Maro Engel said that he knew he “had to make a move quickly” on Jules Gounon for the lead of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, which resulted in the Mercedes-AMG pair colliding.
Engel was hounding Gounon with 50 minutes to go when he made an inside lunge at the Chase and tagged the SunEnergy1 Racing driver into a spin.
After taking the lead, Engel was handed a drive-through penalty for the contact which dropped his Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing entry to third where it finished.
“Congrats to the 75 crew,” Engel said after the podium. “As Jules said, we’re all good friends, Jules, Kenny and Luca, so I’m very, very happy for them.
“At the same time, it’s extremely disappointing for us. I think it was our race. We had everything under control until we were requested to add a data logger at the last pit stop.
“That sort of threw us behind them. From there on, I knew I had to make a move and they were just so quick in a straight – even though I had fresh tires and good exits, it was hard to keep up on the straights.
“I went for the move and it was unfortunate we came together. I respect the decision race control took and there’s not much more to say.”
Engel had a set of fresh Pirelli slick tires for his closing stint, whereas Gounon took fuel only at his car’s final pit stop which meant he was running on one-stint-old rubber.
However, Engel suggested that following Gounon so closely would have caused problems with his own tires.
“The problem is that I knew I had a tire advantage but when you’re running behind in the slipstream, your tires start to overheat,” he said.
“So I knew I had to make a move quickly rather than wait longer because I knew I would start to suffer degradation and my tire advantage would be gone.
“That’s why I chose to try the move when I did.”
Gounon described the incident with Engel as a “very uncomfortable situation.”
Just one week ago the pair stood atop the Rolex 24 at Daytona podium after winning the GTD Pro class together.
“As a friend, I would have much liked to have touched with somebody else [in the race] but in the end it’s racing and the chance to win Bathurst in your life is really small,” said Gounon
“Maro went for it and I also defended. It was not only him but it was also me who tried to make the corner. I think it’s a racing incident. But at the end it’s really hard for me to be in this situation with him.
“I think to win Bathurst, you would sell your mother! That’s what happened a bit for me today.”
AMG: Data Logger Incident “Disappointing” for GruppeM
The foundations of Engel and Gounon’s dramatic battle were laid in a data logger problem that cost GruppeM a clear lead in the race.
It is understood that event organizer Supercars noticed that it was not receiving information from the No. 999 Mercedes’s logger, which is installed to monitor car performance.
The team was unsure if the issue was being caused by a fault with the logger itself or the modem that transmits data to the organizers, so both units were swapped out during Engel’s final stop.
Engel emerged from the pits between Gounon and Matt Campbell, but without the delay he would have likely come out with a healthy lead clear of the SunEnergy1 car.
Head of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Christoph Sagemueller said that it was “disappointing” for the GruppeM team considering the logger system was event-supplied.
“It really cost time,” Sagemueller told Sportscar365. “You try to limit it as much as possible and maybe we wouldn’t have got into the situation with Jules and Maro.
“You never know, but for sure the team was disappointed.”
Figures from GruppeM Racing, Mercedes-AMG and event organizer Supercars were seen deliberating for several minutes about how to proceed with the logger and modem change before Engel came in.
“We had all the guys here and discussed what we were capable of doing and what we were allowed to do,” Sagemueller explained.
“All the guys were here and saw that we did it right. I think that the work they did on the car was pretty quick. To be honest, a bit less drama would have been OK at the end.”