A damaged splitter three hours from home for Earl Bamber saw the Kiwi slipped back to seventh at the chequered flag for the Kyalami 9 Hour, missing out on a chance for the Intercontinental GT Challenge title.
Bamber and co-drivers Lauren Vanthoor and Kevin Estre looked to have had rectified their qualifying troubles by running as high as fifth at the mid-way point of the race, despite starting last in class.
Unfortunately, the Dinamic team were compelled into an unscheduled pitstop on the sixth hour after the Porsche picked up damage to the front splitter. A late thunderstorm then made track conditions on the brink of undrivable and Estre brought the car home one lap down.
An unlikely race victory, and the IGTC drivers’ title, was awarded to Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus for Walkenhorst BMW.
Together with Sheldon van der Linde, the trio pounced on the late shift in weather conditions to usurp the pole-sitting Honda for the lead in the final hour.
Catsburg took the checkered flag under safety car conditions ahead of Frederic Vervisch who finished second with his Audi Sport Team WRT co-drivers Mirko Bortolotti and Charles Weerts.
Before the arrival of the rain, Bertrand Baguette was picking up from where his co-drivers had left off with the No.30 Honda NSX GT3 dominating the first eight hours of the race.
They held a mammoth lead over Mattia Drudi in the Audi Sport R8, which then spun off the circuit in the challenging conditions.
Race control yielded to the skies and deployed a Full Course Yellow to prevent more cars from skating off the road.
Honda opted to carry out a full pit stop while the race was neutralised under FCY. But importantly, the likes of Walkenhorst BMW and Audi Sport elected to stay put, anticipating a safety car finish.
However, in another confusing twist, Walkenhorst and Audi Sport were then instructed to make a pitstop after they risked exceeding their driver time limits, which are capped at 65 minutes.
They duly did so, and the Audi emerged in front of the BMW, but was then told to hand the position back as the BMW was narrowly in front at the timing line in the pitlane.
The depleted field then ambled behind the safety car for the rest of the race, with Catsburg and Farfus overhauling Bamber and Vathoor for the title as a result. It is also the BMW’s duo second win this season, adding to their triumph in the 8 Hours of Indianapolis earlier in the year.
GPX Racing Porsche drivers Matt Campbell, Patrick Pilet and Mathieu Jaminet completed the podium. The trio also finish runners-up in the championship despite being en route for the crown before a puncture two hours from home.
After opting to stop under the FCY, Honda came through in fourth, ahead of the Car Collection Audi driven by Drudi, Christopher Haase and Patric Niederhauser.
In their final GT3 race as a works squad, Bentley had a troubled race.
Bathurst 12 Hour winners Jules Gounon, Jordan Pepper and Maxime Soulet had their race end just after the second round of pit stops when their No. 7 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 suffered an engine failure.
The remaining Bentley driven by the all-British crew of Oliver Jarvis, Seb Morris and Buncombe ended up three laps down in ninth after a spin.