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Ferrari doubles its IGTC title chances by splitting drivers’ championship leaders at Kyalami

Ferrari doubles its IGTC title chances by splitting drivers’ championship leaders at Kyalami

> Vermeulen also replaces Fjordbach at High Class
> Updated Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour entry list

There’s been a late change to 2021’s Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour entry list following Ferrari’s decision to partially split its championship leading co-drivers Come Ledogar, Nicklas Nielsen and Alessandro Pier Guidi for this weekend’s Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli season finale (February 3-5).

The trio are two points clear of Audi’s Patric Niederhauser, Markus Winkelhock and Christopher Haase, while Timur Boguslavskiy (Mercedes-AMG) is the only other mathematical title contender 13 points further back.

Audi previously opted to split Haase from Niederhauer and Winkelhock to double its chances of overturning Ferrari’s two-point advantage. And now Maranello has followed suit by moving Nielsen across AF Corse – Francorchamps Motors’ garage to the #71 488 GT3. Miguel Molina, who was due to share that car with Antonio Fuoco and Alessio Rovera, now joins Ledogar and Pier Guidi aboard #51.

So small is the margin that the best placed of those four crews will win the drivers’ crown on Saturday, although Audi remains the overwhelming manufacturers’ championship favourite courtesy of its 36-point advantage over Ferrari with a maximum 43 still to play for.

Changes elsewhere include High Class Racing enlisting Thierry Vermeulen’s services after Anders Fjordbach was unable to travel due to personal reasons. This entry is nominated to score IGTC points for Audi and is also gunning for the event’s Pro-Am honours against SunEnergy1.

2020's Benelux GT4 champion, who is also the son of Max Verstappen's manager, will be making his first competitive outing in a GT3 car. However, it won't be the Dutch youngster's first endurance racing experience: the 19-year-old finished second in the 992-Pro class at the recent Dubai 24 Hours.

"I am extremely happy and thankful that I will be joining High Class Racing & WRT," said Vermeulen, whose entry is receiving technical support from Audi's Belgian factory squad. "It will be my first GT3 race so let's see what we can do in this very competitive field of drivers. I am looking forward to working with this amazing team and learning for my future in GT3 racing."

Elsewhere, a shipping delay at Port Elizabeth will prevent local squad Scuderia Scribante from fielding its second Lamborghini Huracan. The new chassis, shipped from Squadra Corse in Italy, was due to be raced over the first hour by SA GT regular Aldo Scribante.

The final change concerns Mikaeel Pitamber who is now slated to drive both of MJR Motorsport’s entries. His national Audi GT3 is one of two cars completing only the first hour before the South African swaps to the team’s R8 LMS GT4, which will contest the race’s full duration.