Maro Engel claimed victory in the inaugural FIA GT World Cup, with a controlled drive in the main race on the Macau street circuit. Engel made it two in a row at Macau, having won last year’s Macau GT Cup for the Mercedes AMG Driving Academy team as well.
The German driver was attacked by Audi Sport Team Phoenix driver Edoardo Mortara at the start, but was able to fend off the attack. Once in the lead, and with teammate Renger van der Zande acting as a buffer, Engel was able to pull out a two-second lead.
In traffic Van der Zande’s Mercedes suffered damage and on lap 13 Craft Bamboo driver Stefan Muecke attacked him into Lisboa Corner. Audi drivers Mortara and Rast took advantage to pass both and move into second and third.
The race was heading for a thrilling end, when suddenly the safety car was deployed as a result of Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak crashing into the barriers. It was then abruptly ended with a red flag on lap 16, when John Shen crashed his Porsche 997 GT3 R while running behind the safety car.
“It’s unbelievable. I am so happy and proud to be the first winner, but I am especially proud of my team. I made a big mistake in qualifying and standing there, I thought that the weekend might be over and that I blew the opportunity I had, but this result is amazing,” race winner Maro Engel said.
“Edo [Mortara] had a really good start. I knew I had to take the inside line and try to get in front through Mandarin. Then I kept my head down, tried to keep cool and pull the gap.”
Mortara finished in second place, although race control launched an investigation into the start of the race, as it seemed that the Audi Sport Team Phoenix driver put the nose of his Audi R8 LMS ahead of Engel’s Mercedes before the line.
“First of all, congratulations to Maro and Mercedes. Today, they were simply quicker. The only opportunity we had was when Renger with fighting with Stefan. I looked for an opportunity. I saw that Renger had damage when Mücke ran into him, I tried to use this chance and it worked,” said Mortara.
Audi Sport Team WRT driver René Rast completed the podium by taking third place on his Macau debut.
“I felt more comfortable from session to session. The first session was critical for me, but it got better and better. Yesterday, I already felt really well and I was confident for this race. As a rookie, it is not easy, but I am very happy to be on the podium with these experienced guys,” said Rast.
Stefan Muecke finished in fourth place, ahead of Renger van der Zande. But the Dutchman wasn’t happy at all, claiming he had been hit by the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
“I had to find a way around that Porsche that was going slowly, and then Mücke hit the rear of my car, and then again on the long straight. He hit me several times, the rear suspension is bent completely,” Van der Zande said after the race.
Despite finishing in fifth place, Van der Zande’s position was enough for Mercedes-AMG to claim the manufacturers’ title, much to the delight of Jochen Bitzer, Mercedes-AMG’s head of customer sports.
“The weekend started very good with the practice sessions, but in qualifying, both cars crashed. The mechanics and engineers did a perfect job overnight and at the end we could win the qualifying race and be in a good position for the race today. It worked out perfectly!”
“Maro did it again and Renger did a good job during the race. Unfortunately for him, there was this issue with Stefan. After the 1-2 last year, now a victory again. Many thanks to the organizers, we will definitely come back. Next year, we will hopefully here with the new car. We are looking forward to hard competition again.”
UPDATE:The Stewards handed Mortara a penalty for jumping the start. As a result Rast and Muecke have been promoted to second and third, with Muecke now classified in sixth place.
RESULTS: FIA GT World Cup
René de Boer contributed to this report