The Intercontinental GT Challenge series debuted in 2016. The idea behind the championship is to reduce expenses by using local cars and teams. Drivers and engineers from around the world participate in the events but costs and time would be reduced by not having to ship equipment to the four different continents where the races were held.

This year’s California 8-Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna served as the series finale. The championship began at Bathurst, Australia in February. In July, the series competed in a 24-hour race at Spa, Belgium followed by the inaugural Suzuka 10-Hours in Japan.

There were four classes competing at the California 8-Hours:

  • Grand Touring 3 (GT3) – This is the quickest class and includes cars that fall into the FIA GT3 category. These are two-wheel drive vehicles that may use normally aspirated or turbocharged engines which produce approximately 500 horsepower. Examples of cars competing in this category include: Porsche 911 GT3 R, Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Mercedes AMG GT3, McLaren 650S GT3, Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R, Bentley Continental GT3, Audi R8 LMS and Ferrari 488 GT3.
  • Grand Touring Cup (GTC) – The GT Cup class was originally for 2015-2016 Porsche 991 GT Cup cars. It now includes vehicles from other spec series – the Lamborghini Super Trofeo (Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo) and Ferrari Challenge (Ferrari 458 Challenge) championships.
  • Grand Touring 4 (GT4) – The cars in this class are similar to the GT vehicles but have more preparation restrictions. Drivetrain layouts include all-wheel-drive and front and rear-wheel drive. These cars can be powered by forced induction or normally aspirated motors. Racing in this category is the Chevrolet Camaro GT4, McLaren 570S GT4, Porsche Cayman GT4 CS-MR, Audi R8 LMS GT4, Ginetta G55 GT4, BMW M4 GT4, Audi R8 LMS GT4, Mercedes-AMG GT4, Panoz Avezzano GT4 and SIN R1 GT4.
  • Touring Car Race (TCR) – This is an international class which was first introduced in 2014 to address the expense of competing in the World Touring Car Championship. These production-based cars are powered by 2.0-liter turbocharged engines which produce approximately 300-horsepower. Examples of vehicles competing in this category include: Audi RS 3 LMS, Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, Honda Civic Type-R TCR, Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR and Hyundai I30-N TCR.

As the championship features a multi-driver format which includes professional and sportsman racers, there was a need to categorize competitors. Within the Grand Touring category, the driver combinations are grouped as GT Pro or GT PAM.

Three championships were still to be decided at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – Manufacturers, Drivers and Bronze Drivers. In the manufacturer’s category, the outcome of the race would determine whether the title went to Mercedes-AMG or Audi - just nine points separated them. Four drivers were still in the running for the drivers’ title: the leaders, Rafaelle Marciello and Tristan Vautier followed Markus Winkelhock and Christopher Haase. The third title, for Bronze drivers, was between Kenny Habul and Tim Pappas.

The second consecutive California 8-Hours is the longest professional race conducted on the 60-year-old 2.238-miles eleven-turn WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca road course.

Thirty-two competitors dive into WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca’s corner two for the start of the California 8-Hours. Leading the way is the pole-winning Audi R8 LMS from Audi Sport Team Land Motorsports. Challenging the Audi on the outside of the turn is the second fastest qualifier entered by Mercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG. Tucking in behind is the Audi Sport Team WRT R8.
The No. 29 Audi Sport Team Land Audi R8 LMS was driven by Kelvin van der Linde, Christopher Mies and title contender, Christopher Haase. The team’s mission was clear - win the Manufacturers and Drivers titles. They had reason to be optimistic after qualifying as the trio started on the pole. The team dominated the race and won the Manufacturer’s championship for Audi and but it was not enough for Haase who took the runner-up spot.
There were only two TCR entries both of which were from Bryan Herta Autosport. One of the Hyundais, No. 99, was raced by Pirelli World Challenge series regulars Mark Wilkins, Michael Lewis and Mason Filippi. The second Hyundai i30-N, No. 98, was driven by team owner Bryan Herta, his son, Colton and GTS competitor, George Kurtz. The No. 98 car won the class while the other entry was the first retiree.
In the Pirelli World Challenge Championship the GT Cup category has been poorly subscribed – in fact at some events there were no entries. The California 8-Hours would be no exception. The only car competing was the No. 6 Lamborghini Super Trofeo Huracan Evo shared by Steven Aghakhani, Taylor Proto and Richard Antinucci. The trio started seventeenth overall and finished fourteenth – obviously, they were first in class.
Recording the fastest GT4 qualifying time was the Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano guided by Ian James, Preston Calvert and Matthew Keegan. The car was in contention when the engine developed a misfire early in the fourth hour of the race. The crew went back to the paddock with the Panoz and identified the cause but for safety reasons, the car was withdrawn from the event.
Pirelli World Challenge series regulars Rearden Racing entered an Audi R8 GT4 for David Roberts, Max Faulkner and the new Touring Car champion, Vesko Kozarov. The trio was gridded twenty-seventh overall and tenth in class for the start of the event. The three drivers captured the victory when the class-leading Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta had to pit for fuel in the final thirty minutes of the contest.
Winning the GT3 Pro/Am category was the No. 42 Strakka Racing prepared Mercedes-AMG GT3. Sharing the driving duties were Nick Leventis, Felipe Fraga and Davide Fumanelli. For the Bronze categorized driver, Leventis this was his second victory of the season – his first was in round two at Spa, Belgium. He did not participate in the Suzuka event which may have made him a title contender.
Finishing second overall and helping Audi secure the Manufacturer’s championship was the No. 19 Audi Sport Team WRT Audi R8 LMS with Robin Frijns, Dries Vanthoor and drivers’ championship hopeful, Markus Winkelhock at the wheel. The team started third overall but a poorly timed pit-stop by the second place Strakka Mercedes-AMG allowed them to capture the runner-up spot in GT3 Pro.
Endurance veterans, The Racers Group entered two Porsche Cayman Clubsports. The more successful entry was the No. 66 Porsche, shared by Spencer Pumpelly, Derek Deboer and Sean Gibbons. The trio qualified sixth in the GT4 category and twenty-third overall. Like the class winners from Rearden Racing, the team turned in a solid performance – finishing seventeenth overall and second in GT4.
Team principal, Kenny Habul shared the No. 75 Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Luca Stolz and Mikaël Grenier. The team started fourth overall but suffered contact damage early in the contest. The crew spent two-hours repairing the Mercedes so that Habul could return to the track and collect points. Although the team finished twenty-seventh overall, it was enough for Habul to secure the Bronze Driver’s title.
Another Pirelli World Challenge team participating in the California 8-Hours was DXDT Racing. The driver roster included Ryan Dalziel, Mike Hedlund and team principal, David Askew. Competing in the Pro/Am category, the No. 63 USALCO/Security National Mortgage Mercedes-AMG GT3 started sixteenth overall and fourth in class. Other than a cut tire the team had a flawless run and finished in the runner-up position.
Entering the final Intercontinental GT Challenge event at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Tristian Vautier was tied with Rafaelle Marciello for the Driver’s title. Vautier shared the driving duties on the Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Maximilian Buhk and Maro Engel. The team qualified sixth overall and finished third in the Pro category which was enough to give Vautier the overall Driver’s championship.

1GT3 Provan der Linde / Haase / MiesAudi Sport Team Land / Audi R8 LMS306
2GT3 ProFrijns / Vanthoor / WinkelhockAudi Sport Team WRT / Audi R8 LMS306
3GT3 ProVautier / Eengel / BuhkMercedes-AMG Team Sun Energy / Mercedes-AMG GT3306
4GT3 ProMakowiecki / Dumas / WernerWright Motorsport / Porsche 911 GT3 R 306
5GT3 Provan der Linde / Riberas / LeonardAudi Sport Team WRT / Audi R8 LMS306
6GT3 ProAbril / Soucek / SouletBentley Team M-Sport / Bentley Continental GT3305
7GT3 ProMarciello / Williamson / GoetzMercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing / Mercedes-AMG GT3304
8GT3 PAMLeventis / Fumanelli / FragaStrakka Racing / Mercedes-AMG GT3304
9GT3 ProHawksworth / Tambay / VietorisStrakka Racing / Mercedes-AMG GT3303
10GT3 ProLong / Pappas / BleekemolenBlack Swan Racing / Porsche 911 GT3 R303
11GT3 ProParente / Baptista / SellersK-Pax Racing / Bentley Continental GT3302
12GT3 ProPepper / Kane / GounonBentley Team M-Sport / Bentley Continental GT3297
13GT3 PAMAskew / Dalziel / HedlundDXDT Racing / Mercedes-AMG GT3296
14GTCAghakhani / Proto / AntinucciUS RaceTronics / Lamborghini Super Trofeo Huracan291
15GT3 PAMDunn / Gdovic / MichimiPPM / Lamborghini Huracan GT3283
16GT4Roberts / Kozarov / FaulknerRearden Racing / Audi R8 GT4281
17GT4Deboer / Gibbons / PumpellyTRG / Porsche Cayman Clubsport280
18GT4Piscitell / Probert / MosingMurillo Racing / Mercedes-AMG GT4280
19GT4Gannett / Staveley / LacyIan Lacy Racing / Ginetta G55280
20GT4Liefooghe / Schmitt / QuinlanStephen Cameron Racing / BMW M4 GT4278
21TCRKurtz / Herta / HertaBryan Herta Autosport / Hyundai I30-N276
22GT4Burton / Burton / BurkeRearden Racing / Audi R8 GT4272
23GT4Strom / Jorgensen / MillerRHC Jorgensen-Strom / BMW M4 GT4272
24GT4Fassnacht / SzymczakMurillo Racing / Mercedes-AMG GT4263
25GT4Bellomo / Orcutt / DyerTRG / Porsche Cayman Clubsport256
26GT4Espenbaub / Putman / LuxAutomatic Racing / Aston Martin Vantage GT4237
27GT3 PAMGrenier / Habul / StolzMercedes-AMG Team Sun Energy / Mercedes-AMG GT3219
28GT4Sofronas / Bell / DavisGMG Racing / Audi R8 GT4217
NCGT4Buford / Maxwell / PesekPF Racing / Ford Mustang GT4194
12GT3 ProFranchitti / Baek / WestphalVital Speed Motorsport / Ferrari 488 GT3112
NCGT4James / Calvert / KeeganTeam Panoz Racing / Panoz Avezzano81
NCTCRFilippi / Wilkins / LewisBryan Herta Autosport / Hyundai I30-N58

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