International GT racing returns to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend with the Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours.
The California 8 Hours is the West Coast’s only professional endurance race. Competitors are drawn from the global Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli who competed in February’s Bathurst 12 Hour, such as winning driver Matt Campbell. The young Australian will be racing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the first time.
Additionally, the event has attracted drivers who shined in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s first two events, the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Rolex 24 at Daytona overall winner Renger van der Zande and two-time GT Daytona champion Christina Nielsen are among the IMSA regulars who will be battling for a spot on the California 8 Hours podium.
A record eight manufacturers are fielding full-time entries in the Intercontinental GT Challenge — Audi, Mercedes AMG, Bentley, Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, Nissan and Honda. Three GT3 models will be making their series debut at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca: Audi R8 LMS Evo, Honda NSX GT3 Evo and 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Audi has swept the previous California 8 Hours events in 2017 and 2018 with 22-year-old South African driving ace Kelvin van der Linde being part of both winning teams and setting the lap record. Mercedes AMG enters this event with the lead in the manufacturer’s standings, while Porsche co-drivers Campbell, Dennis Olsen and Dirk Werner top the driver’s championship. The 60 drivers entered represent 19 different countries.
“The track is fantastic for a driver and for GT3 racing,” said van der Linde. “In endurance racing, you have to make it to the finish without any scratches. You still must have a competitive car, which we have had for past two years. It’s a team game, and we’ll make the best of our circumstances to get the hat trick. To be racing here as a two-time winner at the California 8 Hours is a super-proud feeling.”
Outside of the Intercontinental GT Challenge competitors racing for the GT3 overall title, the grid will be completed by a Porsche 714 Cayman GT4, Ford Mustang and BMW M4 battling for GT4 class honors and the Slovakian GT squad ARC Bratislava entering a Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo in GT Cup.
Support series GT4 West America will have a double-header on Friday with hour-long races starting at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Intercontinental GT Challenge racers will qualify on Friday from 11:20 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. followed by an autograph session at 2:30-3:15 p.m. and a 15-minute Pole Shootout race between the 10 quickest drivers to close the day at 3:40-3:55 p.m.
The California 8 Hours feature race will be held on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a podium celebration to follow. Gates open at 7 a.m. The paddock will be filled with activity such as an exotic car display, go-karts and vendors. The broadcast will be live on CBS Sports Network at 8-11 a.m. and 3-5 p.m.