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ENGEL: Nürburging Rewind, New AMG GT3 & Gearing Up for Spa

Maro Engel files his latest Sportscar365 column ahead of this weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa…

Photo: Mercedes-AMG

As I write this I’m en route to Spa for the Total 24 Hours of Spa. No doubt it will be another absolute classic with an incredible 72 cars entered.

The last few weeks, and months actually have definitely been busy to say the least.

The Blancpain GT Series season is already past midway; so far it has been a good but mixed season for us. While Luca [Stolz] and I lead the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe standings, the Endurance Cup season got off to a good start but we lost some ground in Silverstone and Paul Ricard.

So we could do with a good Spa 24 this weekend to give the No. 563 Lamborghini a run for their money in the overall title race.

The Nürburgring 24 was once again a real highlight. For me personally scoring my second pole position in Top Qualifying for this incredible race was amazing.

Photo: Gruppe C Photography/N24

Leading the field of more than 160 cars around the Nordschleife on the formation lap is a fantastic feeling, with all the spectators crowded around and even on the track to salute the drivers. Nevertheless I would have happily traded it in for being on the top spot on Sunday afternoon together with my teammates.

The race at the Nürburgring can be cruel, and in our case retiring from the lead after 8 hours was definitely hard to take.

Let me say first there is absolutely no blame on Adam [Christodoulou], who unfortunately had contact with a slower car while overtaking. This broke the steering arm and subsequently ended our race.

You have to know that at the Nürbrugring there are no safety cars. When there is an incident we have slow zones such as Code 60 (60 km/h limit) and double yellow (120 km/h limit).

As such, the race has a totally different character than the Rolex 24 at Daytona or 24 Hours of Spa where the field is brought back together several times over the 24-hour period.

Photo: Gruppe C Photography/N24

At the Nordschleife, any advantage you gain is yours and any loss you incur is also yours to take from the moment the race goes green.

Therefore it is very much a 24-hour sprint race where we are making split second decisions on traffic and lapping of the slower cars. In this case it was simply a misunderstanding that had big consequences for us.

I am still very proud of the whole team; the Black Falcon girls and boys were stellar as always and together with Mercedes-AMG gave us an AMG GT3 that had everything to win the race.

Hence I was super pleased to see at least our sister car get onto the podium and even now get classified as second after the disqualification of the 911.

The whole crew lives and breathes for races like the Nürburgring 24 and so it was a great reward for them.

Photo: Mercedes-AMG

One further highlight of the Nürburgring weekend was the world premiere of our new AMG GT3, which will be delivered to teams for the 2020 season.

First of all what a GRILL!! The AMG specific grill looks awesome and super aggressive.

I had the pleasure of driving the car beforehand already during a development test and it’s always exciting to be part of the development team and working with HWA on what will be our race car in coming seasons.

The improvements are very much aimed at giving our teams and drivers an even better product that is easier to run and also has cheaper running costs.

Apart from the obvious optical changes, some of the innovations include a quick-change system for adjusting and changing the splitter, the rear wing, as well as the air filter.

It also comes with a new seat and helmet cooling, an improved ABS and traction control, increased mileage on the engine and an automatic runtime tracking system for parts, which is a world first.

Photo: SRO

It’s now time for Spa and this year looks incredibly tough and there are easily 25 cars that can be labeled as potential race winners.

If we add to that the fact weather reports say it will be a mix of sunshine, light rain, heavy rain and thunderstorms it will no doubt once again be a huge challenge for all teams and drivers.

On my part I’m hoping for another strong race from Yelmer [Buurman], Luca and myself as we had 12 months ago. Clearly our aim is to win the race, but we are with both feet on the ground and know that there is a lot of competition and plenty of hard work ahead of us before we can think of the win.

The following weeks after Spa look to be full of many great races.

I can’t confirm everything just yet but what I can say is I will definitely be at the VLN5 6h race at the Nürburgring together with Patrick Assenheimer, where we will be looking to repeat Patrick’s win from VLN4.

I hope to see as many of you as possible in Spa or else the following week at the Nürburgring for some great GT3 racing!

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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