Nürburgring. In the ADAC GT Masters season finale at the Nürburgring, Maro Engel and Luca Stolz (both GER) have secured third place in the drivers’ standings of the hard-fought race series. At the same time, the drivers achieved fourth place in the teams’ standings for Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT. Their fellow Mercedes-AMG drivers Maximilian Buhk (GER) and Raffaele Marciello (ITA) concluded the season in fourth place of the drivers’ standings, equalling fifth position for MANN-FILTER Team LANDGRAF – HTP/WWR. Jules Gounon (FRA) and Igor Walilko (POL) ended up in sixth place of both the drivers’ and the teams’ standings while Walilko also got to celebrate third position in the Junior standings. At the end of a thrilling season, the records show three overall race wins and nine further podium results for the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer teams.
On Sunday morning, the typical Eifel weather saw the short configuration of the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit covered in thick fog and qualifying for the decisive race of the GT Masters season had to be postponed by almost two hours as a result. Moreover, the session was extended from 20 to 30 minutes, giving teams the opportunity to adapt to the difficult track conditions. Maro Engel secured seventh position on the grid for the race in the #22 Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT entry while Maximilian Buhk placed the #70 MANN-FILTER Team LANDGRAF – HTP/WWR in P17. Jules Gounon ended up in P21 in qualifying with the #13 Team Zakspeed Mobil Krankenkasse Racing car, the sister car with starting number 20 started the race from P25.
As ever so often in the current season, the second and decisive race of the final GT Masters weekend at the Nürburgring got off to a turbulent start: several competitors collided right after the start so that the race already had to be interrupted on the second lap and could only be continued after a longer break. However, the Mercedes-AMG GT3s in the field were able to benefit from the unclear situation: starting driver Maro Engel made up five places in the #22 Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT car and continued the race from P3. Maximilian Buhk (#70) advanced from P18 to P10 while Jules Gounon (#13) even overtook 13 opponents in the opening part and slotted into P9. Driving the Zakspeed sister car with starting number 20, Constantin Schöll also made up six positions and moved up into P19.
Because of darkness setting in, the duration of the race was reduced by 15 minutes before the race continued with a flying start. Just after the restart, Engel claimed P2, but incurred a drive-through penalty soon after that: race control had found him to be responsible for a further collision. That put an end to Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT’s title hopes, later on in the race, the team from Quiddelbach parked its car in the pits.
From then on, the #13 Team Zakspeed Mobil Krankenkasse Racing entry was the best-placed Mercedes-AMG GT3: starting driver Jules Gounon handed his car to Igor Walilko while in P5. Raffaele Marciello took over the #70 car from Maximilian Buhk in P10 and didn’t take long to move up further. A few laps later, the Italian had made up six places and therefore positioned himself ahead of fellow Mercedes-AMG driver Walilko, who dropped back to P7. A few minutes before the end of the race, however, there was contact between Marciello and an opponent. In the process, his #70 Mercedes-AMG GT3 was damaged in such a way that he was unable to continue his spectacular drive. Following a strong stint, Igor Walilko crossed the finish line in sixth place, the #20 car finished in P18.
Race 1: Fourth and fifth place for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport
In qualifying on Saturday morning, Luca Stolz had only just missed out on pole position for the opening race of the weekend: less than a tenth of a second down on the fastest driver, he put his #22 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in second place on the grid. Raffaele Marciello posted the fifth-best lap time with the #70 car; the two Zakspeed cars ended up in 16th (#13) and 19th (#20) position.
Following two formation laps at the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit, there was already contact in the field in the first corner after the start of the race that had a considerable effect for some opponents. However, Luca Stolz, the starting driver in the #22 Mercedes-AMG GT3 run by Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT, was able to defend his good initial position while Raffaele Marciello (#70) even made up one place. For the two Zakspeed cars, meanwhile, the start was a story of opposites: while Hendrik Still (#20) managed to move up no less than ten places and found himself in P9, Igor Walilko dropped back to P23 with the #13 car.
Later on, the race action settled down a bit, but still, extended and hard-fought duels between various cars unfolded over and over again. Stolz, for instance, staged an entertaining duel with an opponent for second place that he was able to maintain thanks to a faultless performance. This changed just after the pit window had opened after 25 minutes of racing: while on his in-lap, Stolz was hit by a rival who had already made his stop and lost valuable seconds. As a result, two cars managed to move ahead of the #22 Mercedes-AMG GT3 while Stolz handed over to his teammate Maro Engel.
In the second half of the race, Engel and Maximilian Buhk, the final driver in the #70 MANN-FILTER Team LANDGRAF – HTP/WWR car, did everything to close up to the frontrunners. After 41 laps of racing, however, the two drivers had to make do with P4 and P5 after a strong performance. In the midfield, Constantin Schöll, having taken over the #20 Team Zakspeed Mobil Krankenkasse Racing car from Hendrik Still, successfully defended his ninth place for a long time against multiple rivals who put him under massive pressure. As Schöll eventually made a slight driver error, he found himself in P15. Jules Gounon, the final driver in the #13 Zakspeed sister car, managed to move up a few positions: he finished the race in P19.
Successful season by the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Teams
The ADAC GT Masters season had started in a promising way with an overall win for the #70 MANN-FILTER Team LANDGRAF – HTP/WWR entry at Motorsport Arena Oschersleben in the first race of the season. The next podium results for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport were two second places at Circuit Zandvoort during the third race weekend. Mercedes-AMG GT3 really came to the fore at DEKRA Lausitzring, the fourth venue on the series’ calendar: in an exciting race, the #13 Team Zakspeed Mobil Krankenkasse Racing, the #22 Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT and the #70 MANN-FILTER Team LANDGRAF – HTP/WWR cars secured a 1-2-3 for the performance and sports car brand from Affalterbach. In total, the customer teams racked up three overall race wins and nine further podium results during the seven race weekends.
GT4 Germany: double championship success for Team Zakspeed
In GT4 Germany, that had its final race weekend on the ADAC GT Masters support package as well, the remaining decisions were reached, too: Team Zakspeed, that ran two Mercedes-AMG GT4s throughout the season, was crowned champion in the teams’ classification at the Nürburgring. Theo Nouet (FRA) also won the Junior title and, together with teammate Jan Marschalkowski (GER), ended up in P2 of the drivers’ standings.
Christoph Sagemüller, head of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport: “Following our title success in DTM, we would have loved to add another championship win, of course. Sadly, we were denied this during the ADAC GT Masters finale at the Nürburgring. Nevertheless, we can look back upon a very successful season in the hard-fought German GT championship. Our customer teams and drivers have proven once again how competitive our concept at Mercedes-AMG Motorsport still is. We will continue to build on that and we will be competing again next year to bring the title to Affalterbach.”
Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing: “That certainly was a thrilling finale of a very challenging ADAC GT Masters season. Our teams and drivers have given it their all and have represented Mercedes-AMG in this series in an impressive way. Too bad, of course, that the drive-through penalty for Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT blew all the title hopes that were still good until the end. The only thing left for us is to respect this. Congratulations to Ricardo Feller, Christopher Mies and the Land Motorsport team on the championship win. And, of course, we are happy with the teams’ title for Zakspeed and the Junior championship for Theo Nouet in ADAC GT4 Germany.”
Maro Engel, Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT #22: “It is a real pity how the weekend went, of course. I feel particularly sorry for the team that had been doing a great job throughout the season and had deserved more. From my perspective, the penalty in today’s race wasn’t justified, especially not this big. Being taken out of contention for the championship in such a way is definitely bitter. Today, our car was top, we had a good pace and we had to try everything to win here. That is what we did and we got ourselves into a good position. Everything else was not in our hands.”
Raffaele Marciello, MANN-FILTER Team LANDGRAF – HTP/WWR #70: “The race today was fun. We started well down the order, but then Maxi had a good start and my stint went very well, too. After the contact just before the end of the race, sadly, we weren’t really able to continue, but up to that point, we had been showing a good performance.”