Mercedes-AMG Motorsport is heading into the fifth and final race of the season in the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli (IGTC) as the leader in the drivers’ and manufacturers’ standings. This year’s season finale of the series (21-23 November) is held at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit for the first time. The track in South Africa is to become the venue for a crowning season end for Mercedes-AMG: the performance and sports car brand from Affalterbach having won the drivers’ championship and having become runner-up in the final manufacturers’ standings last year, the double with both titles is the goal this time. In total, seven Mercedes-AMG GT3 will be racing at the 4.522 kilometres long track, three of which with extended works support.
After four successful endurance racing classics full of excitement and race action, Mercedes-AMG is now looking ahead to the highlight of the Intercontinental GT Challenge at the end of November. In the grand finale, the Kyalami 9 Hour, an action-packed season is to be concluded with the double of drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles. Indications are good: in the events held thus far at Bathurst, Laguna Seca, Spa and Suzuka, Mercedes-AMG has always managed to finish on the podium and get itself into a position with a good perspective for the showdown in South Africa as a result.
Maximilian Buhk (GER) is leading the drivers’ standings with 58 points and is just ahead of Raffaele Marciello (ITA, 55 points) and Maximilian Götz (GER, 52 points) who is in third place, tied on points with an opponent. Moreover, Mercedes-AMG is also in first place of the manufacturers’ standings and, 22 points ahead of the brand in second place, has excellent chances of bringing the title that only just went away last year to Affalterbach this season. To this end, Mercedes-AMG Motorsport will be heading onto the South African track with a strong driver line-up and a total of seven Mercedes-AMG GT3s. These include three cars with extended works support that all rank among the favourites. In the most promising position is the #999 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing entry driven by points’ leader Buhk, second-placed Marciello and sixth-placed Maro Engel (GER). Götz, currently in third place of the drivers’ standings, will be racing for the Mercedes-AMG Team SPS automotive performance (#10) partnered by Luca Stolz (GER) and Yelmer Buurman (NED). Mercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing rounds out the works supported involvement: Gary Paffett and Lewis Williamson (both GBR) will be sharing driving duties in the #44 with reigning IGTC champion Tristan Vautier (FRA).
The high-quality field in South Africa also includes four further strong Mercedes-AMG GT3 Customer Racing entries. In the BLACK FALCON car with starting number 6, Hubert Haupt will be alternating with Patrick Assenheimer (both GER) and Sergej Afanasiev (RUS) while Tim Müller, Valentin Pierburg (both GER) and Miguel Ramos (POR) are the driver trio for SPS automotive performance (#40). Drivers of the #43 Strakka Racing car are Christina Nielsen (DEN), Dominik Baumann (AUT) and Adrian Henry D‘Silva (MAS). The fourth Customer Racing GT3 will be run by SunEnergy1 Racing (#75): Kenny Habul (AUS), the 2018 IGTC bronze champion, will get driving support from Thomas Jäger and Bernd Schneider (both GER).
Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing: “After four high-class races, we are now expecting a season finale of the Intercontinental GT Challenge that is no less thrilling. With the new race in Kyalami, the IGTC has reached yet another level in terms of appeal and significance this year. All drivers and manufacturers are keen on scoring a historic maiden win in the nine-hour race and we are no exception, of course! Nevertheless, we will not just be looking for victory, but also have to drive a clever race in order to get the maximum out of our excellent initial position, which is the double of drivers’ and manufacturers’ title.”