Team WRT dominated the action in the Indianapolis 8 Hour at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday (Oct. 7). At the end of the day, it was the No. 30 BMW M4 GT3 of Philipp Eng, Sheldon van der Linde and Dries Vanthoor that took the overall win in the joint Intercontinental GT Challenge/Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS event.
“We had a fantastic car all week,” Eng told SRO America’s Amanda Busick. “The team had to change the gearbox [after yesterday’s Pole Shootout], so it was a late night for them. I am super happy. Thanks to my team and thanks to my teammates. Everyone did a faultless job and here we are.”
The margin of victory was 53.110 seconds over Craft Bamboo Racing’s Maximilian Goetz, Jules Gounon and Raffaele Marciello. GruppeM Racing’s Maro Engel, Daniel Juncadella and Luca Stolz were third, followed by Wright Motorsports’ Jan Heylen, Trent Hindman and Madison Snow.
Huber Motorsport’s Alfred Renauer started on pole in his Porsche, but his time at the front was extremely limited. Eng, who started third, swept around the outside of Renauer from the second row to take the lead in his orange Sixt-sponsored BMW. Teammate Augusto Farfus followed into second. From there, the two WRT BMWs pulled away from the pack.
The two WRT BMWs led unchallenged until the race’s sole safety car period came out a little more than 90 minutes in when Jeff Burton‘s DXDT Racing Mercedes suffered a mechanic failure and pulled off. That brought the leaders into the pits, but BimmerWorld Racing’s Chandler Hull chose to stay out.
Hull lost the lead shortly after the restart, but Vanthoor ran in the back of teammate Maxime Martin while taking the lead. That resulted in the officials forcing Vanthoor to relinquish the lead to Martin.
Vanthoor was able to quickly regain the advantage in the intervening laps and pulled out a gap over his teammate. Then, trouble struck at the next pit stop. Vanthoor stayed out one lap too long, resulting in a stint length violation. A drive-through penalty dropped the No. 30 BMW out of the lead.
Despite the issue, Vanthoor and Eng were able to quickly drive themselves back into contention, getting back up to second overall, 17 seconds behind Farfus.
Then, disaster struck. Farfus was attempting to lap the Pro-Am class Ferrari of Triarsi Competizione’s Onofrio Triarsi. Contact was made and Triarsi spun out his Ferrari 296 GT3 in turn 1.
As a result of the contact, the left front suspension broke on Farfus’ car. Eng was able to take the lead while Farfus limped back to the pits. Team WRT was able to get the No. 31 BMW back out, but they ended up finishing 11 laps down in 16th overall.
The suspension woes for the No. 31 BMW gave the No. 30 a lead of over 35 seconds. From then on, Eng and van der Linde were able to expand that advantage and cruise to victory.
At the end, the battle for second between Marciello and Stolz got very close after the splitter broke on Marciello’s Mercedes. Marciello’s car was sparking heavily for the final 35 minutes to race and slowing down. That allowed Stolz to get within a half-second on the final lap, but he could not take away second before the checkered flag flew.
Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS’ Pro class is considered a separate class from the Intercontinental GT Challenge’s Pro class. Here, BimmerWorld Racing’s Bill Auberlen started from the pole and ingratiated himself into the IGTC Pro cars for much of the first run of the race.
Further back, Racers Edge Motorsports’ Kyle Marcelli was running well early on until he was spun out by the Porsche of Rearden Racing’s Vesko Kozarov exiting turn 13. Marcelli was able to continue, but dropped to the rear of the field. Kozarov was given a drive-through penalty for causing the spin that nearly put him a lap down.
That was not the last time that these two cars came together. In the second hour, Jake Pedersen in the No. 85 spun in the same spot after contact from Ashton Harrison, who had previously stated on the broadcast that the first incident was “stupid.” Harrison received a drive-through penalty of her own for that contact.
Believe it or not, that was not it. Late in the fifth hour, Marcelli and Kozarov had contact again in turn 13, resulting in a spin for Kozarov.
Auberlen led until the first round of stops, where he gave way to Hull. Hull slowly dropped down the order and lost the class lead to Rennsport One’s Stevan McAleer. McAleer was able to drive up to fourth overall, partially thanks to Stolz getting off-course in turn 7 in the second hour.
However, the team to beat here was Wright Motorsports. Snow, driving in place of the injured Charlie Luck, was able to drive past McAleer to take the class lead. As the race continued on, Snow, Heylen and Hindman were able to lock themselves into the class lead.
The only other team that was realistically competitive with the No. 45 was Turner Motorsport. However, the team was forced to pit with 45 minutes to go and dropped a number of laps. Robby Foley would eventually retire the car in the final minutes.
That left Heylen home free for the final stretch of the race. Heylen was able to easily take the GT World Challenge America victory in fourth overall. It is the team’s third straight victory after they inherited the weekend sweep in Sebring.
Heylen, Hindman and Snow ended up two laps ahead of Rennsport One’s McAleer, Bachler and Filguerias. MDK Motorsports’ Matteo Cairoli, Trenton Estep and Seth Lucas were third for the Porsche podium sweep. Racers Edge Motorsports’ Harrison, Marcelli and Mario Farnbacher were fourth.
The second-place finish was enough for McAleer and Filguerias to win the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS Pro class championship. It is quite the accomplishment for a rookie team in the series with one driver (Filguerias) who had never raced in GT3 equipment prior to this season.
“I still feel like this is a dream,” Filguerias told Busick after the race. “This is incredible. To go from […] dominating [in Pirelli GT4 America SprintX] last year, then stepping up to GT3, today’s effort and all season was a team effort, not just one person.”
“It’s been incredible,” McAleer said. “We won the [Pirelli GT4 America SprintX] championship last year quite easily, but this is a different ballgame. We’ve had some tough races in this car, but we’ve been consistent. It’s nice to close the deal today. Klaus [Bachler] and Eric have been fantastic. It’s a big accomplishment for Rennsport One and Community Beer Works to pull this off in their first year.”
In Pro-Am, Renauer started from pole and maintained a substantial lead over the rest of the class. That lead began to shrink once Antares Au got in the car.
Burton and TR3 Racing’s Jon Branam were able to run down Au for the lead, but Burton’s Mercedes suffered a mechanical failure that forced him to pull off. That brought out the race’s first safety car period.
During the yellow, everyone stopped for tires, fuel and driver changes. Kenton Koch, who was only tapped to drive for TR3 Racing Saturday morning in place of Paul Kiebler, won the race off of pit road and took the class lead.
The Pro-Am class seemingly was going to come down to a battle between Wright Motorsports’ No. 120 and the Crowdstrike Racing by Riley Motorsports Mercedes No. 04. Huber Motorsport was able to get back in the hunt as well after Au finished his time in the car. Ultimately, an extra pit stop for the Wright Porsche due to fueling issues put the Crowdstrike Mercedes in the lead.
INDYCAR regular Callum Ilott was able to keep the Wright Porsche in the hunt, but mechanical issues struck in the final 30 minutes that took the team out of the hunt. From there, the trio of Colin Braun, George Kurtz and Nolan Siegel coasted to take the class win in sixth overall. With the late trouble on the No. 120 Porsche, Braun and Kurtz will take home the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS Pro-Am championship.
Braun, Kurtz and Siegel ended up 21.862 seconds ahead of Au, Renauer and Laurin Heinrich. TR3 Racing’s Branam, Koch and Matt Bell were third in their Mercedes, followed by Samantha Tan Racing’s Samantha Tan, Neil Verhagen and Jake Walker. Sky-Tempesta Racing’s Eddie Cheever III, Chris Froggatt and Jonathan Hui were fifth.
Intercontinental GT Challenge/Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS Indianapolis 8 Hour Unofficial Results
The Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS season is complete. Intercontinental GT Challenge teams have one more race remaining. That is the Gulf 12 Hour at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. That race will go green at 4 p.m. ET on Dec. 9 and will be streamed on the GT World YouTube channel.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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