The final round of the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge ended in disappointment for Gary Paffett and his #44 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG as the team ran as high as second-place before a collision caused a brake failure and ended the team’s hopes of a podium.
Alongside Tristan Vautier and Lewis Williamson, Gary and the team got off to a solid start by finishing the first practice session of the weekend in second place as Gary got to grips with the 16-turn, 4.522km anticlockwise circuit in South Africa. When the time came around for qualifying, Gary was the first of the trio to hit the track and put the #44 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG in 18th place after the first round of qualifying. When qualifying was complete and the average lap times were calculated from the three sessions, Gary and the team had secured a 20th place starting position for the 9-hour race. Starting the race for the #44 Strakka Racing team, Gary got a fantastic start off the line and pushed his Mercedes-AMG through to 16th place after the first lap and continued the upward trend as he came into the pits for his first pit stop from 13th place on lap 28. After the pit stop, Gary was able to begin to record some rapid lap times as he fought his way through the field and, after all the cars in the field had taken their first stop, Gary was running in second place by lap 37. Maintaining second place for almost thirty consecutive laps, Gary dived into the pits on lap 65 and completed his fantastic two-hour stint that had put the team firmly in the fight for the podium places. With Tristan Vautier now behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG, he continued the strong progress and fought his way back up the field as strategies played out and ran inside the top-five before disaster struck the team. On lap 98, just before the three-hour mark. Tristan was involved in a collision and was forced to pull up with a brake failure, and the #44’s race coming to an early finish. “Super disappointed to end the race and our IGTC season so early. I was really pleased with my stint and we got ourselves from P20 to P2 in the first couple of hours. Tristan continued the strong progress but unfortunately, he was involved in an incident and suffered a brake failure which put us out of the race. A huge thanks to the whole team at Strakka Racing and Mercedes-AMG, and my two super teammates Lewis Williamson and Tristan Vautier. Luck just wasn’t with us this season.”