Podium success at the California 8 Hours gives Mercedes-AMG a double lead in the IGTC

Podium success at the California 8 Hours gives Mercedes-AMG a double lead in the IGTC

31.03.2019: After third place at Bathurst, Mercedes-AMG also scored a podium finish at Laguna Seca in the second round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC): second place for the car with starting number 999 of the Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing with Maximili

After third place at Bathurst, Mercedes-AMG also scored a podium finish at Laguna Seca in the second round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC): second place for the car with starting number 999 of the Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing with Maximilian Buhk (GER), Maximilian Götz (GER) and Raffaele Marciello (ITA) in the California 8 Hours. As a result, the trio also moves up into the lead of the drivers’ standings.

In total, three Mercedes-AMG GT3s managed to finish in the top ten of the endurance race. With the good result, the performance and sports car brand from Affalterbach also extends its lead in the IGTC manufacturers’ standings.

•    Positions 2, 6 and 10 for Mercedes-AMG GT3s in the California 8 Hours

•    Buhk, Götz and Marciello new leaders in IGTC drivers’ standings

•    Mercedes-AMG extends lead in manufacturers’ standings

In excellent weather and track conditions, spectators at the legendary Laguna Seca Raceway got to see a thrilling second round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli, in which the teams with the Mercedes-AMG GT3s particularly shone thanks to great consistency and a good race strategy.

The #999 entry of the Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing had a perfect start into the 8-hour race: from tenth place on the grid, Maximilian Buhk made up five positions right away. After the first change, Maximilian Götz completed a faultless double stint, followed by Raffaele Marciello, who drove the Mercedes-AMG GT3 up into the podium positions for the first time.

As the race went on, the trio established itself among the frontrunners in the field. In the final third of the race, Götz, Buhk and Marciello increased the pressure on the leaders more and more. In his final double stint, finishing driver Marciello cemented second place, which he brought home after 327 laps. With this podium finish, the three Mercedes-AMG drivers now have a total of 36 points each and jointly move up into the lead of the Intercontinental GT Challenge drivers’ standings.

With the team’s #888 sister car, Maro Engel (GER), Yelmer Buurman (NED) and Luca Stolz (GER) started from eleventh place on the grid. Having gained positions in the opening stages, the trio incurred a time penalty for overtaking under yellow and lost places again. In the remainder of the race, the team worked its way back up into the top ten, but was unable to make it all the way up to the front of the 20-car field. Final driver Maro Engel eventually crossed the finish line in sixth place.

The #43 STRAKKA Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 rounds out the triple top ten result for Mercedes-AMG. Local driver Christina Nielsen (DEN), Dominik Baumann (AUT) and Adam Christodoulou (GBR) started the race from 15th place on the grid. With consistently good laps and trouble-free changes, the trio continuously moved up throughout the eight hours of the race and saw final driver Baumann completing the good result of the Mercedes-AMG GT3s in the California 8 Hours by finishing in tenth place.

Having started twelfth, the #44 car of the Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing with Gary Paffett (GBR), Tristan Vautier (FRA) and Lewis Williamson (GBR) had bad luck. After a good start by Paffett, defending IGTC champion Vautier moved the car up into a temporary podium position. Halfway through the race, however, a steering issue forced the team to retire.

As the best-placed Mercedes-AMG cars, the #999 and the #888 scored valuable points for the IGTC manufacturers’ standings: the performance and sports car brand from Affalterbach extends its lead and already has a margin of 19 points after two of five rounds.

Maximilian Buhk, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing #999:
“The race was top. I made a super start, although it was a bit tight in the first two corners, but I made it through quite well. All in all, it was a very hard race without a safety car, without a single neutralisation. As a result, we had to drive in a strategically clever way, which we managed. We also handled the increasing temperatures well and had the right tyre management. Second place is great, but of course, we are looking at the overall situation in the championship.  Therefore, the points we scored today were very important.”

Maximilian Götz, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing #999
: “We are super happy with second place. It was a really close race with a very good field of drivers. Max had a mega start that was the basis for our result. We didn’t make any mistakes and made it through very well. Raffaele, Max and the entire team have all done a great job. This is a huge step ahead for us in the championship.”

Raffaele Marciello, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing #999:
“After P3 at Bathurst, today’s second place is super for the championship, of course. Consistency is the key to success. We can’t win every race, but when we keep going on like this, we are in a good position. In any case, today, we did everything right.”

Maro Engel, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing #888:
“First of all, congratulations to the number 999 sister car, they drove a great race, made it through very well and have scored valuable points. For us, things didn’t run entirely flawless, the first stint already was a bit difficult. Nevertheless, we are still quite happy with P6 in the end. We have also scored some good points, both for the manufacturers’ standings and for ourselves as the drivers. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this.”

Luca Stolz, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing #888:
“In the opening stages, we had some issues and a stupid penalty, that cost us a better position. We certainly could have finished in the top five, a podium would have been within reach as well. We will learn from this and come back stronger. But all in all, it was a good weekend for Mercedes-AMG.”

Christina Nielsen, STRAKKA Racing #43:
“This was my first race weekend for STRAKKA Racing together with Adam Christodoulou and Dominik Baumann. Of course, there was a lot for me to learn, but all in all, we have made good progress. We discovered where we are strong already and what we still have to work on. We can certainly build on this top ten result. Already now, many thanks to Mercedes-AMG for the great support.”

Adam Christodoulou, STRAKKA Racing #43:
“That was a very tough weekend for us and particularly for Christina as the only silver-rated driver in a field almost entirely made up of manufacturer-supported Pro cars. Nevertheless, we have shown our competitive spirit. We came from P15, but we were in the top ten at the end, leaving some big names behind us. From that perspective, we are very happy.”

Tristan Vautier, Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing #44:
“Our retirement really is a pity. The car was running very well and the race set-up was really good. Then, we got problems with the steering and the car was leaking fluid as well. In the pits, our guys found the leak, but unfortunately, there was no way to repair it quickly, so we had no choice but to retire our car from the race. As I said, a pity, but I am very happy with the great co-operation with STRAKKA, for which I raced for the first time. Thanks to the entire team!”

Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing: “
We are celebrating second place like a victory with both teams. That was yet another unbelievably hard race, something we know from the IGTC events meanwhile. A battle until the very last minute and at the end, we are overjoyed with being in the lead of the drivers’ standings and having extended our lead in the manufacturers’ standings. That allows us to head home with a good feeling.”
Result California 8 Hours*:

1.    27      Ferrari 488 GT3    HubAuto Corsa    Nick Foster (AUS), Tim Slade (AUS), Miguel Molina (ESP)

2.      999      Mercedes-AMG GT3    Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing    Maximilian Buhk (GER), Maximilian Götz (GER), Raffaele Marciello (ITA)

3.     911
     Porsche 911 GT3-R    Park Place Motorsports    Romain Dumas (FRA), Sven Müller (GER), Mathieu Jaminet (FRA)
6.     888
     Mercedes-AMG GT3    Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing    Yelmer Buurman (NED), Maro Engel (GER), Luca Stolz (GER)

10.    43
     Mercedes-AMG GT3    STRAKKA Racing    Dominik Baumann (AUT), Adam Christodoulou (GBR), Christina Nielsen (DEN)

DNF    44
     Mercedes-AMG GT3    Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing    Gary Paffett (GBR), Tristan Vautier (FRA), Lewis Williamson (GBR)

* excerpt subject to confirmation by the organisers

Jochen Übler, photos Mercedes


31.03.2019 / MaP

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