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Mercedes-AMG Customers “In New Role” With World Challenge

Mercedes-AMG’s Stefan Wendl on global World Challenge commitment, customer focus…

Photo: Brian Cleary/MBUSA

Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Stefan Wendl says its participation in Blancpain GT World Challenge creates a “new role” for its customers, which are set to directly contribute to the manufacturer’s global title pursuit.

Confirmed last weekend, both Mercedes-AMG and Ferrari will face off in the new-for-2019 World Challenge, which links SRO Motorsports Group’s three GT3 sprint-based championships in America, Europe and Asia. 

Points are scored from four manufacturer-nominated drivers in each championship, with brands required to select at least one Bronze-rated driver and no more than one Platinum per series.

It results in a mix of drivers, including those comprised from a manufacturer’s Pro-Am or Am lineups.

“I’m happy for our customers because they’re in a new role,” Wendl told Sportscar365.

“This is really a manufacturer’s title but its related to the pure customer output, at least with our approach. For now, Ferrari and us are totally relying on customers. 

“I hope this will not be influenced in the future by factory cars or whatever.”

For its Blancpain GT America campaign, Mercedes-AMG has elected to go with three Bronze-rated drivers in JC Perez, George Kurtz and David Askew, alongside Platinum-rated factory driver Maxi Buhk.

While not yet announced, Wendl indicated they already have all of its drivers in place for the season.

“We set Maxi as the Platinum driver as some kind of team leader,” Wendl explained. “Then we have JC, George and David. They are the pure customers, the stakeholders financing the cars.

“Those guys are doing the business and running here for trophies.”

Wendl said he hopes to introduce the brand’s Blancpain GT America points-scoring drivers to their counterparts in Europe and Asia at some point this year.

“We’ll think about it, to maybe make a team-building exercise at one of our events,” he said.

“We believe in the concept [and] it must result in 12 drivers on the stage, four out of each continent.

“I know the regulations, for now, is that you can change the drivers in between the events. This is not our goal; we want to continuously go through the season with these drivers and see where we end up.”

While its Blancpain GT America lineup easily fulfills the Bronze-rated driver requirement, Wendl admitted achieving the same feat in other regions is not as easy.

“Most of our teams in Asia have Silver-rated [drivers],” he said.  “As you don’t have pro lineups and they are all going for Silver-rated cars.

“It was hard to find but Craft-Bamboo will have one Bronze driver in Jeffrey Lee. He will be our ‘hero’ to save this project!”

Ratel: World Challenge Will Grow Over Time

SRO founder and CEO Stephane Ratel said he’s convinced the World Challenge title will develop over time, likening it to the measured growth of Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli.

“We only need two to have a match, a minimum of two to have a global challenge,” he told Sportscar365.

“Either we go the easy way or the hard way. I always like the hard way because it’s more difficult but in the end it’s more [rewarding].

“It’s like Intercontinental [GT Challenge]. We went from three [manufacturers] to eight. You need to start somewhere.

“What I’ve learned in motorsport is that you need time; nothing comes overnight.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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