As the year draws to a close, the DTM booked the track at Jerez de la Frontera in Spain for a week of testing (29/11/16 – 02/12/16). In addition to preparations for the 2017 DTM season, this year’s Young Driver Tests were also on the agenda, and the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team brought Maximilian Günther and Maro Engel along for this part of the programme. Someone else making his debut for the brand with the three-pointed star was new recruit Edoardo Mortara.
Debut in a new team: Edoardo Mortara
Welcome to the squad, Edoardo! The Italian drove a Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM for the first time this week. Mortara was out on track on all four days at the former Formula 1 circuit near Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain, setting reference times for the Young Driver Tests.
Tuesday’s drive was his first at the wheel of a DTM car built by Mercedes-AMG. On Thursday, he was also able to gain an initial impression of how the vehicle handles in the wet. The new recruit to the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team arrives with solid experience accumulated over the past six DTM seasons. He has competed in 76 DTM races, registering eight DTM victories for his team and finishing the recent season as a championship runner-up.
Edoardo Mortara: “My first impressions were good. Of course, this is a completely new field of endeavour for me, but still, I was very pleased to be able to post my first few laps in the Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM before the end of the year. I would like to thank Mercedes-AMG and Audi Sport for that. I immediately felt at home in the team and was aware that they were doing everything they could to make me feel at ease, which was very nice of them. I was able to gain some first impressions despite not being able to post all that many laps over the four days. It’s always good to get in a car and drive. I’m now looking forward to my first test in the new year.”
Debut in a DTM car: Maximilian Günther
Whereas Edoardo Mortara is an old hand in the DTM, the 2016 FIA Formula 3 runner-up Maximilian Günther was gaining his first experience of driving at DTM level this week. The 19-year-old German completed 131 laps on Tuesday, his first day of testing in the Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM, and a further 111 on Wednesday. His fastest lap time was 1:37.131 minutes. However, the focus was not so much on speed as on familiarising himself with the car and learning about working with the team.
Maximilian Günther: “I’ve just had two really cool days in this mega car. Every time I got out of the cockpit, I had a big grin on my face. Sure, it took some initial adjustment on my part, driving a touring car that is significantly heavier. But a DTM car obviously has much more power than a Formula 3 car, and it was the first time I’ve driven a racing car with a roof over my head. These were all new impressions for me, but I quickly got used to it. The aerodynamics were particularly impressive on the fast corners. What I enjoyed most was the challenge of getting the 500 horsepower under control and adjusting my driving style to the car. All the time I was out there, I was looking to improve my performance and learn how to manage the tyres on long runs. Those were two mega cool days. My thanks go to Mercedes-AMG for allowing me to take this test.”
Comeback in a DTM car: Maro Engel
Maro Engel took over the car from Maximilian Günther for the remaining two test days on Thursday and Friday. On his two days of testing, he posted a total of 241 laps. Maro is no stranger to the DTM, having competed in 42 DTM races as a member of the Mercedes-AMG squad between 2008 and 2011. He subsequently enjoyed success in the context of the Mercedes-AMG Customer Sports Programme, winning the FIA GT World Cup in Macau on two occasions (2014, 2015) as well as the legendary 24-hour race at the Nürburgring in 2016 with Bernd Schneider, Adam Christodoulou and Manuel Metzger as his co-drivers.
Maro Engel: “It was amazing fun to drive the Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM again and to work with the team. Driving so many kilometres was just great, and I’m happy with the programme I completed. It’s been a while since I had such a long test day in a DTM car, but I quickly got used to the things again and am very grateful to the team for this super experience.”
In addition to Mortara, Günther and Engel, Gary Paffett and Robert Wickens were also testing at Jerez. They were there to progress the development programme for the coming year. They tested various new components as well as the new Hankook tyres for 2017. The next test is scheduled for the end of February in Portimão.
Ulrich Fritz, Head of Mercedes-AMG DTM: “The final test week of the year was highly satisfactory from our point of view. We once again managed to put in a decent number of test kilometres with our development vehicle and to record plenty of data. Consequently, our engineers won’t be getting bored in the weeks leading up to the next test. We are delighted that Edoardo was able to complete his first ever stint in a Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM this week. He has set a good standard for our two guys. And talking of Maximilian and Maro, they have done remarkably well this week. This especially goes for Maximilian, who gained his first experience of a DTM car; on both days, he drove well over 100 laps. As for Maro, we knew that he could do it anyway. Now we are looking forward to a few relaxing days around Christmas, and then we’ll be back with a vengeance in 2017.”