The decision to put Maxi Buhk and Maxi Goetz into separate Mercedes-AMG GT3s for the final two Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli rounds was made “quite early” according to Mercedes-AMG head of customer racing Stefan Wendl.
Buhk and Goetz, who jointly lead the IGTC drivers’ championship after contesting the first three races together in the No. 999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes, now appear unlikely to be able to share the title, with Goetz moving to Craft-Bamboo Racing’s entry for this weekend’s Suzuka 10 Hours.
Defending race winner Maro Engel, meanwhile, has been reunited with Raffaele Marciello in the Hong Kong-entered Mercedes alongside Buhk for the penultimate IGTC round of the season.
While manufacturers such as Porsche and BMW have opted to retain full-season pairings, Wendl said that’s not been the focus in their camp, which has nine drivers committed for the season but moving between cars.
“In the end, we took the decision quite early,” Wendl told Sportscar365. “It was around Laguna Seca that we decided, together with the teams, to pair Raffaele and Maro together for Suzuka.
“In the end, it paid out to split the drivers due to the championship standings.
“This is the way for the IGTC, that you form race-by-race driver pairings.
“Sometimes the drivers or championships cross each other, as it was in Spa with Rafaelle, who had a season contact [in Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup] with AKKA. That’s why we had to take him out of the trio running for the championship.
“We will see how it ends up for Kyalami after Suzuka.”
The German manufacturer took a similar strategy ahead of last year’s season-ending California 8 Hours, which saw Marciello and Tristan Vautier split up for the final race.
Vautier ended up winning the championship as a solo driver.
“They did it already with ‘Lello and Tristan [last year],” Buhk told Sportscar365. “I think it’s quite good that we’ve already done in Suzuka so it’s quite clear for the last round as well.
“On one hand it would be quite nice to share a championship with another guy I shared the car with in the first three races, but in the end, from a manufacturer’s point of view, it makes sense.
“But first of all we need to score points [this weekend]. I think it will be much more tougher than last year.”
Buhk and Goetz head into the weekend with a seven-point lead of the Porsche trio of Dennis Olsen, Matt Campbell and Dirk Werner, who have been allocated with Absolute Racing.
Mercedes-AMG’s Wendl, meanwhile said that further changes to its lineups could occur for Kyalami depending on the outcome this weekend.
Wendl said a total of three AMG Performance teams will be on the grid for the season finale and admitted that Marciello could even be moved to a different car to give the Italian driver a chance of the title.
Marciello currently trails Buhk and Goetz by three points, due to his drive with AKKA-ASP in the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
“There are so many scenarios that are on the table that could happen,” Wendl said.
“We’ll take a look at where we are in the championship, where our drivers are and to form for Kyalami the best possible driver pairing for two championships.”