10 Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours Entrants to Watch at Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is kicking off the second round of the 2019 season at this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts. The premier sports car series in North America is set for a big year at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with the 50th anniversary of IMSA being celebrated as the featured marque at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion (August 15-18) and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship kicking off “Monterey Speed Week” on September 12-15 in the penultimate championship round.
Those anxious to witness some of the world’s best sports car drivers doing what they do best at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca only need to wait two weeks until the Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours on March 29-30. Ten drivers confirmed for the global GT3 series’ only stop in North America will be demonstrating their skills at this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
In no particular order, be sure to follow these drivers as they contend for endurance racing victories from coast to coast:
1. Tristan Vautier
The Frenchman had a big outing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last October when he placed well enough at the California 8 Hours to secure the Intercontinental GT Challenge Drivers’ Championship while team owner Kenny Habul simultaneously claimed the Bronze Drivers’ Championship. The versatile driver has excelled in sports cars, open wheel and prototypes. He won the 2011 Star Mazda and 2012 Indy Lights titles before making his IndyCar debut in 2013 and dabbling in IMSA and GT endurance racing. This weekend, he is co-driving the No. 85 JDC-Miller Cadillac DPi along with Juan Piedrahita and Misha Goikhberg before returning to his familiar No. 43 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 in Monterey.
2. Christina Nielsen
Joining Vautier in the Mercedes-AMG lineup at the Challenge California 8 Hours is Danish racer Christina Nielsen, who will run the remainder of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli events in the No. 44 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. Nielsen is in high demand as she is a key part of the all-female driver lineup in the No. 57 Heinricher Racing/Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GTD sponsored by Caterpillar in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Nielsen is the first woman to win an IMSA title having scored GT Daytona championships in 2016 and 2017.
3. Maximilian Buhk
The German racer rounds out the list of three drivers from German manufacturer Mercedes AMG’s California 8 Hours efforts who will have a presence at Sebring. Buhk, who is driving for GruppeM Racing Team in two weeks, will arrive with a sharp axe after plentiful seat time in the No. 71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3 GT Daytona in Sebring. The 26-year-old has a laundry list of sport car racing accomplishments including season titles in FIA GT3 European Championship (2012), Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup (2013), Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup (2015), and Blancpain GT Series (2016).
4. Oliver Jarvis
The British racer captured headlines earlier this season when he broke the decades-old track record at Daytona International Speedway. Jarvis is driving the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest DPi along with Tristan Nunez and Timo Bernhard at Sebring. In two weeks, he will jump behind the wheel of a Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 for the Hong Kong-based KC Motorsport Group.
5. Renger van der Zande
The Dutch prototype driver for Wayne Taylor Racing is somewhat legendary at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca after winning the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship by virtue of a daring Corkscrew pass with one lap remaining. After attempting to go two-for-two in IMSA competition this year following a win at the 24 Hours of Daytona, he’ll return to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca seeking victory in a Honda NSX GT3.
6. Mario Farnbacher
The German racer will join van der Zande behind the wheel during the Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours. Until then, he is driving the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GTD as a teammate to the Acura NSX driven by Nielsen. Farnbacher has won at least one IMSA event in GT Daytona every year, including Sebring victories in 2015 and 2017.
7. Christopher Mies
The German driver was part of the winning Audi Sport Team Land lineup at the California 8 Hours along with co-drivers Kelvin van der Linde and Christopher Haase. He will return this year as part of a driving lineup that will be announced next week. In Sebring, he is driving the No. 29 Montoplast by Land Audi R8 GTD. He in an endurance GT racer to the core. For the last decade, Mies has built an incredible résumé by winning some of the biggest races all over the world from Bathurst to Nürburgring along with series titles such as the 2015 Australian GT Championship and 2016 ADAC GT Masters.
8. Romain Dumas
The new Porsche 911 GT3-R will make its highly-anticipated Intercontinental GT Challenge debut at the California 8 Hours. The French driver will be behind the wheel of one of them, though, like Vautier, he will be in a prototype at Sebring. Dumas is co-driving the No. 54 CORE Autosport Nissan DPi with Colin Braun and Jonathan Bennett. The same prototype won at WeatherTech raceway Laguna Seca last September when it was owned by ESM Racing in Tequila Patron livery. The Porsche factory works driver is as versatile as it gets with two 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and four Pikes Peak Hill Climb victories.
9. Mathieu Jaminet
The Porsche Young Professional is primed for the biggest season of his young career. The 24-year-old French driver is co-driving with veteran teammates Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR in the GT Le Mans category. He’ll be in one of the Porsche 911 GT3-R entries competing for an overall win at the California 8 Hours.
10. Spencer Pumpelly
The veteran IMSA and GT racer residing in Atlanta won Sebring in 2017 and scored a Daytona win and three additional podiums in 2018. He is driving the No. 44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini GT Daytona this weekend and will shift gears to drive a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS MR for The Racer’s Group in search of a class title at the Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours.
For tickets and information to the Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours March 29-20, click here or call 831-242-8200. To tune in to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts, see below.