Endurance for the Endurance-The California 8 Hour
It takes a certain amount of insanity to read about an 8 hour race and to immediately feel that this is something that is not only needed, but should be done more often. That was the approach taken when TLP read that Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca would host the third round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge for the California 8 Hours. It would be the longest ever race at the famed track, challenging drivers, crew members, track officials and fans to a long Sunday, to see just who would make it until the end the 85 degree October day. At the end, the surviving drivers would cover over 670 miles!
It's not just the length of time that is unique to a racing event, but the entire atmosphere changes for a long endurance race. For 8 full hours, the hills around the track would be alive with aural artistry of some of the finest racing GT cars ever created. For 8 hours the race was the center of the universe at Laguna Seca, with spectators subject to its orbit.
The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hours, Total 24 Hours of Spa and Sepang 12 Hours comprise the calendar for the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge, the first ever global GT3 Series. The 19 car field for the California 8-hours, where each car would need three drivers, included a roster of some of sports cars most skilled drivers with resumes that include wins in North America and Europe. Kelvin van der Linde winner of the ’17 24 Hours of Nurburgring drove the Audi R8 for Audi Sport Team Magnus. Longtime Porsche factory driver, and guy who seems to appear in every sports car race (everywhere), Patrick Long, piloted the Porsche Motorsport North America entry along with his factory brethren Jorg Bergmeirster and Romain Dumas. California was well represented by entries from K-Pax Racing and TRG.
Audi Sport Team Land with Christopher Haase, Christopher Mies and Connor de Philippie led from pole, and for almost 7 hours of the 8 hour race. From the opening laps it looked as if the race was concluded as the Audi Sport Team Land R8 looked to lap the circuit as if on rails. Lap after lap they built their lead looking unstoppable. With long distance endurance racing though, nothing is certain until the checkered flag drops.
After a final round of pit stops the two leading Audis violated the minimum pit delta times and had to serve drive through penalties. In spite of this delay, they pulled away from the third place Magnus Audi. In the final 50 minutes, the #29 Audi Sport Team Land car driven by Christopher Mies and the #11 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car driven by Robin Frijns were pushing hard in the final stretch of the race when coming upon a slower TRG Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 at Turn 10. They sliced past the Aston and then come together sending Frijns into the gravel trap. Mies led after the full course caution but Audi, sporting some aero damage from the collision, was hunted down by van der Linde in the Magnus Audi. On lap 300 he made the pass for the win.
With Audi taking the first two positions, the best of the rest would be in the hands of the Sonoma, California based #9 K-Pax Racing McLaren coming in third place.
Sadly, California’s own Patrick Long and 2017 Pirelli World Challenge Season Champion in the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 with Bergmeister and Dumas had to bow out in the final hours with a fuel issue.
It was a successful demonstration of brutal endurance at Laguna Seca and we hope this is the start of more endurance events at the track. Though, in the future it will be vital to field more than 19 cars for such a race.