One expects a 113-year-old to have seen it all. Surely there is nothing new to be experienced. But for the first time in the history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, b. 1909 A.D., there was racing into the night, with the third edition of the Indianapolis 8 Hour beginning at noon and ending at 8. p.m., about 45 minutes after sunset.
“To see it under the lights while they’re racing after sunset… pretty special moment,” said IMS President Doug Boles. “One hundred thirteen years and having not ever done this before. It’s been a lot of fun. And you know, Stefan and Greg and the team at SRO, I appreciate them taking the chance and letting us play around with this a little bit.”
Boles said he sees no reason that the North America round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge wouldn’t be similar next year.
“It adds that extra element for us,” he said. “I know they want to do it. I think we’d like to do the same thing. We’ll debrief afterwards, but I don’t know why we wouldn’t do anything different next year. I’m pretty excited about this and amazing just to see these cars run around here with the headlights on and in the dark.”
Gill was similarly enthusiastic about the show the race put on going into the night, where Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing won by less than a second over AF-Corse Francorchamps. The race set a distance record for the event of just under 800 miles, being interrupted by only two caution periods.
“Stefan had a dream of us coming to Indy, but he didn’t think it was possible,” Gill said. “Doug Boles and I were able to put it together, and we were so excited. So I’m so thankful to the Speedway to be able to do it. But then we’ve done that now … what’s next? How about a night race? A 113-year-old facility and never had been a night race and we got to do the first one. So we’re over-the-moon happy. We’re so thankful for our drivers, our fans, the Speedway, and we just look forward to next year going bigger and better.”
Nose-to-tail for hours
The final battle came down to two teams who qualified poorly, not setting a time due to a red flag in the first qualifying session. In Intercontinental GT Challenge, the initial qualifying is the average of the three drivers’ best times. The top-10 go to a pole shootout. But neither the No. 71 AF-CORSE FRANCORCHAMPS Ferrari 488 GT3 2020 Evo of Daniel Serra, Ulysse De Pauw and Antonio Fuoco, nor the No. 77 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing of Daniel Morad, Daniel Juncadella and Raffaele Marciello got a qualifying time in the first session.
However, Morad and Serra moved their cars toward the front in their first stints, and the battle at the end came down to Marciello vs Fuoco.
“I had a nice fight before me,” said Marciello, who has now won at every Intercontinental GT Challenge venue run so far except Bathurst. “Antonio passed me first and I to fight a lot to pass him back. He was much quicker at 10 than me. I had a lot of pickup . I was struggling quite a lot but I mean when it’s two laps to go with a lot of traffic … the mirrors had no tint, so for me it was really blind inside. I tried my best to keep the car in front.”
Indy tribute livery
The red-and-white color scheme on the winning Craft Bamboo Mercedes-AMG was a tribute to Teddy Yip’s Theodore Racing, specifically designed to elicit memories of Vern Schuppan’s 1981 Red Roof Inns livery, worn on the car when Schuppan scored Thoedore Racing’s best finish in the Indianapolis 500.
Home country heroes
While the battle for overall victory was waged between Intercontinental GT Challenge entrants, the Pro-Am and Am categories were won by Fanatec GT World Challenge America teams, in addition to the Turner Motorsport squad of Robby Foley, Michael Dinan and John Edwards finishing third in Pro in the No. 96 BMW M4 GT3.
Not only did GTWCA teams win in Pro-Am and Am, both were first-time winners as well. Chandler Hull, Bill Auberlen and Richard Heistand won Pro-Am in the Bimmerworld BMW M4 GT3, Hull and Auberlen’s first victory since moving to GT3. In addition, Hull and Auberlen have three wins in a row in the Indianapolis 8 Hours, having won previously in the GT4 category that was not included this year.
“We were on the podium eight times this season. It was tough,” said Hull. “We’re so glad to have the monkey off our back and take the final win of the season.This is a big one. Bill and I have won the GT4 race here, back to back, prior, so to get another win here three times in a row, it’s unbelievable. The Bimmerworld guys did an amazing job all season long. I can’t thank them enough. Bill is the best mentor in the world of racing. I mean, it’s a huge honor to be able to drive alongside him.”
Auberlen spent the final stint holding off Dominik Baumann of Kenny Habul’s Sun Energy 1 Racing, Intercontinental GT Challenge regulars and the defending winners of the Indianapolis 8 Hour that had led most of the race.
“He came out on new tires, so he was super strong when he came out,” said Auberlen. “I knew he’s got the whole infield covered. I got the straightaways covered – the BMW is quick on the straight, not so good in the turns, and he’s got just the opposite. So all I do is point this thing straight, get it off every corner. And I think it was like 45 minutes, I had to do this right. So no mistakes on the braking, because otherwise he would have got me, so the brakes had to be perfect, and the exits had to be perfect.”
The Am class was taken by Zelus Motorsports with Jason Harward, Jeff Daskalos and Seth Lucas in their Lamborghini Huracán. The team had been competing in Pro-Am the rest of the season with Madison Snow alongside Harward.