Maro Engel has described his and Luca Stolz’s double Sprint Cup victory at Valencia as a “massively satisfying” feat, after the pair persevered through a “really tough” summer period in which several of their races were compromised by incidents and retirements.
The Mercedes-AMG factory duo recorded their best weekend of the year so far in Spain, as they firmed up second place in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup standings behind champions Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts.
The wins came after a turbulent middle portion of the season across the four competitions in which Engel and Stolz co-drive Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo machinery.
Their GTWC Europe Sprint and ADAC GT Masters programs are run by Toksport WRT, while Haupt Racing Team operates their GTWC Endurance and Nürburgring 24 entries.
The list of setbacks included crashing out of a promising position at the Nürburgring 24 after Engel tangled with an Opel Manta at Tiergarten, followed by a huge accident for the German driver at the next weekend’s GT Masters round at the Red Bull Ring.
Engel, Stolz and Vincent Abril also retired from the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa where multiple minor incidents compromised the balance of their No. 4 Mercedes-AMG.
“Losing a potential Nürburgring 24 Hours win through that collision, you question why it has to happen to you, and your judgment,” Engel told Sportscar365.
“But then when you come out of that, the last thing you expect is going to the Red Bull Ring and hitting the barrier at 180 km/h as a result of two cars colliding.
“It was quite incredible, but the belief always prevailed that it would turn around. It did take some time.
“We were in Zandvoort [for Sprint Cup] the weekend after, where Chris Haase unfortunately misjudged his attempt to side-draft me and cut a rear tire. Nothing to blame in that instance, but it just added to the frustration.
“At Misano a similar thing happened with Luca. And then we lost the power steering at GT Masters in Zandvoort.
“Now, when I look back, I smile in disbelief but at the time it was definitely hard. But I’m proud that we stuck together. I always believed it would come.
“There are so many people to thank including the Toksport WRT and HRT teams who massively helped, supported and believed in us. So it’s great to reward them with strong results.”
Stolz and Engel’s fortunes began to swing back in late August, starting with a podium and a win at the Brands Hatch Sprint Cup round. That was followed by an Endurance Cup podium at the Nürburgring and a pair of second places at the Lausitzring in GT Masters.
Engel now hopes to “use the momentum” from the recent Valencia sweep to pursue a strong result in the upcoming GTWC Endurance Cup finale at Barcelona.
The pair are also fourth in the GT Masters standings heading into this weekend’s fixture at the Sachsenring.
“It was definitely massively satisfying,” Engel said after the Valencia wins. “You dream of weekends like that.
“I’d lie if I said it came easily because everyone in Valencia found the track conditions to be extremely tricky.
“We worked very hard with the team throughout the pre-event test and practice. It was a challenge because the Silver [Cup] crews had a set of new tires but we were using the tires from the previous event that had already done a substantial amount of running.
“So we were always trying to guess where our pace was at, and we didn’t find out until qualifying. It was a fantastic weekend: all the Toksport mechanics and engineers were on-point.
“It was great to finish the Sprint season with three wins, especially considering how the season ran through the early parts with some unbelievable bad luck. I thought it was very satisfying, and deserving for the team to finish off like that.”
Engel suggested that while the summer months marked a difficult spell for him and Stolz, both drivers were “strengthened” by their setbacks in the long run.
“It was definitely a really tough period,” he said. “Just a lot of unfortunate things came together and it just seemed like we couldn’t catch a break.
“It was a really tough time for me, and also for Luca who I share pretty much everything I drive with.
“What definitely kept us going was the firm belief that better times are ahead of us. It really strengthened us more.
“It took some time before those better times came, but since the summer was over and since Brands Hatch, we’ve bounced back really strongly and that’s great to see.
“It’s been very rewarding to come back in that way; I don’t recall having a time in my career where so many things happened back-to-back.
“It’s definitely been the firm belief in ourselves and our strengths, that better times are ahead. And also the patience to wait for those times to come.
“At the same time, there are a lot of people I have to thank, above all my Mercedes-AMG Motorsport family for having our back during that time and supporting us.”