Audi Sport Team WRT took a dominant victory in yesterday's Suzuka 10 Hours to secure the German manufacturer its maiden international triumph on Japanese soil.
The marquee Asian event followed last month's Total 24 Hours of Spa on the Intercontinental GT Challenge schedule. And, after narrowly missing out on a podium at the Belgian endurance classic, the Ingolstadt brand was back to its very best at Suzuka.
Indeed, the WRT squad did not put a foot wrong from start to finish. Its #25 Audi R8 LMS of Kelvin van der Linde, Dries Vanthoor and Frederic Vervisch assumed the lead at the beginning of the event's third hour and was in commanding form thereafter. Its eventual margin of victory was 40 seconds, while the crew led an impressive 75 percent of the total race distance.
There were jubilant scenes on the podium, though the winning drivers and team will have little time to celebrate before heading to Germany for this weekend's Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe event at the Nurburgring. With the concluding sprint-format race taking place just one week later in Hungary, it promises to be a busy spell for several drivers who will travel from Suzuka to resume GT World Challenge duties.
The #999 GruppeM Racing entry took runner-up spot thanks to an all-star tiro of Blancpain GT Series champions: Maxi Buhk, Raffaele Marciello and Maro Engel. The result has increased Mercedes-AMG's manufacturers' championship advantage, while also ensuring that Buhk and Marciello are the leading contenders for the drivers' title ahead of the season-concluding Kyalami 9 Hour.
The top-three was completed by the #912 Absolute Racing Porsche of Dennis Olsen Matt Campbell and Dirk Werner, who returned to the podium for the first time since winning the season-opening Bathurst 12 Hour. They will be back on Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup duty with the ROWE Racing squad for next month's finale at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (27-29 September).
The revived Kyalami 9 Hour will host the deciding round of 2019’s Intercontinental GT Challenge on November 21-23.