There’s a different look to the Mercedes-AMG line-ups at the Nürburgring this weekend, with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing pair Stefan Mücke and Dirk Müller, 2012 WTCC champion Rob Huff and the experienced Marco Seefried brought in to complement the marque’s regular pool of drivers across its seven works-supported Mercedes-AMG GT3s.
As head of AMG Customer Sports Jochen Bitzer explains, the move is part of a larger commitment from AMG to their chosen partner teams; AMG–Team Black Falcon, AMG–Team HTP Motorsport and Haribo Racing Team–AMG, as they seek a first victory at the 24 Hours since Black Falcon’s triumph in 2013 with the outgoing SLS AMG GT3.
“First of all, we made the decision to support teams a little bit more as the Nürburgring 24 is maybe the biggest motorsport event in Germany and one of the biggest motorsport events in the world from our perspective,” Bitzer told Sportscar365.
“It’s very important because if you win this race, it’s proof that the car is reliable and fast. If you have performance teams and put support into it, then you have to have the right drivers as well.
“We have a few drivers, but not enough, so it was clear that we had to get some more. We had a look at the market and took the decision to take drivers who are not dedicated only to our brand, although Stefan [Muecke] of course is still linked with the brand from driving with us in the DTM.
“It’s not an official agreement between us and Ford, as the arrangements were done through the drivers, but next year we will probably have the same situation again because this is our biggest event where we need the most drivers.”
With the exception of Black Falcon driver Huff, who finished 10th in last year’s 24 driving a Team Premio SLS, none had previously raced a Mercedes before they signed with AMG, although the Briton’s WTCC commitments with Honda meant his first experience of the latest-model GT3 was not until Thursday’s free practice session.
“I had a successful 24 hour race last year with Mercedes, and I guess that lead to me being in one of the best cars on the grid for this year,” said Huff, who will share with Indy Dontje, Gerwin Schuring and Abdulaziz Al-Faisal.
“I’m always looking to expand my CV and I’m in a perfect place this weekend to put myself in front of Mercedes and show them what I’m capable of.
“But at the same time I’m not one of these half-brain drivers who’s going to try and go out there and try to beat the laptime of Maro Engel or anything like that.
“I’ll drive as fast as I can, as safe as I can and make sure the car is there for the other drivers. I’m sure I’m capable of doing a good job. I’ve done it before several times and I’ll do it again.”
Having only recently joined Ford after 15 years at BMW, 2004 event winner Müller was grateful to his new employers for giving permission to join AMG for the 24 Hours, just three weeks ahead of Ford’s long-awaited return to Le Mans.
“They know that we are real racers and that for us being German, it means a lot,” he said. “It’s the biggest race in Germany, they expect more than 200,000 people here this weekend, so I’m really happy that I got the chance and a big thanks to Ford and Chip Ganassi.
“Having won the race here once before, you always want to win it again and AMG are putting a lot of effort in to make that happen.”
Seefried, meanwhile, was brought on board by HTP after impressing the team last year when they ran with Bentley.
The No. 29 car he will shares with Christian Vietoris, Christian Hohenadel and Renger van der Zande set the 4th quickest time in free practice before ending the rain-interrupted Qualifying 1 in 8th position.
“To me, of the new generation cars or at least the ones I have driven so far, there is no bad car out there. They just have some specific advantages or disadvantages,” he explained.
“I would say the Mercedes is a good car overall, as we’ve seen in the Blancpain GT, wherever they’ve shown up, they were competitive for the podium, so it’s been very easy to adapt.”