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Audi Team Rallies to Dramatic Victory in Indianapolis 8 Hour Sports Car Race

Monday, October 18, 2021 Paul Kelly, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

2021 Indy 8 Hour

Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock of Germany and Patric Niederhauser of Switzerland teamed to drive the No. 25 Audi Sport Team Sainteloc Audi R8 LMS GT3 to a dramatic victory Sunday in an unpredictable, chaotic Indianapolis 8 Hour Presented by AWS.

Race Results

Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock of Germany and Patric Niederhauser of Switzerland teamed to drive the No. 25 Audi Sport Team Sainteloc Audi R8 LMS GT3 to a dramatic victory Sunday in an unpredictable, chaotic Indianapolis 8 Hour Presented by AWS.

The French-based No. 25 Sainteloc team beat the No. 89 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Raffaele Marciello of Italy, Daniel Juncadella of Spain and Timur Boguslavskiy of Russia by 11.958 seconds after eight hours of competition on the 2.589-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course layout.

The No. 3 KPAX Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo shared by Jordan Pepper of South Africa and Andrea Caldarelli and Mirko Bortolotti of Italy finished third, 22.853 seconds behind the winners.

Team Sainteloc’s victory came after an improbable rally from a one-lap deficit with less than an hour to go. The Sainteloc team also overcame a large gap three hours into the race after the team was assessed a drive-through penalty for undercutting its minimum pit stop time.

Only Haase and Niederhauser were able to celebrate at the famous IMS Yard of Bricks and Victory Podium after the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli endurance sports car race, as teammate Winkelhock left the track before the end of the race to fly home to Germany because his partner was due to give birth. Haase and Niederhauser talked with their absent teammate on the phone from pit lane.

“I don’t really have words,” Niederhauser said. “In the end, we simply never gave up after the Safety Car came right out after the pit stop. I thought it was game over, everything is done. We just kept fighting and finally, finally got that win.”

Said Haase: “The difference was to stay as low as possible on mistakes, and I think that’s what we did. Thanks to the Audi Sport Team and Sainteloc Racing. They did a fantastic job. This is a dream come true, 8 Hours of Indy. I was dreaming of that.”

NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Callum Ilott of Great Britain, one of the brightest stars of the day, drove the No. 71 AF Corse-Francorchamps Motors Ferrari 488 GT3 to the lead with one hour, 33 minutes remaining by passing the leading Marciello in the No. 89 Mercedes and the second-place No. 25 Audi of Niederhauser with a dive under both cars at the end of the back straightaway.

Ilott and Niederhauser then engaged in a spirited battle for the lead as they wove through lapped GT3 traffic and the slower GT4 class cars, with Ilott’s lead only three-tenths of a second with about an hour to go.

The eight-hour race turned on its head with 52 minutes to go. Team Sainteloc decided to pit Niederhauser for the final stop for its No. 25 Audi. It was expected the AF Corse team would do the same on the next lap for Ilott so the Audi wouldn’t gain time on fresh tires and undercut the pitting Ferrari for the lead.

But Ilott never made it to the pits. His dreams of Indy victory ended in Turn 1 on that lap when his leading No. 71 Ferrari and a slower Aston Martin GT4 car made contact while Ilott tried to pass on the outside entering the corner, inflicting damage to the right front of Ilott’s car.

The No. 32 Audi Sport Team WRT car driven by Dries Vanthoor of Belgium made a stop for fuel only during the Safety Car period triggered by Ilott’s crash and ended up in the lead, followed by the No. 99 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 driven by Jules Gounon of France. Niederhauser was third but a lap down.

With 36 minutes left, the No. 99 Mercedes driven by Gounon was eliminated from victory and podium contention after colliding with the No. 59 Crucial Motorsports McLaren 720 S GT3 driven by Ben Barnicoat of Great Britain. Vanthoor was on the lead lap alone, with fellow Audi driver Niederhauser elevated to second.

But there was even bigger drama to come. Vanthoor was assessed a drive-through penalty with 26 minutes remaining for failure to follow instructions from Race Control. That pushed Niederhauser to the lead, which he kept to the checkered flag.

“Right now, to be fully honest with you, I have never been so unhappy for a second position because I felt like that was not racing out there,” a bitterly disappointed Juncadella said. “I couldn’t understand how many Safety Cars were out there. So many reasons, but it played not in our favor. I love this place, so much history, but this kind of racing is not what I signed up for.”

A total of 41 laps were run behind the Safety Car, totaling two hours, one minute of the race’s eight-hour time.

The pole-winning No. 51 AF Corse-Francorchamps Motors Ferrari 488 GT3 shared by Alessandro Pierguidi of Italy, Nicklas Nielsen of Denmark and Come Ledogar of France finished fifth.

Class winners included the No. 26 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 in Silver Cup (fourth overall), the No. 75 SunEnergy 1 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in Pro-Am (10th overall), the No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 in Am (16th overall) and the No. 36 Bimmerworld Racing BMW M4 GT4 in GT4.