Mercedes-AMG Motorsport victorious in 2021 Intercontinental GT Challenge 2021 season finale and celebrates Pro-Am class title win

Feb 7, 2022
Kyalami

With an outstanding overall win and a valuable class podium finish, the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Teams achieved a successful conclusion of the 2021 Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC) season on Saturday. Marked by tactics, the Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour that had to be postponed to February due to the travel restrictions in place last December, saw the Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP secure victory with its #89 Mercedes-AMG GT3. The #75 SunEnergy1 Racing ended up in second place of the Pro-Am class in the endurance race in South Africa in spite of an intermediate repair break and secured the championship title in this classification as a result.

  • Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP #89 wins Kyalami nine-hour race
  • SunEnergy1 Racing #75 secures Pro-Am category title with class podium finish
  • Positive conclusion of an IGTC season with highs and lows

In the three practice sessions held on Thursday, Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP already underlined its high ambitions for the IGTC season finale at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit. The driver trio of Timur Boguslavskiy (RUS), Jules Gounon (FRA) and Raffaele Marciello (SUI) managed to post the fastest lap time with the #89 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the two daytime sessions as well as during night practice. Gounon made another mark in the usual pre-qualifying session on Friday morning in which he ended up in first place by a margin of just under half a second.

Thunderstorms and torrential rain made it impossible to run the three-part qualifying and the subsequent Superpole in the afternoon as scheduled. As a result, the Performance Team from France secured itself pole position by virtue of its pre-qualifying result. The #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Mikaël Grenier (CAN), Kenny Habul (AUS) and Martin Konrad (AUT) started the Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour from fourth place on the overall grid and first place in the Pro-Am class.

Marciello made a very strong flying start with the #89 car and managed to keep the opposition at bay from the onset. Meanwhile, with the #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3, starting driver Grenier held his ground against various Pro class cars and initially defended his position. After an opening part without any major incidents, a season finale marked by tactics unfolded at the 4.522 kilometres long South African track with its long heritage.

Varied tactics lead to unpredictable course of events in the race

Some rival cars tried to put race leader Marciello under pressure with unusually early stops without driver changes and unconventional strategies. However, the Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP remained unfazed and headed into the pit lane for the first time after just over one hour. Marciello handed the steering wheel to Boguslavskiy who rejoined the race in third place after the considerably shorter pit stops of the opposition.

Subsequently, the varied tactics led to frequent lead changes and thus made for an exciting course of events in the race. As Marciello came into the pits for the final driver change after a little over seven hours, handing the Mercedes-AMG GT3 to final driver Jules Gounon, the team initially was running in third place again. With fast lap times, the 27-year-old Frenchman gradually caught up and once the opposition had completed its final driver changes, he was back into the lead that he wasn’t to lose anymore until the race was over. As a result, the AKKA ASP Team secured the first overall win for Mercedes-AMG in an IGTC race since Suzuka 2018.

SunEnergy1 Racing overcomes technical failure and seals Pro-Am title

The #75 SunEnergy1 Racing car already had to let two competitors from the Pro class past in the early part of the race, but maintained a commanding lead in the Pro-Am classification. After around six hours, however, a power steering failure still blew the team’s hopes of a class win that was believed to be safe already. Martin Konrad, who had just taken over the car a few laps earlier, had to park the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the pits for repair.

After a few laps, the Austrian was able to continue the race in seventh place overall, but a deficit of eight laps to the Pro-Am leader turned out to be too much to make up. However, second place in class was sufficient for the team to secure the title in the Pro-Am championship standings.

Successful conclusion of the Intercontinental GT Challenge season

For Mercedes-AMG Motorsport, the nine-hour race at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit was the belated conclusion of a successful 2021 IGTC season. However, it didn’t look like that following a rather chequered start of the season in the Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour race. Classified tenth in the prestigious race in the Ardennes, the #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 was the only car to secure a top ten result for the AMG Customer Racing Teams. Meanwhile, the outstanding 1-2 by Madpanda Motorsport and Toksport WRT in the Silver category took the attention away from the overall result.

The second season round at Indianapolis in the US was considerably more positive. There, Boguslavskiy and Marciello, who were supported by Daniel Juncadella (ESP), achieved a strong second-place finish. The #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 that had Grenier, Habul and Konrad alternating behind the wheel on that occasion, too, claimed Pro-Am class honours at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, laying the foundation for its later championship success.

Bathurst 12 Hour to get 2022 IGTC season underway in May

From 13th-15th May already, the Bathurst 12 Hour, cancelled in the wake of the pandemic last year, will be getting the new Intercontinental GT Challenge season underway. After the season opener in Australia, the famous Spa 24-hour race (28th-31st July), the Indianapolis 8 Hour (7th-9th October) and the return to Kyalami (1st-3rd December) will follow.

Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing: “We travelled to South Africa with the goal of successfully concluding the IGTC season and we did so in an impressive way with the overall win by our Performance Team AKKA ASP. That SunEnergy1 was able to secure the Pro-Am title at the same time crowns an emotional season finale for Mercedes-AMG. Therefore, thanks go out in particular to our two teams that have been doing excellent work throughout the season and have more than deserved their respective success as a result.”

Jules Gounon, Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP #89: “A wonderful victory that was only made possible by the fantastic work by the AKKA ASP team. We extracted the maximum from our Mercedes-AMG GT3 and we can rightfully be proud of what we have achieved. I am more than happy to be able to end the season in such a way and I want to thank the team for this opportunity.”

Mikaël Grenier, SunEnergy1 Racing #75: “First of all, I would like to thank everyone who has helped us win the Pro-Am title. That really means a lot for the entire team. In the race, we actually had a good pace throughout, Of course, it is a slight disappointment that this little problem cost us the class win, but all in all, my first time at Kyalami was a great experience. Hopefully we will be back next year.”

Result, Kyalami 9 Hour*:

Pos.
overall

Pos.
class

Nr.

Car

Team

Drivers

Laps

1.

1.
Pro

89

Mercedes-AMG GT3

Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP

Timur Boguslavskiy (RUS), Jules Gounon (FRA), Raffaele Marciello (SUI)

307

2.

2.
Pro

51

Ferrari 488 GT3

AF Corse – Francorchamps Motors

Come Ledogar (FRA), Miguel Molina (ESP), Alessandro Pier Guidi (ITA)

307

3.

3.
Pro

25

Audi R8 LMS GT3

Audi Sport Team WRT

Patric Niederhauser (SUI), Markus Winkelhock (GER), Kelvin van der Linde (RSA)

307

...

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.

2.
Pro-Am

75

Mercedes-AMG GT3

SunEnergy1 Racing

Mikaël Grenier (CAN), Kenny Habul (AUS), Martin Konrad (AUT)

289

* excerpt subject to confirmation by the organiser

7


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