Ahead of the Total 24 Hours of Spa (26-29 July 2018), Mercedes-AMG is making its mark with a record line-up. Thirteen Mercedes-AMG GT3s will be racing at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, with four cars benefiting from full factory support.
Daniel Juncadella, Raffaele Marciello and Tristan Vautier will be racing for the Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP with the #88. After its third and second place finishes from the two previous years, the French team is highly motivated to claim that first place on the podium that is still missing this year.
Raffaele Marciello said, “My expectations are very high. In 2017, I was on the podium here at Spa and currently, I am doing quite well in both championships: P2 in the Intercontinental GT Challenge and P3 in the Blancpain GT Series. From that perspective, a tactically clever race strategy is also important to score as many championship points as possible.”
The Mercedes-AMG Team BLACK FALCON also has ambitions to score a top result with Yelmer Buurman, Maro Engel and Luca Stolz with the #4 Mercedes-AMG GT3. Their car is sporting the livery of the ‘320 Changes Direction’ initiative (www.changedirection.org), founded by Talinda Bennington to support people with mental health issues.
Maro Engel told reporters, “ The Spa 24-hour race is an undisputed highlight on the racing calendar. Driving here is simply just fantastic. The track has a super rhythm – fast corners, combined with high-speed straights. Of course, it is our goal to bring victory to Affalterbach. We are super prepared, and we will do our utmost to win.”
The Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing has a strong line-up too, the #43 Mercedes-AMG GT3 has Maximilian Buhk, the runner-up of the 2017 Blancpain GT Series, as one of its drivers. He is sharing driving duties with fellow German Maximilian Götz and Alvaro Parente.
Buhk had this to say about the upcoming race, “The Spa 24-hour race is extremely demanding. Every little mistake immediately shows its consequences. Competition is enormously close and overtaking is very hard as a result. But we are very well prepared. In the race, you then have to put in 100% as a driver from the very beginning.”
The fourth factory-backed car is the #84 Mercedes-AMG Team MANN-FILTER machine, driven by Edoardo Mortara, Gary Paffett and Renger van der Zande.
“I am looking forward to the race. The track at Spa is unique: extremely fast and up and down all the time. The race will certainly be thrilling,” said an excited Edoardo Mortara. “The field is very strong, and usually, weather conditions are changeable during the race. It will not be easy, but we have a good chance of being in contention for victory. And that is what we will try to do!”
A further nine customer cars will also be taking on the marathon race with strong driver line-ups. Among the most prominent names is ex-Formula 1 professional Rubens Barrichello, who will be making his Mercedes-AMG GT3 racing debut in the #44 STRAKKA Racing car that he will be sharing with Felipe Fraga and Christian Vietoris.
Another driver with Formula 1 experience is the Russian Vitaly Petrov, who can be found in the #35 SMP Racing by AKKA ASP car. Petrov is supported by his compatriot Denis Bulatov and British driver Michael Meadows. The quick Brit made an impression in the Mercedes-AMG Young Driver Test at the beginning of the year and was then nominated as a Mercedes-AMG Driver for the Spa 24-hour race.
Meadows commented, “Being one of the official Mercedes-AMG Drivers during the 24-hour race at Spa is a huge honour for me. Last year, we were very strong in the race already. We managed to rack up laps in the lead and eventually came third. Of course, I want to do even better than this in 2018.”
The #89 AKKA ASP Team’s sister car will have football European and World Cup winner Fabien Barthez as one of its drivers.
Five times’ DTM champion Bernd Schneider has more experience with the Mercedes-AMG, being their brand ambassador. Schneider won the Total 24 Hours of Spa in 2013 and will be racing the #175 SunEnergy1 Racing Team HTP Motorsport car together with Kenny Habul, Thomas Jäger and Martin Konrad.
As well as the overall classification, the wide-ranging line-up of Mercedes-AMG is also aiming for good results in the various classes; six Mercedes-AMG GT3s are racing in the Pro category, four in the Pro Am Cup, two in the Silver Cup and one in the AM Cup.
The Total 24 Hours of Spa counts towards two championships, there are many points at stake in the Endurance Cup of the Blancpain GT Series, with points being awarded for positions after 6, 12 and 24 hours of racing; the race is also the second of four rounds of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
[table id=3233 /]