BMW dominates inaugural Indianapolis 8 Hour
German brand bags maiden #IntGTC win with a one-two finish at the Brickyard Walkenhorst’s Catsburg, De Phillippi and Farfus beat team-mates Pittard, Tomczyk and Yelloly
BMW scored its maiden Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli victory in dominant fashion with a one-two finish in today’s inaugural Indianapolis 8 Hour.
The German manufacturer was expertly represented by the Walkenhorst Motorsport squad, which delivered a faultless showing amid changeable weather conditions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Nicky Catsburg, Connor De Phillippi and Augusto Farfus were equally polished at the wheel of their #34 M6 GT3, with each driver displaying speed and composure to secure a commanding victory over the sister #35 machine of David Pittard, Martin Tomczyk and Nick Yelloly.
The winning BMW started the race from pole position, but this was anything but a lights-to-flag story. The field rolled across the yard of bricks to take the start just as heavy rain swept the Speedway, soaking the 2.4-mile circuit and posing an immediate strategic challenge.
Both Walkenhorst BMWs were among those to stop for wet-compound Pirelli tyres, dropping them into the pack, while the slick-shod #7 K-PAX Racing Bentley led in the hands of Jordan Pepper. The South African demonstrated supreme car control in increasingly challenging conditions before ultimately calling in for wets.
Over the following hour, the lead changed hands several times, with the #1 Squadra Corse Ferrari, #30 Team Honda Racing Acura and #75 SunEnergy 1 Racing Mercedes-AMG all enjoying turns at the head of the order. The combination of rain and on-track incidents also ensured that the Safety Car was out front during the opening hour, but as the skies cleared above the circuit a lengthy period of green flag racing ensued.
Pepper hit the front once again around the two-hour mark and was able to stretch his legs, pulling clear of Farfus and Yelloly in the chasing BMWs. But the Bentley charge ended when Pepper was tagged by a GT4 runner, causing substantial damage to the rear-right corner of the Continental GT3. He was initially able to continue, only for the car to snap out of control on the straight before sliding to a halt.
With the Bentley out of contention, the BMWs were in control, but this did not prevent an entertaining spell of racing. The leading M6 GT3s went wheel-to-wheel on a number of occasions, with Yelloly in particularly combative mood as he shot past De Phillippi shortly before the three-hour mark. It remained this way for almost an hour before De Phillippi restored his crew’s advantage by passing Pittard.
The only serious challenge to the Walkenhorst cars came from the factory Acura. Though clearly among the quickest cars on-track, the #30 NSX GT3 was pegged back by a number of issues during the opening stages. The squad finally caught a break during the sixth hour when a safety car period allowed Dane Cameron to regain a lap, after which the American kept pace with the BMWs and brought the contest to life once more.
This challenge effectively ended when the #30 car could not pull away from its penultimate stop, while the BMWs simultaneously made routine visits to pit road. The extended delay cost the factory NSX a lap and put paid to its Indy ambitions with two hours remaining.
With their only major rival falling by the wayside the final quarter of the race was comfortable for the Walkenhorst BMWs. Catsburg took the wheel of the leading car and settled into a metronomic rhythm, pulling more than half a minute clear by the chequered flag. With the #35 following him home in the hands of Yelloly, BMW scored Intercontinental’s first one-two finish since Audi dominated at Laguna Seca in 2018.
The factory Acura completed the podium after a sterling drive from Cameron, Mario Farnbacher and Renger van der Zande. They finished two laps clear of the Audi Sport Team Hardpoint WRT crew of Mirko Bortolotti, Markus Winkelhock and Spencer Pumpelly, whose eventful race included penalties, a puncture, and several close-fought battles.
The #04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG was sixth and first among the Pro-Am runners thanks to an accomplished run from George Kurtz, Ben Keating and Colin Braun. The #20 Wright Motorsports Porsche was next, followed by the #93 Racers Edge Motorsport NSX, #1 Squadra Corse Ferrari and #75 Sun Energy 1 Mercedes-AMG.
The overall top-10 was completed by the GT4 class winner. This ended with another BMW one-two as the #82 Bimmerworld machine of Bill Auberlen, Chandler Hull and James Clay led home the #438 ST Racing crew. The winning squad started the race from ninth among the GT4 runners but prevailed in a race that saw several strong contenders for victory. The GMG Racing Porsche finished third after a back-and-forth battle with the ST BMW during the closing stages.
Further back, the #7 Bentley recovered to 17th overall and 10th among the GT3 entrants. This ensured that the trio of Pepper, Jules Gounon and Maxime Soulet scored a single point and therefore maintain their championship advantage following victory in February’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. They hold the slenderest of leads, with the #34 Walkenhorst BMW crew just one point in arrears and several others within striking distance.
Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli
Overseen by SRO Motorsports Group, the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli represents the highest echelon of long-distance GT3 racing.
The series has grown since its 2016 debut to encompass five of the world’s biggest GT3 events on as many continents, although Suzuka’s cancellation due to COVID-19 will restrict this year’s calendar to four rounds.
GT3’s continued success, built on a decade of manufacturer involvement and SRO’s Balance of Performance stability, has resulted in it becoming the de facto senior class for all of the world’s most prestigious GT races. This, plus the continuity of using Pirelli tyres at every round, offers regional customer teams an opportunity to officially represent their manufacturer on a global level while reducing freight and logistical costs.
Pirelli – Official Tyre Supplier
Pirelli is a tyre manufacturer and world leader in the automotive industry. It has an exclusive relationship with over 50 racing series worldwide, including Formula One.
Pirelli has a long and illustrious history in endurance racing and has also claimed a huge variety of class wins in GT racing all over the world. The design of the new Pirelli GT tyres meets the needs of GT racing while maintaining the performance characteristics that endurance drivers have appreciated in the past. The slick tyres used for GT racing are branded Zero: just like the slicks that have become a central feature of Formula One. The name P Zero is used in the highest categories of motorsport such as GT racing.
SRO Motorsports Group – The Global Leader in GT Racing
With more than 25 years’ experience at the forefront of a continuously evolving industry, SRO Motorsports Group is the established international leader in GT racing.
Best known for the development and implementation of the GT3 and GT4 regulations, SRO promotes and organises championships that embrace professional and amateur competitors. Its portfolio of highly regarded series spans Europe, America and Asia, while its flagship Intercontinental GT Challenge features events on five different continents.
The 2019 season saw more than 100 races run under the SRO Motorsports Group banner, highlighted by the prestigious Total 24 Hours of Spa. In addition to promotion and organisation, the company operates SRO Race Centre by MMC – a high-level technical centre at Circuit Paul Ricard – and provides the ultimate driving opportunities at world-renowned facilities through Curbstone Track Events.
SRO Motorsports Group is chaired by company founder and CEO Stephane Ratel. With offices in London, Paris, Liège and Hong Kong, its work is facilitated by a dedicated global team of full-time and freelance staff.
Combining a passion for performance with industry-leading experience, SRO is ready to play a key role in shaping the future of international GT racing.