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ENGEL: From Spa to Suzuka

Maro Engel checks into Sportscar365 following a busy, but successful summer stretch…

Photo: Mercedes-AMG

Where to start, it’s been another very busy few weeks. By mid-September it will have been seven race weekends in a row of awesome racing and hard wheel-to-wheel battling, just pure fun awesome GT racing at its best.

As i’m writing this i’m on the plane returning back to Europe from Japan and quite possibly still a little high on adrenalin from our 2nd place finish at the Suzuka 10 Hours.

It’s definitely one of the toughest GT races in the world but also one of the best due to the amazing circuit and amazing Japanese fans that are so incredibly passionate.

Last time I checked in for my column was before the 24 Hours of Spa so returning to that week brings special memories.

The field was made up of 72 amazing GT3 cars and just a who’s who of the best teams, manufacturers and drivers in the world of GT racing.

It was incredibly hot that week reaching record temperatures in Belgium of above 40 degrees (Celsius), and let me tell you, you didn’t only feel the heat in the car but pretty much everywhere you went, especially in my top floor, under-the-roof apartment in the city center of Spa where we were staying for the week. It made for a few really late nights!

Photo: Gruppe C/Mercedes-AMG

My personal highlight was clearly the Super Pole shootout. Qualifying on pole position for this legendary race was definitely special and I would lie if

I would not admit that i’m also a little proud to have been on pole at Nürburgring 24H and Spa 24H in the same year. But of course I would happily trade in the pole for a win any day!

The lap itself was a constant fight against myself and my reference lap on the previous lap. I was always within 0.1 second of my previous lap sometimes under sometimes a little over, so I decided to take more risk in the double left Pouhon where I just dropped the brake and hoped the car would stick.

Luckily it did! what I do have to mention is that the team and my engineer gave me a car that was seriously hooked up! It was just amazing and so much fun to push it with new tires and low fuel.

Looking back I have to say even though we narrowly missed out on the win it was an awesome race from Yelmer, Luca the team and my self and I really enjoyed driving in these crazy conditions.

Photo: SRO

It’s a really tough race and to even be in contention at the end you have to have had a near perfect race, so the third place was still a great result especially as it was also important points for us in the Blancpain GT Series where we currently lead overall and World Challenge Europe as well as the teams championship and are second in the Endurance championship.

Following Spa was the VLN highlight of the year, the six-hour race. This turned out to be a real thriller of a race fighting both our sister Black Falcon car as well as the Phoenix Audi.

It was just pure flat out racing for 6 hours hard on the limit but always fair. Together with Patrick Assenheimer we managed to come out on top and complete a Black Falcon 1-2 which was the first in the team’s history in VLN.

I have to say it was a bit unusual to race against my team mates that I normally share the car with in Adam and Luca, and to tell the truth I would rather have them in my car any day than have to race against them.

Photo: Mercedes-AMG

During our “Summerbreak“ Luca and I decided to take up the opportunity to do two guest starts for one of our new customer teams Toksport WRT in GT Masters.

I have to admit a lot of people came to ask who this team is. But they were extremely professional and did a great job on both weekends. Finishing in the top-five three times out of four races including a 2nd place at the Nürburgring in such a competitive championship as a new team is a very strong showing and by the end of the Nürburgring weekend nobody was still asking who this team is.

As i’m about to land in Europe now I’ll be going straight to the Nürburgring where we have an AMG Driving Academy event on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, it will be great to meet many of our customers again and talk racing, AMG and the Nürburgring as well as doing lots of laps around this magical place.

The good thing is I can save the traveling for the next GT world Challenge round as it will be at the Nürburgring this coming weekend, unfortunately that means I have to wait a little longer till I get to see my girls again. Thank god for Facetime!

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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