Mercedes-AMG with a 1-2 and Intercontinental GT Challenge championship lead

Suzuka 10 Hours 2018 – Foto: Gruppe C Photography; #888 Mercedes-AMG, GruppeM Racing: Maro Engel, Raffaele Marciello, Tristan Vautier

Mercedes-AMG Motorsport shows a perfect performance in the third season round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge: In the 10-hour race at Suzuka, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 scores a 1-2. In total, five of the seven participating cars from the performance and sports car brand from Affalterbach finished in the top ten and thus secured the lead in the manufacturers’ and drivers’ standings. The Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing takes victory from the Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing. With their race win, Mercedes-AMG Driver Raffaele Marciello (ITA) and Tristan Vautier (FRA) move up into the lead of the drivers’ standings. Mercedes-AMG brand ambassador Maro Engel (GER) rounds out the victorious trio with starting number 888. In the Pro-AM classification, SunEnergy1 Racing secures victory with drivers Kenny Habul (AUS), Mikaël Grenier (CAN) and Luca Stolz (GER).

  • Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing wins Suzuka 10 Hour
  • Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing combines the 1-2
  • Four class wins for Mercedes-AMG
  • Mercedes-AMG takes the lead in the manufacturers’ standings
  • Mercedes-AMG Drivers Raffaele Marciello (ITA) and Tristan Vautier (FRA) in the lead of the drivers’ standings

The Suzuka Circuit with its long heritage served as the venue for a successful return this weekend: 20 years after the historic 1-2 in the FIA GT Championship during the Suzuka 1000 km race, two cars from Affalterbach again came out on top in the Japanese endurance race. Drivers of the victorious #888 Mercedes-AMG GT3 were Mercedes-AMG brand ambassador Maro Engel (GER), Mercedes-AMG Driver Raffaele Marciello (ITA) and Tristan Vautier (FRA). The successful Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing started the race from second place and already moved up into the lead of the 35-car strong field after the first pit stop, one hour into the race. With temperatures of up to 34 degrees and dry track conditions, Engel/Marciello/Vautier showed a faultless performance. Even as the rest of the field closed up again during a full-course yellow after three hours, the trio kept cool, remained in the lead and dominated proceedings in the race at the front of the field. After 276 laps, final driver Marciello was first across the finish line and thus secured the first win of the season in the Intercontinental GT Challenge. With their success, Marciello and Vautier also moved up into the lead of the drivers’ standings.

After good results in the 12 hours of Bathurst in Australia and the Spa 24 Hours in Europe, the Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing now finished second. In the land of the rising sun, Mercedes-AMG Driver Maximilian Götz (GER), Álvaro Parente (POR) and Lewis Williamson (GBR) successively worked up their way from twelfth on the grid and featured in the top three for the first time after two hours. Just 31.635 seconds down, the #43 Mercedes-AMG GT3 took the chequered flag in second place and thus completed the next 1-2 for Mercedes-AMG in the prestigious endurance race.

The Mercedes-AMG Team GOOD SMILE from Japan in fifth place and the Customer Racing Teams STRAKKA Racing and SunEnergy1 Racing in seventh and tenth position rounded out the strong team result. The Japanese outfit was the third works team and, racing with local heroes Tatsuya Kataoka, Kamui Kobayashi und Nobuteru Taniguchi (all JPN), also showed good progress. From 21stplace on the grid, the team with starting number 00 made up 16 positions till the finish and thus secured the third top five result for a Mercedes-AMG GT3. The second STRAKKA Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with starting number #44 and Mercedes-AMG Driver Maximilian Buhk (GER), Oliver Rowland (GBR) and Adrien Tambay (FRA) lost time due to a full-course yellow after circa three hours. Unfazed, the team worked its way back up and eventually was classified in seventh place. In tenth position, SunEnergy1 Racing added the fifth top ten result from the seven Mercedes-AMG GT3s that took the start. Thus, Kenny Habul (AUS), Mikaël Grenier (CAN) and Luca Stolz (GER) claimed victory in the Pro-AM classification.

Prior to the season finale, the 8-hour race at Laguna Seca Raceway (USA, 26-28 October), Mercedes-AMG is now leading the Intercontinental GT Challenge manufacturers’ standings.

Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing:“In 2018, we are seeing motorsport at the highest level in GT3 racing. Here at Suzuka, it was very difficult for man and machine alike with the hot conditions. Today, literally everyone had to go to the limit. We have witnessed very close competition between all the brands. Especially at the start of the race, we were able to stay out of traffic with strategic decisions thanks to our good grid positions. Here, we were able to make excellent use of the durability and the strengths of our Customer Racing system as well as our cars. I am extremely proud of our Customer Racing Teams. Five cars in the top ten, no technical failures and a closed performance by our teams from all over the world across Asia, Europe and the US is really impressive. With a lot of team spirit, we have improved our performance from one session to another. Next to the strong sporting achievements, the cohesion among the teams has impressed me. Above all, my thanks go out to our Japanese teams for their support.”

Maro Engel, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing #888:“We are mega happy. Many thanks to GruppeM Racing for the outstanding job and to Mercedes-AMG for the incredibly strong car. For us, the weekend simply ran perfectly. Not making any mistakes throughout all the sessions and the ten hours of the race is an impressive achievement. Thanks for that to my teammates as well. The 1-2 for Mercedes-AMG and also victory in the Pro-AM class for my friend Kenny are making me very happy. Now, we can have a nice party today, especially as tomorrow is my birthday and Tristan recently had his.”

Raffaele Marciello, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing #888:“This is an outstanding victory. I am super happy for the entire team and for Mercedes-AMG. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 was perfect to drive and we have shown a really good performance from the very beginning and thus have deserved the win.”

Maximilian Götz, Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing #43:“I am very happy with second place, especially as we had to cope with a damaged car during the final three hours of the race. Celebrating a 1-2 for Mercedes-AMG here, it couldn’t be any better. The track suits me, I have won in the Blancpain GT Series Asia here last year and I am now second. Things are going very, very well for me here and I am happy with the team result.”

Kenny Habul, SunEnergy1 Racing #75:“Many thanks to Mercedes-AMG! So far, I have never been this successful and winning the Pro-AM class here is just overwhelming. This is my maiden win in the class. The entire team and my teammates Luca Stolz and Mikaël Grenier have done a great job. Both for that and for the great support, I really want to express my heartfelt thanks.”

Result Suzuka 10 Hour*:

Car Team Drivers
Mercedes-AMG GT3 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing Maro Engel (GER), Raffaele Marciello (ITA), Tristan Vautier (FRA)
Mercedes-AMG GT3 Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing Maximilian Götz (GER), Álvaro Parente (POR). Lewis Williamson (GBR)
Audi R8 LMS Audi Sport Team Absolute Racing M. Winkelhock (GER), C. Haase (GER), K. van der Linde (RSA)
Mercedes-AMG GT3 Mercedes-AMG Team GOOD SMILE Tatsuya Kataoka (JPN), Kamui Kobayashi (JPN), Nobuteru Taniguchi (JPN)
Mercedes-AMG GT3 STRAKKA Racing Maximilian Buhk (GER), Oliver Rowland (GBR), Adrien Tambay (FRA)
Mercedes-AMG GT3 SunEnergy1 Racing Mikaël Grenier (CAN), Kenny Habul (AUS), Luca Stolz (GER)
Mercedes-AMG GT3 SATO, YAMASHITA-SS/Rn-Sports Norio Kubo (JPN), Atsushi Sato (JPN), Ryosei Yamashita (JPN)
Mercedes-AMG GT3 STRAKKA Racing Felipe Fraga (BRA), David Fumanelli (ITA), Nick Leventis (GBR)

* excerpt subject to confirmation by the organisers

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