The Mercedes-AMG GT3 follows up on last year’ s second place with a podium finish and a class victory in this year’s 24-hour race. A race that was very close until the end preceded the success. In the close competition of the world’s best GT3 teams and drivers, the right pit stop strategy and the clever use of yellow flag phases turned out to be the decisive element. Throughout the race, none of the front-running teams managed to pull a considerable gap from the rest of the field. From the second third of the race onwards, the #90 AKKA ASP team’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 in particular racked up many miles in the lead of the race.
There was a preliminary decision with some 80 minutes remaining in the 24-hour race when final driver Raffaele Marciello came under pressure from the second-placed Audi while in the lead. Initially, the Italian skilfully kept his rival at bay, but dropped back behind the podium positions during the pit stop one hour before the end of the race. Although the other cars from the front-running group also came into the pits once more, the lead was beyond reach for Marciello in the remainder of the race. After 546 laps, the car of the trio Raffaele Marciello, Michael Meadows (GBR) and Edoardo Mortara (ITA) eventually finished third, only 52.855 seconds down on the winners. In total, six cars finished on the same lap as the race-winning Audi.
Behind the front-runners, three further Mercedes-AMG GT3 completed a spirited race. Having started from 26thplace, the #85 HTP Motorsport car with Dominik Baumann (AUT), Edward Sandström (SWE) and Fabian Schiller (GER) temporarily was on course for a podium finish. In the morning, a drive-through penalty made the trio drop back behind the top three. In the next stints, they reinforced their top ten position and final driver Fabian Schiller eventually brought eighth placer home after 545 laps.
With the #4 Mercedes-AMG Team BLACK FALCON car, final driver Adam Christodoulou (GBR) secured the next outstanding result for the performance brand from Affalterbach. The car that, next to Christodoulou, also had Yelmer Buurman (NED) and Luca Stolz (GER) as its drivers, largely stayed out of problems throughout the race and posted consistently fast lap times. From the night hours onwards, the trio that had started from 22nd place frequently showed up in the top ten. After 545 laps, Christodoulou took the chequered flag in ninth place.
In the Pro-AM class, the #16 BLACK FALCON car already laid the foundation for a class win at the halfway point already. In the second half of the race, Maximilian Götz (GER), Marvin Kirchhöfer (GER), Oliver Morley (GBR) and Miguel Toril (ESP) continuously extended their lead and also were able to close up to the top ten in the overall classification. After 540 laps, final driver Kirchhöfer finished twelfth overall and secured the class win.
Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing: “This 24-hour race has proven once again that Spa undisputedly is the toughest sprint race for GT3 cars. From the very beginning, this race was extremely marked by tactics and race strategy due to the close competition. Demanding for man and machine. This was shown also in the thrilling final stage during which we gave it all we had to secure victory here. Unfortunately, we lacked a little bit of luck to be on the top step. But three Mercedes-AMG in the top ten, especially the impressive performance and the podium finish for the #90 car, that is making us very happy and is the reward for the hard work by the entire Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing team. And let’s not forget the class win in the Pro-AM category. The BLACK FALCON team and the drivers of the #16 car have shown a top performance throughout the race. Even though, unfortunately, not all of our teams made it to the finish, all the Customer Teams still have their share in the success we have scored this weekend. The Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Programme has matured to a great community and I want to thank everyone involved for that.”
Edoardo Mortara, AKKA ASP Team #90: “It was a very long race with many episodes. Eventually, we are very glad to be on the podium. Unfortunately, we were unable to maintain first place in the end due to our pit stop strategy, but I am happy with the result. At Spa, the competition simply was a little bit better, so congratulations to the Audi and the Bentley team for first and second place.”
Marvin Kirchhöfer, BLACK FALCON #16: “The team has done a tremendous job, all the engineers and also my fellow drivers. It was my first endurance race and also my first 24-hour race at Spa. Scoring a class win here straight away is simply incredible.”
Maximilian Götz, BLACK FALCON #16: “After 2013, this is my second podium finish at Spa, with the overall win back then and now with the class win. I am very happy and I am particularly delighted for my team-mates Oliver Morley, Miguel Toril and Marvin Kirchhöfer. Today, we will definitely be celebrating for quite a while.”
Adam Christodoulou, Mercedes-AMG Team BLACK FALCON #4: “It was a tough race, but it was also great. We had a good pace, but unfortunately, we also had a puncture once that made us drop back. In the close field, such details often are decisive. It was a great team effort, the stops were perfect. Everybody can be proud of what we have achieved here.”
Fabian Schiller, HTP Motorsport #85: “I knew that the 24-hour race at Spa would be an extreme challenge, but I have massively enjoyed it. We started from P25 and temporarily even led the field. After twelve ours, we also scored championship points for being in second place. Now, I am pretty much exhausted as I did two triple and two double stints. But it was a great experience and with seventh place, we scored a good result in the end.”
Racing kilometres by Mercedes-AMG for a good cause The race also was a tremendous success with respect to the social commitment by Mercedes-AMG. On top of the initial donation of 25,000 Euros, the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Performance Teams have collected a total of 6,272 Euros for ‘Passion for Good’, bringing the amount to be donated to a current total of 31,272 Euros. With the initiative, the Laureus Sport for Goof Foundation is making a worldwide effort for disadvantaged children and youngsters. Brand ambassador Maro Engel, the new representative of the charity project: “I am delighted that our Mercedes-AMG have completed so many kilometres during the Spa 24-hour race and I thank them on behaf of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation for the great race and the financial donation that comes with it.” Mercedes-AMG brand ambassador Bernd Schneider agreed: “Passion for Good is a great initiative that we, as the Mercedes-AMG race drivers are happy to support. To me, the idea of collecting one Euro for each kilometre completed in the race is a splendid thing. I am happy that such a huge amount was collected and that the co-operation continues. Spa was only the beginning.”