***Seven drivers from seven different GT3 cars and three manufacturers are in contention for the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli drivers’ championship this weekend in Kyalami, with the drivers having assembled for a photo shoot on Thursday (pictured above).
***GruppeM Racing’s Maxi Buhk holds a six-point lead over Frederic Vervisch and Maxi Goetz, of Audi Sport Team WRT and SPS Automotive Performance, respectively, while Porsche’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour-winning trio of Dirk Werner, Dennis Olsen and Matt Campbell sit 10 points behind although the drivers have been split up into separate entries this weekend. With a 24-point deficit to Buhk, Christopher Haase holds a slim, but mathematical chance of the title as well.
***Crew from Team75 Bernhard were working until 5:30 a.m. prepping its Porsche 911 GT3 R, which arrived late due to delays in outbound customs from Europe. The car was not part of the IGTC’s group sea freight, which departed earlier, because of the chassis needing to be used in the ADAC GT Masters season finale at the Sachsenring in late September.
***Longtime Porsche engineer Owen Hayes has been reunited with Timo Bernhard (team owner) and Romain Dumas (driver) under the German outfit this weekend. Hayes engineered Bernhard and Dumas to back-to-back American Le Mans Series LMP2 championships with the Penske Porsche RS Spyder operation in 2007-08.
***Audi has continued its tradition of having special country-themed pit kit for its two works-supported entries this weekend. The No. 25 Team WRT entry has a pit board commemorating South Africa’s recent win in the Rugby World Cup, while the team’s lollipop is also in the colors of the South African flag.
***Kelvin van der Linde is sporting a special helmet design for his home race this weekend. The design was inspired through a contest on social media.
***WRT team principal Vincent Vosse is present while sporting director Pierre Dieudonne acts as team manager. Thierry Tassin is looking after Benoit Treluyer’s WRT Hitotsuyama Team Audi Sport RS 5 DTM in the DTM x Super GT Dream Race at Fuji, having flown directly from Macau last weekend, where Vosse was also in attendance.
***Audi’s last major title in Africa came in 1996 in the Super Touring Car era with the A4 quattro. Incidentally, Vosse was one of the participants in a standalone ‘Kyalami International race’ in that era.
***Up to 14 sets of Pirelli PZero DHD2 tires are allowed for the official sessions, which did not include Thursday’s pair of Paid Test Sessions. The allocation excludes wet weather tires, which were put into use during Thursday’s rain-affected Free Practice.
***GruppeM Racing is set to return for a full season of IGTC next year, although it is looking at additional programs that could be fit into the year, according to team director/engineer Alex Zoechling. The IGTC schedule sees a large gap between February’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour and the Total 24 Hours of Spa in July.
***The team’s No. 999 Mercedes-AMG GT3 is a brand-new chassis, with the car utilized in the Suzuka 10 Hours having won last weekend’s FIA GT World Cup in the hands of Raffaele Maricello.
***Dinamic Motorsport has one of the IGTC points-nominated Porsches which will be driven by Campbell, Laurens Vanthoor, and Earl Bamber. It is the Italian team’s first time running a factory lineup after campaigning Klaus Bachler, Andrea Rizzoli and Zaid Ashkanani for its debut GT3 campaign in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup this year.
***Dinamic sporting director Alessandro Antonelli says working with factory drivers makes his job easier. “They know exactly what they want on the car, so for the team it is easier, [but] you have a little bit more pressure,” he told Sportscar365. There are no Porsche or Manthey mechanics working within the team, which is entirely made up of Italian-based Dinamic crew.
***HubAuto Corsa is competing in the Asian Le Mans Series opener at Shanghai this weekend after electing not to compete at Kyalami due to heavy incidents for its Ferrari 488 GT3 at the past two IGTC races. The Taiwanese squad is set to complete the Asian LMS season with a Ferrari for Davide Rigon, Marcos Gomes and team principal Morris Chen.
***The main support event this weekend is the Falken Polo Cup and MotorMart VW Challenge. The two South African Volkswagen-only series will run together in a pair of ten-lap races on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.
***A number of South African drivers competing in the Kyalami 9H previously raced in Polo Cup, including Kelvin and Sheldon van der Linde, Jordan Pepper and Gennaro Bonafede. Kelvin van der Linde won the VW Challenge championship in 2011 at the age of 14.
***The circuit’s brand-new main building features a single space for all pit garages, with no permanent walls between them, allowing for an indoor paddock space to walk the length of the pit lane behind the garages.
***Minimum pit stop times for Saturday’s race have been set at 90 seconds for a full stop with refueling, and 49.999 seconds for stops without refueling.
***Bentley drivers Jules Gounon and Jordan Pepper have grown mustaches to raise money for Movember, the annual charity event in which participants grow mustaches to support mens’ health issues, including mental health and prostate and testicular cancer.
***SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel told Sportscar365 that pre-event ticket sales have been encouraging, with a strong crowd expected for Saturday, thanks to an active effort the local promoter.
***While disappointed by the two late withdrawals that has dropped this year’s grid to 28 cars, Ratel has maintained the target of achieving a 40-car field at Kyalami within the next two years.
***Commentary duties this weekend will be split between John Watson and David Addison, with Bruce Jones on pit lane. Watson and Addison combined in the booth for most of the GT World Challenge Europe season, while Jones has been a regular on GT World Challenge Asia broadcasts.
***The full race will be streamed live on the GT World YouTube channel, along with qualifying and Pole Shootout on Friday.
Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report