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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Opening-Hour Drama for Pole-Sitting GruppeM Mercedes

Mercedes-AMG’s Gulf 12H bid takes a dent as No. 98 car hits trouble in Hour 1….

Image: SRO

Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing encountered an early setback in the Gulf 12 Hours as its pole-sitting car lost several laps due to an issue in the opening hour.

Maro Engel was chasing Audi Sport Team Tresor’s Kelvin van der Linde when his Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo started losing fluid under braking, causing the German driver to use the windshield wipers.

Engel brought the No. 98 car back to the pits where GruppeM mechanics got to work. Co-driver Maximilian Goetz suggested that the problem could have stemmed from Lucas Auer’s heavy accident on Friday that prompted an overnight repair job.

“We had a crash on Friday and maybe this is following damage,” Goetz told race broadcast pit lane reporter Alan Hyde.

“We don’t know yet, but it seems to be that one pipe coming out of the oil sump is damaged. It loosened and the guys are trying to fix it.

“But it’s hopeless because we’re losing at minimum five or six laps. We try to fix it and keep going. The pace looked strong, even behind Kelvin. It’s a shame because the team put an overnight shift in because of the damage; this payback hurts a lot.”

Engel started the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season finale from pole, while van der Linde split the two GruppeM Mercedes-AMGs with Raffaele Marciello dropping to third.

All but two of the front-runners in the Pro class then pitted very soon into the opening stint, with the GruppeM drivers diving in at the end of the first lap.

The strategies are yet to unravel, but the Gulf 12 Hours regulations require cars to complete a minimum of 10 ‘Imposed Pit Stops’ lasting 1 minute and 40 seconds.

AF Corse split its strategies, with Alessandro Pier Guidi making an early pit visit and Davide Rigon staying out to lead the opening hour in the No. 50 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020.

Rigon established a gap of around 10 seconds over second-placed Benjamin Goethe, whose Garage 59 McLaren 720S GT3 led the Pro-Am class from the teammate Sky-Tempesta Racing entry.

MDK Motorsports also elected not to take an early imposed pit stop, leaving Jan Magnussen fourth overall for much of the opening stanza.

Further back, van der Linde got ahead of Engel whose pursuit was taken up by Marciello when the No. 98 Mercedes-AMG encountered its problem.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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