Stefan, 2018 has got off to a promising start. But now the motorsport season is about to get underway in earnest. What are the calendar highlights from a Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Program perspective, and what are the objectives you have set yourselves?
Stefan Wendl: First of all, of course, I’m delighted by the successful start our Customer Racing teams have made to the new season. Winning in Dubai was absolutely great – a victory in the first 24-hour race of the year always sends out a clear statement of intent. At Daytona and Bathurst, our cars were in contention for victory and earned vital championship points towards the Intercontinental GT Challenge and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship respectively.
As far as 2018 is concerned, we have been using the past weeks and months to further perfect our products and the entire programme. We have had many constructive discussions and were able to persuade some strong newcomer teams of our merits. We will, of course, once again be challenging in the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring this year with our Mercedes-AMG Performance teams. At the same time, we intend to compete in all the races of the North American Endurance Cup in the IMSA series. Another focus is on the Intercontinental GT Challenge, where we expect the best GT3 teams and manufacturers to come up against each other. So as you can see, we regard ourselves as well placed to compete for titles and individual race victories in all arenas.
2018 is the first year of action for the Mercedes-AMG GT4. What are your expectations for the debut season?
Stefan Wendl: First of all, we want to make sure that every customer receives their Mercedes-AMG GT4 in time for the start of their respective season. This is not such an easy task, as there is a very wide range of racing series and optional specifications for this vehicle, and our customer portfolio is currently becoming more internationalised. In order to meet growing demand, we have expanded our spare parts and engineering support network in the USA and Australia during the winter and we will also have a trackside presence with spare parts and engineers in Asia for customers in selected race series tracks starting in 2018. The high demand for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 shows that the SRO were right with their concept. Moreover, it is a gratifying endorsement of the hard work that our development team put into this project. The final stage in the homologation will be the official BoP tests of the SRO soon to be held at Paul Ricard. After that, the customer teams will be driving our vehicles in all GT4 series worldwide, competing for success in their respective classes.
What changes are there in the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport driver squad?
Stefan Wendl: I don’t want to give too much away, because we won’ t be holding our official kick-off event with the drivers until the end of March. But I can tell you this much: once again, we have not been idle during the winter, and we have consolidated in a targeted fashion. After his strong showing in 2017 at Spa and in Macau, we have recruited Raffaele Marciello as our new Mercedes-AMG Performance driver. This is a role in which he has already performed successfully in Bathurst, and he is currently in second position in the Intercontinental GT Challenge.