Kevin Van Der Linde Scores Second Straight Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours Victory
Racing skills, strategy and fitness of driver and machine were put to the ultimate test during the Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours, the longest endurance race held at Monterey County’s WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The 2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours season that spread across four continents concluded with Audi edging Mercedes-AMG in a tight battle for the manufacturers’ championship and French driver Tristan Vautier, who finished third on the podium with Mercedes-AMG Team Sun Energy1 Racing, being crowned with the drivers’ championship. Kenny Habul, who had co-driven with Vautier at the other events this season, won the Bronze championship.
“It feels really great to bring it home,” said Vautier. “I think there is going to be a lot of celebrating tonight.”
Audi Sport Team Land driver Kelvin van der Linde drove the No. 29 Audi R8 LMS to the finish line in Hour 8. The 22-year-old South African racer has been part of the winning team for the second straight season, winning with Audi Team Mangus at the inaugural event in 2017. German co-drivers Christopher Haase and Christopher Mies celebrated with him on the top step of the podium. Haase, who was driving on Saturday when the team won the Pole Shootout, fell just shy of besting Vautier for the drivers’ championship.
“This weekend, I had an unbelievable team,” said van der Linde. “Running up front was not really the place I wanted to be, because I was looking in the rearview mirror a long time waiting for them to catch up. The hunter became the hunted. I think they took too much out of their tires early. I am happy to take the win.”
Audi was victorious in GT4 as well with Rearden Racing fielding the top entry with American co-drivers Vesko Kozarov, David Roberts and Max Faulkner.
“There is a lot to be proud of here,” said Chris Reinke, head of Audi Sport. “Audi won the championship for the third straight year. We came here flying the stars and stripes on the Audi R8s, and now we get to fly the stars and stripes on the podium.”
Top GT3 Pro-Am honors went to the Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 in a landslide with an eighth overall finish by co-drivers Nick Leventis (England), Davide Fumanelli (Italy) and Felipe Fraga (Brazil). The GT Cup winners in the US RaceTronics Lamborghini Huracan finished No. 14 overall with co-drivers Steven Aghakhani (USA), Taylor Proto (Great Britain) and Richard Antinucci (USA). The father, son and co-driver team and Bryan and Colton Herta and George Kurtz were victorious with the Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai i30-N in TCR.
Thus concludes the final event of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca’s 2018 motorsports schedule. Mark your calendars for next year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours, which moves to March 29-31. For the remainder of 2018, the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course will host track rentals, a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot (November 22), Cars and Coffee (November 10) and Twilight Cycling events (November 14 and December 5).
Tickets for next September’s INDYCAR Monterey Grand Prix on September 20-22 are already available by visiting www.WeatherTechRaceway.com or by calling 831-242-8200. The full 2019 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca schedule will be announced next week on www.WeatherTechRaceway.com.