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BMW Dominates Indianapolis 8 Hour with 1-2 Finish in Both Classes at IMS
BMW Dominates Indianapolis 8 Hour with 1-2 Finish in Both Classes at IMS

The Walkenhorst Motorsport team mastered mixed conditions in the Indianapolis 8 Hour sports car endurance race Sunday on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, as the No. 34 BMW driven by Augusto Farfus, Nicky Catsburg and Connor De Phillippi led a 1-2 finish for the German team and manufacturer.

The No. 34 BMW M6 GT3 crossed the finish line 41.346 seconds ahead of the No. 35 BMW M6 GT3 driven by Walkenhorst teammates Martin Tomczyk, Nicholas Yelloly and David Pittard in the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli sports car race on the 14-turn, 2.439 mile IMS circuit. They were the only two cars on the lead lap at the finish, under the orange glow of the afternoon sun that contrasted with the heavy rain of the early portions of the race.

Catsburg led the final 119 laps of the eight-hour race.

“Very special,” Catsburg said. “Today was easier than expected somehow. My teammates did a fantastic job, Connor De Phillippi, Augusto Farfus at the start. No mistakes, which was the key to success. Thank you so much to my teammates, Augusto and Connor. Team Walkenhorst – unbelievable job, no mistakes. I only had to bring it back home.”

The No. 30 Team Honda Racing Acura-Honda NSX GT3 Evo shared by Mario Farnbacher, Dane Cameron and Renger van de Zande finished third in the longest major race in the 111-year history of the Racing Capital of the World.

BMW also took the top two spots in the class for the slower GT4 sports cars. The No. 82 Bimmerworld BMW M4 GT4 shared by James Clay, Chandler Hull and Bill Auberlen won by 6.508 seconds over the No. 438 ST Racing BMW M4 GT4 driven by Samantha Tan, Jon Miller and Nick Wittmer.

Heavy rain started to fall just as the field of 22 cars took the green flag, led by the pole-sitting No. 34 BMW with Farfus behind the wheel. That created interesting tire strategy decisions for all teams, as the initial radar showed the rain would pass through the area quickly.

So, a handful of teams stayed on slick tires, anticipating a quickly drying circuit. But the rain intensified, forcing nearly every driver on slicks to stop for rain tires.

Jordan Pepper built a significant lead in the early laps of the race as he stayed on slicks on the wet track in the series-leading No. 7 Bentley Continental GT3, showing impressive driving skill. But eventually the rain got too heavy for Pepper, also coaxing him to pit for rain tires, as teams checked their weather apps as closely as their telemetry and timing screens.

The No. 75 Mercedes-AMG GT3 shared by Kenny Habul, Martin Konrad and Mikael Grenier took the lead after a full-course caution and stops by other cars an hour into the race.

Team Penske IMSA driver Cameron and Tomczyk then produced a spirited duel for the lead nearly two hours into the race, with Tomczyk sneaking past Cameron in lapped traffic for the lead.

The tire dance then continued for all teams, as the rain let up and then intensified. The Walkenhorst team made all the right decisions between slick and rain tires. The No. 30 Honda/Acura and No. 31 Audi R8 LMS GT3 team of Mirko Bortolotti, Spencer Pumpelly and Markus Winkelhock guessed wrong during the weather wheel of fortune, and repeated stops to change tires put them three laps down.

Pepper took the lead during pit stop cycles but collided with a slower GT4 car about 2 ½ hours into the race, forcing an extended stop for repairs and ruining the Bentley team’s chances for victory.

The Walkenhorst team then took control after Pepper’s misfortune, but it was immediately obvious there were no team orders. Yelloly and De Phillippi dueled for the lead in team cars while building their lead to more than a lap.

That intra-team battle continued with Pittard and De Phillippi racing for the lead, with the No. 30 Acura working back on the lead lap and closing to within 18 seconds of the front nearing the halfway point, mainly due to being on a different pit stop sequence.

The No. 30 Acura took the lead when the BMW’s pitted just past the halfway point, but De Phillippi wasted no time diving under van der Zande for the lead in Turn 1 shortly after the BMW’s stopped.

A full-course caution in the sixth hour gave the Acura team a chance to get within striking distance of the lead BMW’s. But differing pit stop strategies and traffic, combined with a slow stop for the No. 30 Acura due to the car being stuck in gear, all but sealed the 1-2 finish for the Walkenhorst BMW team.

“We had a really good setup for the dry,” Catsburg said. “We always joke about it: Nobody wants to do the start in those wet conditions, but then you have Augusto Farfus, and you just know he’s going to bring it back without making any mistakes. That’s the key to success.”

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