Porsche beats Mercedes to IGTC crown with Kyalami win
Porsche beat Mercedes to the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge crown as Frikadelli Racing secured victory in Saturday's season finale at Kyalami.
Frikadelli trio Nick Tandy, Dennis Olsen and Mathieu Jaminet survived heavy rain in a disrupted nine-hour race to convert pole position into victory, also ensuring that Norwegian driver Olsen was crowned IGTC drivers' champion.
It meant Porsche took victory in three of this year's five IGTC races, having previously triumphed at Bathurst in February and in July's Spa 24 Hours, while Olsen was the only driver all season to feature in the winning crew more than once.
Porsche's GT3 project manager Sebastian Golz commented: “Three wins from five races, and podium finishes at all rounds – that’s how you win championships.
"The key to our success was the excellent teamwork of our squads around the world. The final race at Kyalami with sun, heat, lightning, thunder and rain was like a rollercoaster ride. In the end we deserved to win. Now it’s time to celebrate.”
Olsen added: “This is definitely the best day of my career by now. When I was asked recently to name my greatest achievement, I said it was the victory at Bathurst. When I was then asked what could be better than that, I said a victory at Kyalami, winning the manufacturers’ title with Porsche as well as the drivers’ championship.
"That has now happened – unbelievable, it feels like a dream."
Mercedes had gone to South Africa with a 22-point advantage in hand over Porsche, but its hopes took a knock when the GruppeM Racing entry of Maxi Buhk, Raffaele Marciello and Maro Engel was ruled out on the opening lap with an engine problem.
Maxi Gotz, Yelmur Buurman and Luca Stolz ended up as the highest-placed Mercedes crew in fifth, leaving the Stuttgart manufacturer seven points shy of Porsche, whose points tally was boosted by a third-place finish for the Spa race-winning trio of Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz in the GPX Racing 911 GT3 R.
#20 GPX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R: Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
Splitting the two Porsche crews on the podium were Walkenhorst BMW drivers Nicky Catsburg, Mikkel Jensen and Christian Krognes.
Audi secured third in the manufacturers' standings thanks to fourth for Christopher Haase, Markus Winkelhock and Christopher Mies in the Land Motorsport-run R8 LMS.
Heavy rain and lightning meant the nine-hour race was neutralised by the safety car with two-and-a-half hours to run, the race only resuming with 25 minutes left on the clock.
Mercedes driver Buurman had led the pack at that stage, but was demoted in short order by the Porsches of Lietz and Tandy as well as Catsburg's BMW.
Lietz then duly allowed teammate Tandy through to ensure Olsen would win the drivers' prize, and the Austrian lost a further place to Catsburg on the run to the flag.
Another BMW crew, that of Augusto Farfus, Martin Tomczyk and local driver Sheldon van der Linde, led when the safety car came out but the trio were removed from contention by a late splash-and-dash that relegated them to seventh place at the finish.
Cameron joins Honda for Kyalami IGTC round
BMW reveals teaser image of all-new M4 GT3
Porsche factory driver Laurens Vanthoor says his "nightmare" early crash out of the Nurburgring 24 Hours following contact with his brother Dries was "a black day in my career".
Audi and its Phoenix team scored their sixth overall victory at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, with the #15 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II of Kelvin van der Linde, Dries Vanthoor, Fred Vervisch and Robin Frijns taking honours.
The 50th edition of the Nurburgring 24 Hours could be decided by tyre choice as mixed weather conditions are impacting the final hours of the event.