After a P2 and a P3 finish in the past two years, there can be only one objective for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport in the upcoming 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps, namely outright victory. To accomplish this mission, the German performance and sports car brand is entering the largest contingent of all manufacturers. In the run-up to the endurance classic, we spoke to Stefan Wendl, Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing, about preparations and expectations.
Stefan, are you satisfied with the way preparations for the Total 24 Hours of Spa have been going?
Stefan Wendl: Yes, I am very satisfied. The teams have prepared well, and the driver combinations are perfectly harmonised. The official test days were used very intensively to test this out and to experiment with new ideas. Added to which, we have had the British GT races and pre-event training sessions which give our teams and drivers even more opportunity to adapt themselves and the car to this challenging circuit in the Ardennes.
How would you rate the opposition?
Stefan Wendl: They are very strong. The line-up for the 24 Hours of Spa is the best in the world of GT racing. But we have no reason to feel overawed. We will have 13 Mercedes-AMG GT3 cars there. That’ s more than ever before. It also makes us the manufacturer with the most vehicles in the race. But it’s not just a matter of quantity – we have also got the quality right. In both the Blancpain Endurance Series and the Intercontinental GT Challenge, which includes Spa, our guys are up there with the front-runners. That fills everyone with plenty of confidence. In any case, we have excellent drivers in our ranks. The number of ex-Formula 1 stars and drivers who are currently active in the DTM and in Formula E is an indication of the high standard. At the same time, it enhances the attractiveness of this legendary event on its 70th anniversary.
What will be the key to success? What are the tactical considerations?
Stefan Wendl: One of the success factors is certainly the car. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 has just the right mix for Spa: it’s fast, precise and reliable. The drivers also play a crucial role. The combinations in the individual cars are well balanced and able to win in all classes. Everything has simply come together perfectly. As for the tactics, there are no general templates. We agree these with the teams for each car and each class individually. For some of the teams, it’s not primarily about winning but about scoring points which are awarded for interim results. Of course, external factors such as the weather will also affect strategy. And ultimately, there is also that elusive element of luck.
One more question: Who will be faster – Rubens Barrichello or Bernd Schneider?
Stefan Wendl: A fascinating question. Certainly, Bernd’s experience of driving the Mercedes-AMG GT3 gives him the advantage in this particular contest.