AMG is motorsport and motorsport is AMG. Throughout the 50 years of its existence, the company, founded by Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher in 1967, underlined this ambition with legendary on-track achievements over and over again. Since 2011, the worldwide Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing and Performance Teams also contribute to this. With the SLS AMG GT3 and its successor, the Mercedes-AMG GT3, they have secured numerous titles and valuable race wins at an international level over the past six years. The historic quadruple victory in the 2016 Nürburgring 24-hour race was the most important sporting milestone to date. Behind these achievements, there is a comprehensive programme that is continuously being expanded. Thus, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 has been racing in the most important North-American GT series since the start of the 2017 season and has been successful right away.
Affalterbach – With its Customer Racing programme, Mercedes-AMG addresses ambitious motorsport teams and racing drivers all over the world. Next to the car, the according support also is the foundation: anyone racing an SLS AMG GT3 or a Mercedes-AMG GT3 can rely on the vast support by Mercedes-AMG. Numerous achievements at the race track prove that the concept is right: since 2011, over 170 overall wins and more than 470 podium results were scored with the SLS AMG GT3*. In 2013, the teams with the racing gull wing pulled off the ‘Grand Slam’ of the GT3 endurance racing classics with victories in the races at Dubai, Bathurst, the Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps. Launched in 2016, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 continues the success story: in the Nürburgring 24-hour race, the world’s biggest motor race, the new race car from Affalterbach locked out the first four positions as well as sixth place. Including this unique clean sweep of the podium, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 has already scored over 30 overall race wins and more than 70 podium finishes*. With almost 70 Mercedes-AMG GT3 delivered in 2016, expectations for the car’s debut year were clearly exceeded.
* as of: 23 May, 2017, errors excepted
Worldwide success and expansion of the programme in the US
Motorsport in the GT3 category is enjoying an increasing popularity all over the world. Therefore, in an event and competition environment that is getting more and more professional, Mercedes-AMG has trimmed its GT3 programme for a broad global presence from the very beginning. The international Customer Racing and Performance Teams are successful at nearly every continent – and more and more so in North-America from 2017 on as well. A podium finish in the Daytona 24 Hours, victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring and a 1-2 in the race at Long Beach mark a very successful start in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. As a part of the expansion of its motorsport activities in the US, Mercedes-AMG is offering its teams over there an equally comprehensive support as in Europe and in the rest of the world. A newly-built technical and logistics centre in Mooresville, North Carolina, ensures the quick and reliable supply of spare parts and technical support for the teams.
The Mercedes-AMG Performance Teams 2017
Since 2016, Mercedes-AMG’s team support has come with a new urge to perform: with outstanding achievements and success, teams can qualify to run as a Mercedes-AMG Performance Team. Mercedes-AMG is working together particularly closely with these teams. Next to the proven technical support, they also can rely on engineers and motorsport specialists from Affalterbach. In 2017, a total of seven teams are competing in races in this way. During the season, the field of the Mercedes-AMG Performance Teams and their scheduled races can increase.
The Mercedes-AMG Drivers 2017
Another element in the support portfolio is the possibility for the teams to include AMG Drivers who have a vast experience in motorsport, from GT3 series via DTM to Formula 1. Among the drivers are some of the best-known names in motorsport, who make their driving skills and their expertise available for the Customer Racing and Performance Teams during the scheduled events.
Drivers with an exclusive Mercedes-AMG contract for 2017 are: Nico Bastian (GER), Dominik Baumann (AUT), Maximilian Buhk (GER), Yelmer Buurman (NED), Adam Christodoulou (GBR), Christian Hohenadel (GER), Maximilian Götz (GER), Thomas Jäger (GER), Bernd Schneider (GER) and Jan Seyffarth (GER).
With Maro Engel (GER) and Edoardo Mortara (ITA), two drivers from the current Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Team are racing as well. Especially for the endurance races at the Nürburgring, further Nordschleife experts were added to the teams: Uwe Alzen (GER), Lance David Arnold (GER), Sebastian Asch (GER), Manuel Metzger (GER), Stefan Mücke (GER), Dirk Müller (GER), Edward Sandström (SWE) and Renger van der Zande (NED).
Service, support and championship
One of the main activities of the GT3 programme is the effective supply to the teams of technology, service and know-how. The Mercedes-AMG Customer Service Portal, or CSP for short, serves as the central online interface. Through this platform, teams can get support and order spare parts 24/7. Moreover, during race weekends, the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport service team is on site with is own service truck. As an exclusive service, spare parts packages that are individually arranged can be delivered to any given race track.
The CSP also serves for the communication with the teams: relevant information and updates are made available here. A database documents all the race results of every Mercedes-AMG GT3 race car. The system also provides access to the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Championship. Participation in this global competition is open for all teams and drivers running or racing a Mercedes-AMG GT3 or an SLS AMG GT3 in competition, be it as a Pro Driver, as a Driver or as a Team.
Brand experience and closeness to the fans
Next to the sporting aspects, the brand experience also is one of the clear goals for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport. In 2017, this is all about the 50th anniversary of the brand from Affalterbach. During the GT3 highlight, the Nürburgring 24-hour race, visitors can look forward to numerous highlights around the anniversary. Like in previous years, a Mercedes-AMG Fan Base with a floor space of approximately 1,500 square metres will be installed in the paddock. The experience world, freely accessible for all spectators, combines unique brand fascination and an up-close motorsport feeling. Next to the production models and legendary historic race cars that are on display, numerous fan activities are also held here. Autograph sessions and interviews with renowned motorsport personalities are also part of Mercedes-AMG’s activity programme.
Tobias Moers, Chairman of the Board of Management of Mercedes-AMG GmbH, about Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing
What is the structure of Mercedes-AMG’s motorsport involvement and which role is the GT3 segment playing?
Tobias Moers: “For a sportscar manufacturer, an involvement in motorsport is a must, of course. In the process, Mercedes-AMG is the only manufacturer represented and successful in Formula 1, the DTM and GT3 racing. That underlines our performance potential on a wide scale. It is also very important for us that there is interaction between the various areas. We consider ourselves as a motorsport family. In 2017, a new overall brand name for all circuit racing activities was introduced with the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport name. In the process, GT3 racing is playing a very important role. Here, we are able to prove the outstanding driving dynamics of our road-going sports cars at the international circuits, from Europe to the US, Australia and Japan. And thus, our GT3 Customer Racing teams are also important ambassadors of our brand.”
What were the reasons to get involved in Customer Racing seven years ago?
Tobias Moers: “When we developed the SLS AMG GT3 completely in-house as the first car ever, everyone involved soon agreed that we should also bring this car to the race track in a GT3 version. Then, several things came together: we wanted to establish a programme that puts the focus on the passion for motorsport and the orientation on the customer. Both with the SLS AMG GT3 and with the Mercedes-AMG GT3, we have developed race cars that were fully competitive from their first race on. That has also convinced our customers and the achievements all over the world prove us right.”
Last year, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 made its debut. How do you rate the maiden season?
Tobias Moers: “The 2016 GT3 racing year was a huge success story for Mercedes-AMG. Our expectations for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 were exceeded in every way, both concerning the sales figures and with the sensational racing achievements. The historic quadruple victory in the Nürburgring 24-hour race or winning the drivers’ and teams’ title in the Blancpain GT Series show that we have succeeded in making another considerable step ahead in terms of precision, longevity, safety and performance compared to the predecessor, the SLS AMG GT3.”
What expectations do you have for the current 2017 season?
Tobias Moers: “The first races already were promising. I am particularly happy with the fact that we have been able to start in such a successful way in North-America. For us as a manufacturer, the US market is particularly important. Therefore, we have established a technical and logistics centre in Mooresville, North Carolina, in order to being able to assist the teams quickly and reliably from there. Concerning last year’s success in the Nürburgring 24-hour race, it will be almost impossible to repeat this. Nevertheless, we will be taking on this and all other challenges in a very focussed way, and even more so as we would like to present our fans and ourselves with great motorsport achievements at the occasion of our 50th anniversary.”
What can we look forward to for the future?
Tobias Moers: “The GT family continues to grow. In Geneva, we recently presented one of our visions of Driving Performance of the future with the four-door Mercedes-AMG GT Concept. Our Project ONE is another glance into the future. With this car, we are bringing thoroughbred Formula 1 hybrid technology on the road. But progress is going on at the race track as well. The next milestone in Customer Racing will be the debut of our GT4 race car. Here, too, it is our aim to provide teams from the outset with a car that is fully matured in every way, from performance via safety to support.”
The Mercedes-AMG GT3
Launched in 2016, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 combines high-class racing technology and a spectacular design. The car, developed to FIA GT3 regulations, is based on the Mercedes-AMG GT that already provides a high level of race track performance in its production version and stands out for a low centre of gravity, a perfect weight distribution and a large track width.
Like with the road-going version, the vehicle structure of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 consists of a very light-weight, yet extremely rigid aluminium space frame. Numerous components like the bonnet, the doors or the rear wing were made of carbon. The consequent implementation of the ‘AMG Lightweight Performance’ strategy results into significantly increased efficiency and the best possible dynamics.
As it already was the case with the SLS AMG GT3, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 also incorporates the currently widest ranging safety concept in its class, partly even exceeding the latest FIA standards. Three safety zones were constructed around the driver: the rigid aluminium space frame provides excellent protection. Additionally, the stable carbon safety cell with integrated headrest and a roll-cage made of high-strength steel also protect the driver. In case of an accident, the driver can also be extricated through the integrated hatch in the roof.
The AMG 6.3 litre V8 engine, proven in the SLS AMG GT3 and additionally optimized, generates the power. The high-revving atmospheric engine stands out for its user-friendly technology, huge reliability, long service intervals and low running costs. Like in the production version, the sequential six-speed competition gearbox in the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is mounted to the rear axle in transaxle construction and thus allows for optimum weight distribution. Another thing the two have in common are the double wishbones, almost entirely made of aluminium.
The development of the Mercedes-AMG GT3
In the development of the Mercedes-AMG GT3, the insights from the races run with the SLS AMG GT3 are unmistakable. During the intense test phase, AMG brand ambassador Bernd Schneider and the AMG test and development drivers Thomas Jäger and Jan Seyffarth have made a significant contribution to the circuit characteristics of the car.
Handling was one of the key elements in the development: the Mercedes-AMG GT3 crowns the very good handling already known from the SLS AMG GT3 with enhanced agility and efficiency. The development engineers also focused on optimizing the service intervals and the durability. To achieve this, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 completed, among others, a 30-hours endurance test at race speed. This results into considerable reduced running costs for the AMG Customer Sports Teams. The fourth round of the 2015 VLN Langstreckenmeisterschaft was the first test for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in racing conditions. Driven by Bernd Schneider, Thomas Jäger, and Jan Seyffarth, the car claimed pole position and posted the second-fastest race lap straight away.
Bernd Schneider, Mercedes-AMG brand ambassador, about the Mercedes-AMG GT3
You were already involved in the development of the SLS AMG GT3 and afterwards also of the Mercedes-AMG GT3. What, according to you, are the major differences?
Bernd Schneider: “With the SLS AMG GT3, we basically had to start from scratch. In 2007, the first considerations were made at AMG to develop a car as a solo effort, the SLS AMG. At an early stage, it already became clear that this car was also meant as a customer sports car for the race track. In the process, we tested many things until we were able to complete our first laps of testing with the SLS AMG GT3 in 2010. With the Mercedes-AMG GT3, on the other hand, we were able to build on five successful years of customer sports activities. Accordingly, from the very beginning, we had a clear view of what we wanted and how we could achieve it. Nevertheless, like with the SLS AMG GT3, we took the time to ensure that we could present a perfect package.”
Which are typical characteristics of the new Mercedes-AMG GT3?
Bernd Schneider: “The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is bringing characteristics to the race track that are typical for AMG: driving performance from A to Z. The car leaves no doubt that it aims for maximum sporting performance, already in its production version. As a racing driver, I am particularly impressed by how light and exact the handling of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is. Moreover, it allows for very quick gearshifts. With our Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Teams in mind, we paid particular attention to implement user-friendly solutions. This ranges from an enhanced overall efficiency to longer intervals between engine rebuilds and optimised repair solutions. Combined with the high safety standards and the great durability, the car is perfect for all Customer Racing target groups.”
Stefan Wendl, GT3 project manager, about the 2017 season
Mr Wendl, this is the second full season of the Mercedes-AMG GT3. What goals have you set for yourself?
Stefan Wendl: “I joined the Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing programme at the start of 2015 and have been responsible for the development of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 as the project manager from the very beginning. In this function, I benefit to a great extent from the fact that I have always been working together very closely with our engineers, racing drivers and teams. Therefore, I know what we are capable of together, and that is want we want to bring to the track in 2017 as well. That means being in contention for the odd championship title and be among the front runners in the two major endurance racing classics at the Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps.”
What is your view of the chances to win these two 24-hour races?
Stefan Wendl: “Of course, that isn’t easy after the success we had last year. Competition is huge and many things can happen on such a long distance. The strategy has to be right and you also need a little bit of luck. At the Nürburgring in particular, the role that the weather is playing doesn’t make things easier, as we saw in 2016. But we have a strong line-up and our teams are vastly experienced. Therefore, the winners’ podium is our goal again, of course.”
And you are equally happy with your driver line-up?
Stefan Wendl: “One hundred percent. At the Nürburgring, experience is playing a decisive role. In order to being successful, our Performance Drivers have to be prepared in the best possible way for the weather conditions, traffic and the general challenges that the Nordschleife poses. With continuity in our driver line-up, we have succeeded in getting a good mix of experience, speed and strong nerves. We are glad to be able to rely on known drivers from previous years for a large part again, strengthened by some new drivers as well. During the VLN test races and the qualification race, we have already seen that the drivers harmonise very well and there is a good spirit among them. These are ideal conditions for a successful 24-hour race.”