Following months of development and a pair of test races, the new Mercedes-AMG GT3 is set for its 24-hour debut this weekend in Dubai, with Maro Engel banking on reliability and a bit of luck for the new-generation GT3 contender.
The AMG factory driver joins Jeroen Bleekemolen, Khaled al Qubaisi and Indy Dontje in the No. 2 Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon entry, one of three AMG GT3s entered for the twice-around-the-clock enduro.
“The team had a quite productive shakedown on Saturday so I think we’re quite comfortable with the car and the development we’ve done,” Engel told Sportscar365.
“It’s been a very reliable car in development and it’s been a very good development phase all the way through last year. We’re really happy with the final product that we have here.”
Engel, who won the 2015 FIA GT World Cup in Macau, has played a part in the car’s development, which has racked up nearly 20,000 miles in testing since its first rollout earlier last year.
It included a successful 30-hour endurance test at Portimao in September, which saw 15 drivers rotate through the two test cars, as well as a runner-up finish in a VLN round in October.
Unlike some all-new models such as the BMW M6 GT3 or Lamborghini Huracan GT3, the new AMG GT3 is considered an evolution of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, featuring the same 6.3-liter V8 powerplant and similar base chassis from the gull-winged beast.
“It’s very much been an evolution but in some ways, also just a new car,” Engel said. “We’ve got a new base but we already said in the road-going AMG GT that it’s an evolution from the SLS.
“What we’ve learned from the SLS is what we’ve put into the AMG GT and it’s the same with the GT3 cars.
“The SLSs have been super successful and have won pretty much every race that’s been out there at some point. It’s great to have that predecessor.
“It’s been really productive and the car is a good evolution and a step forward in every regard.”
Having scored overall wins in three of the last four years, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 has arguably been the car to have in Dubai and Engel is hoping to help translate that success to the new machine.
“The key is getting to the finish,” he said. “I think getting to the finish without any issues is the main priority. Being able to run the race without any issues will be a big part of it.
“There’s 100 cars on the grid on a short track, relatively speaking, is huge.
“If you break it down, the Nordschleife as we all know is a really busy place and you’ve got 200 cars but the track is 25 kilometers.
“Here you have a track that’s 6 kilometers and have 100 cars, so it’s going to be crazy busy out there and it’s going to be about not making mistakes.”
One of the variables that could put the new-gen Merc out of contention is Balance of Performance, with the AMG GT3 running 50kg heavier and with a 5mm smaller air restrictor than the new Audi R8 LMS.
Engel, who is making his 24 Hours of Dubai debut, has tried to remain positive at their prospects, despite the uphill battle that appears to be ahead this weekend.
“We have a beautiful new car, which I’m happy and proud to have been involved with the development,” he said. “We’re very happy with it.
“At the same time, we’d have to say that looking a the BoP, we’ve really been hurt quite a lot.
“I don’t expect us to be favorites here based on the BoP we’ve received. We’ll see how it goes but it’s going to be a little bit tough.”