Last weekend’s Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup round at the Hungaroring marked the Mercedes-AMG GT3’s return to the track following the engine mapping episode in the buildup to the Total 24 Hours of Spa. (En Français)
All six Mercedes-AMG GT3s that took part in Superpole received a double penalty, with the cancelation of its times and five-minute stop-and-hold penalties, but despite this sanction, the best of Mercedes-AMG GT3s, AMG Team AKKA-ASP, finished second in the race.
Between difficult-to-understand communications, cheating accusations, unsportsmanlike conduct and a missed appeal window, it hasn’t been easy to separate fact from fiction.
It’s also arguably left a bitter taste in the mouths of a number of Mercedes-AMG teams, which were on the front line of the penalties and accusations.
What’s known is that Mercedes-AMG has delegated the manufacturing and monitoring side of the GT3 program to HWA, a company close to the German marquee.
The press release sent out by the manufacturer shortly after the start of the race stated it wanted to submit a protest, but that it had missed the deadline to do so.
Only cancelation of the Superpole times was appealable and none of the teams elected to do this. With the appeal being suspensive, the final results would only have been confirmed weeks later.
“The teams were heavily penalized,” said a source within one of the Mercedes-AMG teams, in an interview with Endurance-Info. “We are customers and we do not have access to the engine mapping.
“By claiming the top six positions in the Superpole one could start asking questions, but if you look very closely, the performance gap is not very important. We managed to get the operating window optimal at the right time.
“We accepted the sanctions since we could not appeal the stop-and-hold. If there had been no FCY at the beginning, we would have lost two-and-a-half laps by serving the penalty.
“That’s a heavy penalty and impossible to recover from. We are victims of this problem.”
It’s understood teams have limited access to the data of the car, which also applies to other manufacturers, but the electronics are still directly managed by factory engineers and not by the teams themselves.
According to the unidentified team source, the claim that teams deliberately tried to cheat at Spa was not true.
The unsportsmanlike behavior was a result of the engine map installed by the manufacturer different from the one used during the rest of the season.
The Mercedes-AMG GT3 still uses the same atmospheric engine as that of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3.
In the search for extra performance, manufacturers have often been “playing with fire” particularly with turbocharged GT3 cars, which have often exceeded the boost limit in past races.
“How can we explain that cars with turbo engines exceeding the boost limit are never penalized with a stop-and-go penalty?” said the Mercedes-AMG team source.
“When you say ‘overboost’ you also say engine mapping.”
Mercedes-AMG, meanwhile, has yet to make any further official statements on the Spa situation beyond the press release issued on race day.