The 2018 GT racing year ends like it has begun: with victory for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport. Last weekend’s FIA GT Nations Cup in Bahrain saw the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Salih Yoluc and Ayhancan Guven (both TUR) claim victory and thus came full circle after the first win of the year in January 2018 by Abdulaziz Al Faisal (KSA), Yelmer Buurman (NED), Hubert Haupt (GER) and Gabriele Piana (ITA) for BLACK FALCON in the 24-hour race at Dubai. These two achievements bookend a season that can hardly be exceeded in terms of highlights.
Octuple title success in Blancpain GT Series
This season’s outstanding achievements include the performance in the European Blancpain GT Series that produced an octuple title success for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport: Raffaele Marciello claimed the overall drivers’ title while Yelmer Buurman, Maro Engel (GER) and Luca Stolz (GER) came out on top in the Endurance Cup. The teams’ title went to the AKKA ASP team while BLACK FALCON claimed the Endurance Cup. The best Pro-AM drivers in the Endurance Cup were Lewis Williamson, Chris Buncombe and Nick Leventis (all GBR) with the STRAKKA Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. In the Sprint Cup, Raffaele Marciello and Michael Meadows (GBR) were crowned the new champions and in the Silver Cup category, Nico Bastian (GER) and Jack Manchester (GBR) won both the overall and Sprint Cup titles. Both duos raced for the French AKKA ASP Team. With these results, the performance and sports car brand from Affalterbach was by far the most successful manufacturer in the 2018 Blancpain GT Series.
A class of its own in endurance racing
In endurance racing, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 once again underlined its convincing performance potential in the 2018 season: in the Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC) that includes four major endurance races, Tristan Vautier claimed the drivers’ title in the season-ending 8-hour race at Laguna Seca Raceway. His SunEnergy1 Racing teammate Kenny Habul (AUS) secured the bronze class title. A milestone for the IGTC success was the 1-2 in the 10-hour race at Suzuka by the Performance Teams GruppeM Racing and STRAKKA Racing.
Apart from the IGTC, the cars from Affalterbach were also successful in other endurance races. In the classic event at the Nordschleife, the Nürburgring 24-hour race, BLACK FALCON shone with a double podium finish in adverse conditions: second place for Adam Christodoulou (GBR), Maro Engel, Manuel Metzger and Dirk Müller (all GER) and third place for Yelmer Buurman, Thomas Jäger, Jan Seyffarth and Luca Stolz (all GER). Next to the already mentioned victory at Dubai, BLACK FALCON also scored a 24-hour race win at Circuit of The Americas (COTA): at the track in Texas, Bret Curtis, Scott Heckert, Mike Skeen (all USA) and Yelmer Buurman emerged as the winners. In the same race, Adam Christodoulou and Charles Putman, Charles Espenlaub and Joe Foster (all USA) raced the PROsport Performance Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the 24H Series (‘ Championship of the Continents’) teams’ title. Earlier, the three Americans had already sealed the European 24-hour series title in the final round at Spa-Francorchamps mid-October.
In the North-American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports managed to win the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup (TPNAEC) for the second year in a row. In the hard-fought endurance cup of the US sports car series, Ben Keating (USA), Jeroen Bleekemolen (NED) and Luca Stolz also won the drivers’ title and the manufacturers’ titles for Mercedes-AMG.
Further worldwide GT3 achievements
The Mercedes-AMG GT3 also caught the attention in the ADAC GT Masters sprint races: at the end of a thrilling season in the super sports car league, Maximilian Götz, Markus Pommer, Maximilian Buhk (all GER) and Indy Dontje (NED) secured the teams’ title for MANN-FILTER Team HTP Motorsport. The expanded involvement of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing in Asia for 2018 also came to fruition: in the Japanese Super GT Series (GT300 class), Naoya Gamou and Haruki Kurosawa (both JPN) secured the title for the LEON RACING team. That made Mercedes-AMG the first manufacturer to win the Japanese title in two consecutive years following the success for GOODSMILE Racing in 2017. In the China GT Championship, the D2 RACING SPORT Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Kuo Kuo Hsin (CHN) dominated proceedings while Xu Wei and Han Songting (both CHN) came out on top in the China Endurance Championship. Meanwhile, down under, Max Twigg and Tony D’Alberto (both AUS) of the WM Waste Management / Scott Taylor Motorsport team were crowned the new Australian Endurance Championship winners.
A strong inaugural season for the Mercedes-AMG GT4
The debut season for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 also brought success. The new Customer Racing car scored numerous race wins and titles all over the world. The sporting highlights included a pair of class wins in the Nürburgring 24-hour race with BLACK FALCON Team IDENTICA (SP10) and Mercedes-AMG Team Driving Academy (SP8T). The Selleslagh Racing Team that drove its Mercedes-AMG GT4 to victory at Zolder also has a 24-hour race win to its tally. The Belgian Customer Racing Team also added title successes in the Belcar series. In the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, the team TGM’s GT4 beat the opposition with an impressive record: next to three wins and a third place, the team’s Mercedes-AMG GT4 was the only car to complete all 776 race laps that were racked up throughout the season in the US series.
Huge 2018 end-of-season celebration
To round out the GT year in style, numerous international teams and drivers assembled in Stuttgart at the end of November for the huge Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing end-of-season celebration. Among others, the winners of the brand-internal 2018 Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Championship were crowned during the stylish gala with around 250 guests. From the drivers, Hubert Haupt (category: Pro Driver) and Valentin Pierburg (category: Driver) managed to score the most points in the course of the season. Both winners were delighted about a new Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupé (fuel consumption, combined: 10.1 l/100 km, combined CO2emissions: 230 g/km)1. From the teams, the AKKA ASP Team (category: GT3) that already won for the third consecutive time, and BLACK FALCON (category: GT4) collected the trophies.
Customer Racing for charity
In the 2018 GT season, ‘Passion for Good’ continued as well. As a part of the charity initiative, successfully established the previous year, the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Performance Teams collected one Euro for each kilometre completed in racing as a donation for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation that is committed to help disadvantaged children and youngsters all over the world. In 2018, this resulted into an amount of 61,142 Euros, rounded up to 65,000 Euros by Mercedes-AMG. Like this, the donation from the previous year of 50,000 Euros was considerably exceeded.
Tobias Moers, Chairman of the Board of Management of Mercedes-AMG GmbH: “We have experienced a great motorsport year 2018, the most successful since we became involved in customer racing. For that, I want to express my thanks to all drivers and teams of our Customer Racing Programme. In the world’s strongest GT series and races, they have shown overwhelming achievements with a lot of commitment, passion and professionalism and have scored the deserved rewards with victories and titles. Especially the performance in the Blancpain GT Series and the Intercontinental GT Challenge are outstanding achievements and also an impressive proof of the potential of our Mercedes-AMG GT3. Of course, I am also particularly delighted with the brilliant debut year of the Mercedes-AMG GT4. We didn’t promise too much as we said one year ago that this car would be capable of winning from the outset. Our expectations were exceeded by far! Next year, we will again expand our Customer Racing programme and I am already looking forward to a new, thrilling and successful 2019 season!”
Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing: “Exceeding the achievements from the previous years wasn’t easy, but we succeeded. That is the achievement of our drivers, teams and not in the least also of our many hard-working colleagues at Mercedes-AMG and HWA. To all of them, I want to express my thanks for this great season. The end-of-season celebration again made it clear how many great moments of success there were in 2018. On the way towards race wins and titles, we have also dealt with some challenges and obstacles. That is something we can be proud of and together we can look forward to the 2019 season.”
Remarkable facts & figures of the 2018 season:
In competition: in total, 361 drivers and 90 teams raced at 86 circuits worldwide with Mercedes-AMG GT3 and GT4 cars.
Successful debut: in 2018, there were over 375 race starts of the Mercedes-AMG GT4 that resulted into 98 (class) wins and podium finishes
High mileage: in the year 2018, Mercedes-AMG Performance Teams completed a total of 61,142 kilometres in racing.
USA double: after 2017, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 of the Riley Motorsport team again claimed Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup title.
Hat-trick: for the third time in a row, AKKA ASP Team wins the Customer Racing Championship in the TEAM and/or TEAM GT3 category.
Reliable: in the ADAC GT Masters, Indy Dontje and Maximilian Buhk managed to complete all 493 laps in the 14 races.
Titles galore: in the Blancpain GT Series, drivers and teams with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 secured eight titles in total.
Regular podium finishers: from eight participations in the 24H Series, Customer Racing Team PROsport Performance only once finished lower than third place (A6-Am).