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ENGEL: A Fast Start to The Year

Maro Engel makes his Sportscar365 debut, filing his first column following Bathurst 12H…

Photo: Gruppe C Photography/Mercedes-AMG

My personal start into the 2019 season was at Bathurst. There are few places in the world that can compare with this place and this track.

But before it was time to go back racing it has actually been a very calm, relaxing and quiet time with the family this winter.

With virtually having no winter break the last few years, which any driver will agree is perfect, I was extremely glad to have some time off last month and miss the crazy Daytona – Dubai – Daytona travel.

My wife Stefanie gave birth to our little daughter Sophia in August last year and so it was simply amazing to be able to spend almost a full seven weeks straight with them and celebrate our first Christmas as a family together.

People tell you all about having kids and how great it is and how they grow so quickly and the feelings you have, but it really is true that you have to experience it to be able to understand how beautiful it is, and I can truly say I cherished this winter break a lot. Yes even the changing diapers!

My first commitment this year was also a very pleasant and special one.

My partner IWC Schaffhausen holds one of the most exclusive and special nights of the year during the SIHH Geneva Watch show.

Photo: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for IWC

First up was the IWC booth visit, where they placed the original Silver Spitfire that will become the first spitfire plane to circumvent the World in honor of the legendary IWC Pilot’s watches collection.

It was quite an incredible sight seeing this historic plane in the booth I have to say!

It was also an opportunity to catch up with old friends such as David Coulthard and Jochen Mass or fellow Laureus ambassador, legendary former cyclist Fabian Cancellara, and meet many new exciting people like Hollywood actor James Marsden, who told me about his passion for racing or even the beautiful Adriana Lima.

It was one hell of a show they put on and a privilege to be invited and be part of the IWC family.

As a Mercedes-AMG brand ambassador I get to represent the brand in a variety of great events such as this one.

Approximately 100km south of the arctic circle in Lappland, Norther Sweden. AMG runs the AMG Driving Academy Winter sporting or drift training as some people will refer to it.

Photo: Supplied

From January to end of March conditions are constantly cold enough below the freezing point to guarantee thick ice on the frozen lakes where we do our trainings.

In this instance the temperature was mostly around the -30 degree Celsius mark for the week I was there.

Most of our factory drivers and our brand ambassadors such as Bernd Schneider, Karl Wendlinger, Bernd Mayländer and myself are instructors in the AMG Driving Academy.

Needless to say that the event in Sweden is top of the list for most of us.

This year’s lineup was E63S, C63S, CLA45 and our GTS. Once again it was huge fun, apart from enjoying a go every now and again myself, it was great to see the improvement from the customers in gaining full control of our cars with all ESP and traction control systems off while drifting the cars and the smile it can bring to their faces!

Also on a personal note it was great fun as my stepdad decided to purchase a slot together with a good friend, and by coincidence German DJ and producer Felix Jaehn, who I had previously met at the Mercedes Global Ambassador Forum in 2017 was there too.

Photo: Gruppe C Photography/Mercedes-AMG

From the cold of Lappland with a short stopover for a weekend at home in Monaco, I travelled down to Sydney to meet my teammates Luca Stolz and Gary Paffett and then take the three-hour drive to Bathurst.

The 70-degree Celsius temperature shock I must say was quite interesting, but it’s amazing how quickly the body adapts and gets used to things.

After a short round of nine-hole golf with the Bentley boys Jules Gounon and Jordan Pepper on Wednesday afternoon and our pre-event briefings and media commitments on the Thursday, it was finally time to hit Mount Panorama with our AMG GT3 on Friday.

As I mentioned above, there are very few places that can compare to Bathurst.

For me personally Macau, the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife and Bathurst are the best tracks in the world at equal status.

Practice sessions went well and I have to say it was, maybe not unexpected, but great to see how quickly Gary learned the track.

As for Luca, he is really the all round professional despite his young age and has grown into one of the world’s leading GT drivers, so going into Saturday and Sunday we felt very positive as we had continuously improved the car and fine tuned the setup.

Photo: Gruppe C Photography/Mercedes-AMG

I was charged with qualifying duties and running over the mountain with a low fuel car and new tires is just an incredible feeling, you need a lot of commitment but it’s equally rewarding when you put a good lap together.

In the Shootout, I put a good lap in but felt I was a little too conservative in two corners.

In the end we came up just short, lining up 2nd on the grid. It was a good place to start the race from but clearly I was kicking myself, as pole was possible.

After a great start from Luca and good stints from Gary and myself the race had run smooth, even leading at several occasions but unfortunately Gary had to switch the engine off due to rising temperatures with just over four hours to go.

It was very disappointing but as we all know that is part of motorsports and it can happen.

I think the whole team can still be proud of our effort knowing that until then we showed a good race and we will definitely be back to give it another crack!

Until then, all the best keep racing and I will keep you posted.

Maro Engel (@MaroEngel) is a Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver and brand ambassador, former FIA GT World Cup champion, 2016 Nürburgring 24 winner and reigning Blancpain GT Endurance Cup champion, racing in the Intercontinental GT Challenge and Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup for the German Manufacturer.

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