Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Stefan Wendl says its decision to place championship leaders Tristan Vautier and Raffaele Marciello in seperate cars this weekend is to “split the risks” in pursuit of the Intercontinental GT Challenge title.
The pairing head into Sunday’s season-ending California 8 Hours with an 18-point lead over Markus Winkelhock and Christopher Haase, who are also in seperate cars following a similar split approach from Audi.
Marciello, who teamed with Vautier and Maro Engel for victory in August’s Suzuka 10 Hours, has been placed in the No. 43 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, with Vautier and Engel being joined by Maxi Buhk in SunEnergy1 Racing’s GT3 Pro class entry.
It will result in a solo drivers’ champion for the second consecutive year, an approach Wendl said was necessary in order to hedge Mercedes-AMG’s bets of securing both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles.
“When we took the decision, everyone knew that one of them will not make it,” he told Sportscar365.
“They went together for the whole way and worked together and formed a team and were always added by another very strong driver.
“On the other hand, we saw what the competition was doing and we really thought long and hard about what and how to do it.
“At the end we have three drivers in the lead in IGTC and we had all three of them in one car.
“From my perspective and with my responsibility, it would be too high of a risk if something unexpected happens.
“We had to split the risks and to hopefully make it to Sunday to win the championship.”
Engel, who sits third in the championship standings, 15 points back, is effectively locked out of winning the championship as the German has remained as Vautier’s co-driver this weekend.
While there will be no team orders between the two customer teams for the drivers title, Mercedes-AMG has also placed focus on the manufacturers’ championship, which sees only a nine-point gap over Audi.
Wendl said it will result in a “very strategic” race for its four points scoring-nominated entries.
“On one end we really want to have the manufacturers’ championship for AMG. On the other hand, it’s about the teams and each single team to make risk management,” he said.
“We let them go for it. We asked them before the event to please not touch each other. This is the minimum I expect. It’s racing.
“We have a limited GT3 field, at least compared to Spa. But everyone wants to see racing, so they will race.
“It would be easier for us on this political view to have Tristan and Raffaele in one car, then there would be no discussions.
“So now we have two teams and two teams competing for the championship and we’ll try to move them all in the right position to score enough points to secure the manufacturers’ championship.”