Daniel Juncadella, Jules Gounon and Raffaele Marciello are aiming to share the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli drivers’ title courtesy of Mercedes-AMG’s selection approach to a drop-score rule that was introduced for this season.
The ability for a driver to drop their worst result from the IGTC campaign, excluding the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, means that Gounon and Marciello can still win the championship alongside Juncadella, despite the trio sharing the same car in Abu Dhabi.
Juncadella leads the IGTC table with 68 points, followed by Gounon and Juncadella on 65 and 50 respectively. The only races they have all done together this season are Spa, which they won, and the Gulf 12 Hours season finale this weekend.
Another Mercedes-AMG driver, Luca Stolz, is also in contention with 43 points.
Juncadella, Gounon and Marciello can share the title by winning Sunday’s 12-hour race in their No. 89 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
They will also share the spoils if they finish second in the race, provided that Stolz and his co-drivers Fabian Schiller and Al Faisal Al Zubair don’t take victory.
A win for Stolz would put the German driver on 68 points, which is the maximum number of points Juncadella, Gounon and Marciello would end up with if they come second.
The IGTC rules state that in the event of a tie, and with no clear winner on countback, the highest-finishing driver at the final race of the season gets the championship.
Juncadella would win the title on his own if his No. 89 car finishes anywhere in the points besides first or second, and provided that Stolz doesn’t win.
The only certainty is that a Mercedes-AMG driver will secure the title.
“If we finish second or first, there is a high chance we all win together,” Gounon told Sportscar365.
“If Lello and I are not champions, we will be very happy that Luca or Dani wins [alone]. They are two good friends and I have a lot of respect for them.
“At the end, we will just enjoy the last race of the season. It’s an amazing track and a good event.”
Juncadella added: “If you separate Lello, Jules and myself, somehow somebody would end up getting screwed.
“The only chance for as many AMG drivers to win the championship was this [strategy].
“For sure it’s beneficial for me because no matter what, I’m always going to be a champion between us [in the No. 89 car]. But I didn’t know until a week ago that if Luca wins, he is champion and I’m not.”
Mercedes-AMG’s head of Customer Racing Stefan Wendl explained that the manufacturer considered several different options for its Gulf 12 Hours driver lineups, but found the eventual combination to be the fairest and most open.
In addition to the title-contending car, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing also has an entry for works drivers Maximilian Goetz, Maro Engel and Lucas Auer.
“It’s a unique position,” Wendl told Sportscar365.
“We are really happy and proud that we achieved this position before the final round.
“On the other hand, I tried to make a fair competition and we discussed after Indianapolis, going to the hotel bar with our drivers, what we will do.
“We had all kinds of ideas like kids in a football game… but we came quite fast to a conclusion that the most competitive and fair way was to take the challenge and win or finish second, putting all three drivers in one car.
“This would enable them to be champions together, which would be a really nice story.
“We also had a discussion that if GetSpeed won with Luca, and those drivers finished second, potentially they could all be champions.
“But there is a rule that the last result counts more than the others [if scores are equal on countback] that means Luca would be champion. This is quite new, but this is how it is.
“It will be a tough challenge. This is one of the IGTC races with more competition and we know our competitors are well-prepared. It’s nice to see them all here on the grid.
“I cannot wish more than to have a nice season finish with all our drivers involved.”