The current Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli championship leaders will compete in different cars in the Suzuka 10 Hours, Mercedes-AMG revealed on Tuesday with the confirmation of its entries for the Aug. 23-25 race.
Maxi Buhk and Maxi Goetz, who have competed together in a factory-backed GruppeM Mercedes-AMG GT3 all season so far, will drive different cars in the Japanese race.
They both have 40 points in the drivers’ standings, while Raffaele Marciello, who joined them in two of the three races so far, is on 37 points.
Buhk and Marciello will be reunited in the No. 999 GruppeM car at Suzuka, but joined by Total 24 Hours of Spa pole-sitter Maro Engel, who won last year’s race with Marciello and Tristan Vautier.
Goetz, meanwhile, has been moved to a Craft-Bamboo car alongside Yelmer Buurman and Luca Stolz; Engel’s teammates at Spa and for the rest of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup season.
The Craft-Bamboo and GruppeM cars are two of Mercedes-AMG’s four factory-supported entries for the penultimate IGTC round of the year, along with one entry each from Strakka Racing and Goodsmile Racing.
Gary Paffett, Lewis Williamson and reigning IGTC drivers’ champion Vautier will share Strakka’s lead car, while Toyota LMP1 regular Kamui Kobayashi joins Tatsuya Kataoka and Nobuteru Taniguchi in the Goodsmile car.
The Strakka lineup is unchanged since Spa, while Kobayashi effectively replaces Adam Christodoulou in the No. 00 Goodsmile entry.
A further three customer cars will also compete at Suzuka, although they won’t be eligible for IGTC points.
Strakka Racing has added a second car for Dominik Baumann, Adrian Henry D’Silva and Christina Nielsen, while an all-Japanese lineup of Norio Kubo, Atsushi Sato and Ryosei Yamashita will share SATO-SS SPORTS’ car.
Kenny Habul’s SunEnergy1 outfit will return with the seventh and final Mercedes, with the Australian-American joining Nico Bastian and Mikael Grenier.
“For us, Asia is a very interesting market and we are doing very well in the various series with our GT3 and GT4 cars,” commented head of Mercedes-AMG customer racing Stefan Wendl.
“Quality of the races is improving, the involvement by the manufacturers is increasing, competition is getting harder and the upcoming round at Suzuka certainly is one of the highlights in the Asian region.
“As a result, building on our success in the 10-hour race from last year will not be easy. The 1-2 was a clear signal and was the decisive success on our way to securing the 2018 IGTC titles.
“This year, we again have very good perspectives in the championship standings. We are in an excellent position to win at Suzuka and then head to Kyalami for the finale in the lead of the points’ standings.”