The No. 999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 is back on track for this weekend’s Kyalami 9 Hour following an extensive overnight rebuild to its GT3 contender, with thanks in part to several “super locals” from a nearby body shop.
The Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli championship-leading entry sustained considerable damage, including rear-end chassis damage following Maro Engel’s impact with the Turn 7 barriers in Thursday’s second test session.
While GruppeM worked until 3:30 a.m. Friday morning putting the car back together, team director/engineer Alex Zoechling credits the work by three men from Scorpion Body Work, who rebuilt the rear subframe.
“We found them locally,” Zoechling told Sportscar365. “They made nothing into something. It was amazing what they did.
“We have to thank a lot of other teams here too because we borrowed a lot, as everybody does not have so much [on-site]. Particularly the help from Walkenhorst was really, really good.
“Without all of this, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
Engel said the overnight work by the GruppeM crew, as well as the outside help, is a “testament” to the motorsports community coming together in time of need.
“From the moment the car came back the guys had the first look at it, and I think it was within three minutes they said, ‘We’ll get this back together,'” Engel told Sportscar365.
“It’s a testament to the guys, the whole GruppeM team as well as the Mercedes-AMG guys who all worked together and also relying on some help from the outside with some tools and guys helping to fix it up again.
“A big, big thank you. The last thing you want is to crash the car in practice. I’m still very mystified on how it got to that point but you can’t go back and change it.
“It’s great to see the team spirit so high.”
Engel’s co-driver Maxi Buhk heads into Saturday’s IGTC season finale as the championship leader, with a six-point buffer over Audi’s Frederic Vervisch and Mercedes-AMG driver Maxi Goetz, who are tied for second.
Pole Shootout Still the Target for GruppeM
Engel feels the team can still fight for a position in Pole Shootout this afternoon, despite having lost some running time on Thursday.
“I think all three drivers were quite competitive and the car felt good [in the testing sessions],” Engel said.
“Now in this practice session we have time to check the car, make sure everything feels the same and hopefully we could get our way into [Pole Shootout].
“I think it will be important; we’ve seen it in these IGTC races, maybe apart from Spa, but certainly Laguna, Suzuka, there are very few safety cars, so your grid position and track position is really important.
“The target today remains the same in trying to get the car into [Pole Shootout] and as high up as possible.”