Tales from the paddock: Stefan Wendl: „The strength and reliability of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in endurance races is and always has been undisputed“

Apr 7, 2022
Stuttgart

Stefan Wendl, Head of the Mercedes-AMG Customer Sports Programme, talks about the brand’s successful start to the 2022 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS

  • This is what happened: Results and facts
  • News from the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport teams
  • Three questions for Stefan Wendl
  • Social media news: What’s new online?

This is what happened: Results and facts

  • GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup: Double podium for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the three-hour race at Imola
  • GT4 European Series: A further podium finish for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari
  • British Endurance Championship: Victory for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 at Oulton Park

News snippets

Australia, here we come: A good three years after the most recent Australian Grand Prix and two years after Formula One last touched down at Albert Park, the premier class returns to the ‘land down under’ next weekend. The 2020 season opener had to be postponed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and there was no race in Melbourne last year either. The 36th Australian Grand Prix will now take place next Sunday, 1,120 days after Valtteri Bottas took the win in 2019. In the history of the event so far, eleven have been hosted by the city of Adelaide and 24 by Melbourne. Record winner of the Australian GP is Michael Schumacher with a tally of four victories. Lewis Hamilton won the race in 2008 as a McLaren driver and in 2015 with Mercedes. The works team also won in Melbourne in 2014 and 2016 (both times Nico Rosberg) and 2019 (Valtteri). With a grand total of eleven victories since 1997, Mercedes is also the most successful engine manufacturer to have competed in Australia. This year, a new track configuration awaits the drivers and teams. The Albert Park Circuit underwent some slight modifications last year to allow for more overtaking manoeuvres. In the process, some corner combinations were changed, the pit entrance was widened and the track was resurfaced.

Rome, here we come: After an eight-week break, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship resumes business in Rome next weekend. As was the case last year, the double-header will be contested on the 3.38km Circuito Cittadino dell’EUR, which has been reconfigured for Season 7. The street circuit has 19 turns and is a mixture of fast stretches and narrow sections. There are also multiple changes of elevation as well as overtaking opportunities in the hairpin and the 90-degree corners. A new feature this season is that the start has been moved to the straight between Turns 3 and 4. Going into Rounds 4 and 5 of the season, Nyck de Vries (38 points) and Stoffel Vandoorne (28 points) are second and fifth in the drivers’ standings, while the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team (66 points) occupies second place in the team championship, two points behind Venturi Racing. You can follow all the action this weekend via the team’s social media channels on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You can also find out more about how to watch all the sessions live in your region here.

Mercedes-AMG Motorsport gets off to a flying start in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe: The new season of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup got underway last weekend with an eventful three-hour race at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, in which Mercedes-AMG Team AKKODIS ASP put in an outstanding performance to finish second overall. The three-part qualifying session on Sunday morning had, however, proved challenging for the seven Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing teams. The 52-strong field of cars led to congested conditions on the historic 4.9km circuit, making it difficult for any of the contestants to get a clear run. Despite the heavy traffic, Jules Gounon (FRA) and his team-mates Daniel Juncadella (ESP) and Raffaele Marciello (SUI) still managed to book third place on the grid for their number 88 Mercedes-AMG GT3. Less fortunate were the Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed trio of Maro Engel, Luca Stolz (both GER) and Steijn Schothorst (NED) in the number 2 Mercedes-AMG GT3 who could only manage tenth.

Both the #88 and the #2 cars put in a very strong performance in the race itself, which was characterised by multiple incidents and several lengthy yellow flag periods. The #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 crossed the finish line as runners-up in the general classification, followed by the #2 in third to complete a double podium for the brand. Several other Customer Sports outfits also turned the difficult track conditions to their advantage in the race. Dominik Baumann (AUT), Ian Loggie (GBR) and Valentin Pierburg (GER) in the number 20 SPS automotive performance Mercedes-AMG GT3 won the PRO-AM classification by dint of clever tactics and consistency. Another class podium was taken by the #5 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Haupt Racing Team, which finished third in the newly inaugurated Gold Cup after a torrid opening to their campaign. The second GT World Challenge Europe endurance event at Circuit Paul Ricard is scheduled for 5 June, preceded by the first two Sprint Cup races at Brands Hatch on the weekend of 30 April ‑ 1 May.

GT4 European Series curtain-raiser ends with two class podiums for Mercedes-AMG: The season opener of the GT4 European Series took place at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola as a support act to the GT World Challenge Europe programme. Ten Mercedes-AMG GT4s were entered by AKKODIS ASP Team, Drago Racing Team ZvO, NM Racing Team and Selleslagh Racing Team in a record field for the two one-hour races on Saturday and Sunday. In the first sprint race, the experienced pairing of Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Jim Pla (both FRA) driving the number 87 AKKODIS ASP Mercedes-AMG GT4 secured third place, which was enough to give them the runner-up spot in the PRO-AM class.

The number 61 sister car driven by the father-son duo of Mauro (ITA) and Benjamin Ricci (FRA), rounded off a rewarding team performance on Sunday with a further podium in the AM classification.

Start-finish victory for Rob Boston Racing in the new British Endurance Championship: Tom Jackson and Wayne Marrs (both GBR) driving the number 160 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Rob Boston Racing celebrated an impressive lights-to-flag victory in the second round of the British Endurance Championship. In Saturday’s two-hour race at Oulton Park Circuit, they delivered a flawless performance to secure the first win for a Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the British Endurance Championship. The next event takes place on Saturday 14 May at the Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit.

Three questions for Stefan Wendl

Mercedes-AMG Motorsport can look back on the season opener of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup with great satisfaction. The Affalterbach-based performance and sports car brand comes away from the first race of the prestigious international GT sprint series in 2022 with a clutch of encouraging results, including a double podium. Stefan Wendl, Head of the Mercedes-AMG Customer Sports Programme, reviews the successful weekend at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola and ventures a forecast about the remainder of the season.

Stefan, a double podium and a class win plus a podium finish in the newly inaugurated Gold Cup - how would you sum up this successful start to the 2022 GT World Challenge Europe?

Stefan Wendl: Overall, we can of course be very satisfied with the season opener. After the qualifying session on Sunday morning, which didn’t go too well for us due to the large number of cars and the heavy traffic, we were not necessarily expecting such an outcome. But our teams and drivers put in a very strong and consistent performance in the race. Because of this and the excellent strategic decisions made by the individual teams, we ended up with an extremely satisfactory result for our brand. This demonstrates the immense competitiveness of our cars. All in all, everyone did a great job last weekend and made their individual contributions to this successful season opener for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport in the GT World Challenge Europe. The positive impressions we gained from the preparatory period and from the test days have been confirmed, which raises our level of optimism for the rest of the season.

What was the recipe for this strong start to the campaign?

Stefan Wendl: There is not just one reason. I think there are several aspects to consider here. Firstly, the strength and reliability of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in endurance races is and always has been undisputed. Especially in a race that is interspersed with safety car deployments and the outcome of which is decided by wheel-to-wheel challenges and strategic choices. It is not only faultless work in the pits that counts, but also a cohesive driver performance. This is precisely where the Mercedes-AMG GT3 shows its strengths as a car that has a reputation for driver-friendly handling. The intensive collaboration between the two field teams and our support and performance engineers also paid off once again. Seven Customer Racing teams, eleven Mercedes-AMG GT3s and our squad of talented drivers also add up to a formidable and top-class line-up, tailored precisely to the challenges posed by the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup. Essential elements of our success were also the test days and a generally intensive preparatory stage, during which the teams were able to count on our support at all times. With this combination of factors, we have created the best possible basic preconditions for top results. The successful implementation, however, is of course the responsibility of the teams and drivers - and they measured up to this brilliantly in Imola.

The first race in the GT World Challenge Europe has been successfully contested. What are your next objectives?

Stefan Wendl: First of all, as I mentioned at the beginning, we are very satisfied with the start we have made and with our results in the Endurance Cup of the GT World Challenge Europe. This has given us a solid basis for the four remaining endurance races in 2022. It is now primarily a matter of reaffirming the level of performance we’ve seen and converting this into further successes and, above all, championship points. After all, we have set ourselves the goal of defending the title of best manufacturer in the overarching GT World Challenge. On our way to achieving this, we will do everything to support our Customer Racing teams in the best possible way. On the weekend of 30 April and 1 May, the first two Sprint Cup races will be held at Brands Hatch, where we want to continue building on our successes in the endurance races. But our focus is also on the many other series that are due to begin their season in the coming weeks, such as the ADAC GT Masters and the DTM.

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Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing
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#160 Mercedes-AMG GT3, Rob Boston Racing
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Jim Pla and Jean-Luc Beaubelique, #87 Mercedes-AMG GT4, AKKODIS ASP Team
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#81 Mercedes-AMG GT4, AKKODIS ASP Team
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Colin Braun and George Kurtz, #04 Mercedes-AMG GT3, CrowdStrike Racing by Riley Motorsports
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#87 Mercedes-AMG GT4, AKKODIS ASP Team
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#6 Mercedes-AMG GT3, US RaceTronics
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#99 Mercedes-AMG GT3, Triple Eight JMR
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Nick Foster and H.H.Prince Jefri Ibrahim, #888 Mercedes-AMG GT3, Triple Eight JMR
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