Indy 8 Hour brings international sports car stars to IMS

Images by Richard S. James

Indy 8 Hour brings international sports car stars to IMS

The second running of the Indy 8-Hour at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, part of the SRO Motorsports Group’s Intercontinental GT Challenge, will be rather different from the first…and that’s a good thing.

The 2020 event was run under difficult conditions, with limited spectators, limited international teams and drivers, and with a pair of NTT IndyCar Series races tacked on, all due to the pandemic. This time, the 2021 edition will feature a full complement of cars, including the largest GT3 field ever to run in North America, with star drivers and teams running on Oct. 17.

“This year we are excited to just focus on the 8-Hour endurance race, which is a long endurance race for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” says Doug Boles, president of IMS. “I’m excited about it. There should be no fan restrictions and hopefully our weather will be nice for people to come out and enjoy. It was fun last year. The start of that race was sort of in the wet, which made it an interesting start and it turned out to be a great race.”

Early entries show a field double the size of last year, with more than 40 cars. A little over half of those will be North American teams from GT World Challenge America and Pirelli GT4 America. Filling out the field will be a host of international teams and drivers. As part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, which this year includes the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa and the Kyalami 9 Hour, the IMS round will attract international teams trying to win a title for their respective manufacturers, including Audi Sport, Ferrari, Mercedes-AMG, Porsche and Lamborghini. The entry reads like a who’s who of international sports car racing. But there will be some local flavor as well – Conor Daly and Pippa Mann, two names well known to IndyCar fans, will be in the field as well.

“Fans will get the largest grid of GT3 cars to run in North America,” says Greg Gill, president and CEO of SRO Motorsports America. “We’re currently at 29 and the overall grid will be 41, maybe a little higher. That’s double from last year, and we’re very thankful for that. I think it makes it fun with the open paddock for fans to enjoy and see everything.”

In addition, there is a race-within-a-race for the GT World Challenge America finale. While the championships are largely decided, all the teams from that series will be starting the 8 Hour, and the GT World Challenge America race technically ends at the three-hour mark. But most of the teams are contesting the full eight hours, bringing sports car stars familiar to American audiences such as Ryan Dalziel, Colin Braun, Robby Foley, Michael Cooper and Jan Heylen to the party, not to mention rising stars such as Taylor Hagler and Dakota Dickerson.

An eight-hour race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a unique experience, and with the quality of drivers and teams, it could certainly be a thrilling race — the last round at Spa produced a last-lap pass for a Ferrari win.

“I know from the quality of drivers that are there, the drivers, teams and manufacturers, it’s anybody’s guess who will be the winner, because they’re all bringing their ‘A’ game,” says Gill. “Thats the quality of Indy, everybody wants to do well there. I think for the fans there, they’re going to be glad they stayed for the entire eight hours.”

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