Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Stefan Wendl admitted that everyone had to go “to the limit” in Sunday’s Suzuka 10 Hours, in what was a banner race for the German manufacturer in physically demanding conditions.
Maro Engel, Tristan Vautier and Raffaele Marciello led a 1-2 finish for Mercedes-AMG, in a dominant run for the No. 888 GruppeM Racing entry, which led 222 of the race’s 276 laps.
Mercedes-AMG GT3s, meanwhile, swept the race with wins in all four classes, along with five cars finishing in the top-10 overall.
Battling through near-100 degree Fahrenheit ambient temperatures, both Engel and Maricello managed to successfully complete double stints during day-time hours, a feat not replicated by the competition.
“It was very difficult for man and machine alike with the hot conditions. Today, literally everyone had to go to the limit,” said Wendl.
“We have witnessed very close competition between all the brands. Especially at the start of the race, we were able to stay out of traffic with strategic decisions thanks to our good grid positions.
“Here, we were able to make excellent use of the durability and the strengths of our Customer Racing system as well as our cars.”
Vautier, meanwhile, described it as a “flawless” race for the Hong Kong-entered Mercedes, which held command from the second hour.
“I think we led something like nine of the 10 hours,” he said. “It was flawless and actually felt like it was going too well at one point – something had to happen!
“It was perfect execution from the team, the car was strong all weekend and we knew we’d have a good chance if we just kept cool heads and managed everything well.”
The win for Vautier and Marciello, co-drivers in Intercontinental GT Challenge since the start of the season, sees the duo take over the lead of the drivers’ championship and Mercedes-AMG vault ahead of Audi in the manufacturers’ title race.
A nine-point gap separates the two German automakers with one round to go.
In addition to GruppeM’s overall victory on Sunday, the Black Falcon-run SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes of Kenny Habul, Mikael Greiner and Luca Stolz picked up Pro-Am class honors, with Mercedes also winning in the Am and Asian Cups.
“I am extremely proud of our customer racing teams,” Wendl added. “Five cars in the top ten, no technical failures and a closed performance by our teams from all over the world across Asia, Europe and the U.S. is really impressive.
“With a lot of team spirit, we have improved our performance from one session to another. Next to the strong sporting achievements, the cohesion among the teams has impressed me.”