Chris Froggatt and Eddie Cheever last weekend. The same combination teams up at Indy, albeit behind the wheel of a Ferrari instead of a McLaren.


BMW | 3x Pro + 1x Pro-Am nominations


Bavaria’s previous generation M6 GT3 won the inaugural Indianapolis 8 Hour back in 2020 while its predecessor has taken the last two IGTC victories, at Kyalami and Spa respectively. Those results have catapulted BMW into the manufacturers’ championship lead with two races left to run.


Now its two all-Platinum Pro entries, both of which are overseen by the WRT factory squad, have the potential to further extend that winning run and championship advantage.


Eng won at Spa alongside Nick Yelloly and Marco Wittmann but is on his own towards the top of IGTC’s standings after also finishing second in South Africa to Dries Vanthoor and Sheldon van der Linde. However, with their own championship chances effectively ending with retirement last time out, who better to support the Austrian’s title challenge than two of the world’s very fastest GT drivers?


Farfus’ 2020 title owed much to his Indy victory with BMW, and the Brazilian could yet become the first two-time IGTC champion. His and Martin’s 20-point deficit, however, means they must beat Gounon to harbour any realistic hope of fighting for the crown in Abu Dhabi. They’re joined by Charles Weerts, a Kyalami winner with Vanthoor and Van der Linde earlier this year.


Each manufacturer can include three Pro entries amongst its four-car IGTC contingent, and BMW has taken that opportunity by nominating Fanatec GT America regulars, BimmerWorld, which clinched Pro-Am honours at the same event last year. Expect Chandler Hull plus factory drivers Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley to be battling the international combos this time around.


ST Racing, whose Pro-Am crew pairs Samantha Tan and Jake Walker with BMW’s young American ace Neil Verhagen, completes the manufacturer’s list of IGTC nominations.


MERCEDES-AMG | 2x Pro + 2x Pro-Am nominations


The reigning Indy winner’s two international Pro entries – run by GruppeM and last year’s victorious outfit, Craft-Bamboo – optimise its chances of retaining the drivers’ championship but of also scoring maximum manufacturers’ points.


Gounon and Stolz shared victory at Bathurst in February but were split at both Kyalami and Spa. However, they are still Mercedes-AMG’s two best placed representatives and so remain apart at the penultimate round where two world-class line-ups are joined by a pair of Pro-Am entries.


Marciello lies fifth in the IGTC standings but is supporting Gounon’s title bid – for now – along with Maximilian Goetz who also races for Craft-Bamboo in Fanatec GT Asia. Juncadella on the other hand will be hoping to repeat his 8 Hour victory, albeit with GruppeM, Stolz and Maro Engel.


Only each manufacturer’s two best placed nominations will score constructors’ points, and if either of Mercedes-AMG’s factory entries fail it also has strength in depth on the Pro-Am side. 


CrowdStrike by Riley’s George Kurtz and Colin Braun are primarily focused on wrapping up their domestic title but, with the support of Nolan Siegel, should also be IGTC drivers’ championship points scorers. Likewise Jeff Burton and Corey Lewis who are joined in DXDT’s #91 entry by Mercedes-AMG driver Philip Ellis.


PORSCHE | 2x Pro + Pro-Am nominations


Unlike its IGTC rivals, Porsche’s two Pro entries are overseen by US teams and Fanatec GT America regulars, while its Pro-Am nominations both hail from further afield.


Nevertheless, Wright Motorsports are no strangers to Intercontinental appearances after previously appearing at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis. Their 911 GT3 R also features Jan Heylen, one of Fanatec GT America’s quickest Pros.


MDK Motorsport has also contested an IGTC round before, albeit at last year’s Gulf 12 Hours where it fielded a Ferrari. And its entry features factory talent in the shape of Matteo Cairoli.


Porsche’s other nominations are both Pro-Am and, specifically in Stephen Grove and Au’s cases, eligible to score Independent Cup points.


Grove Racing’s 911 features Earl Bamber who knows his way around a Porsche better than most. His EBM team is also overseeing a car shared by father-son duo Stephen and Brenton.


Huber Motorsport has also made the trip with a 992-spec machine for Au, Alfred Renauer and Porsche junior Laurin Heinrich. The latter, who now competes in DTM and Fanatec GT Europe, clinched the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany title with Huber last season.


INDIANAPOLIS 8 HOUR PRESENTED BY AWS TIMETABLE
Wednesday 4 October
10:30 – 12:00    Test Session 1
15:00 – 16:30    Test Session 2

Thursday 5 October
15:25 – 15:55    Bronze Test
18:45 – 20:15    Free Practice

Friday 6 October
11:25 – 12:55    Pre-Qualifying
15:35 – 15:50    Qualifying 1
15:57 – 16:12    Qualifying 2
16:20 – 16:35    Qualifying 3
18:45 – 19:00    Pole Shootout (Top-10)

Saturday 7 October
12:15 – 20:15    Race


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