Mercedes-AMG “still believes” in Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli despite a reduced effort for two of the final three races of the season.
The German manufacturer will not have an all-pro car or any of its factory drivers on the grid in this weekend’s Indianapolis 8 Hour, with Mercedes-AMG instead represented by three Pro-Am class entries that are not expected to feature for the overall win.
Both Porsche and Audi have taken similar approaches to the second round of the season, with the defending IGTC manufacturers’ champion having only a single Silver class Porsche 911 GT3 R entered for its season-long GT World Challenge America powered by AWS team, Wright Motorsports.
Audi, which typically also supports between two to four GT3 entries, has a single car entered for Team Hardpoint WRT.
It comes amid travel restrictions and logistical issues that have challenged European teams and manufacturers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Mercedes-AMG had initially committed to supporting at least two teams at each IGTC round with a slate of factory drivers and engineering support, including the planned season-long GruppeM Racing effort, which has ended its 2020 program early.
Speaking to Sportscar365, Stefan Wendl, the head of Mercedes-AMG customer racing, stressed that it has not given up on SRO Motorsports Group’s concept and rather has been limited by the current global challenges.
“We still believe in IGTC,” he said. “I think this is still exactly the thing that we need to be represented in each market once a year with a highlight event, where we can show competitiveness with the best performing ambassador teams internationally, or even out of the market. Whatever suits.
“We really hope [COVID-19] develops in a situation that makes things a little more predictable.
“This is something which has produced a lot of costs in front of the event.
“There was a high risk of investing into an event with logistics, sending the cars [to an event] early by sea freight or late when the event is confirmed.
“But then have to do everything late with the flight booking and logistics booking by air freight, which makes it more expensive.
“I think this is something which will be really tough to do for all the manufacturers. I hope, as everybody in the world does, that we can find a solution for this and go back to normal.”
Mercededs-AMG is represented this weekend by the pair of DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos, which have competed in this year’s GTWC America season, along with SunEnergy1 Racing’s entry for Kenny Habul.
Full season GTWC America entrant Winward Racing has elected not to take part in the event this weekend with its previous-gen Mercedes.
Audi’s Head of customer racing Chris Reinke has echoed Wendl’s comments in remaining committed to the IGTC formula.
A single Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo has been entered this weekend through a joint effort with Team Hardpoint and WRT for factory drivers Markus Winkelhock and Mirko Bortolotti plus Hardpoint regular Spencer Pumpelly.
“We are still in the condition to keep our partnership fully aligned, so there’s no question about Intercontinental GT Challenge at the moment, in general or for the future,” Reinke told Sportscar365.
“We’re committed to Intercontinental so we have to evaluate when to use European chassis, how do we get it through customs these days, what is the changeover point when it becomes more profitable to us U.S. assets and so on.
“The conditions have changed and therefore we have re-evaluate constantly. That’s what the current times demand besides racing.”
Mercedes-AMG Unlikely to Contest Kyalami 9H
Wendl admitted that it’s unlikely Mercedes-AMG will provide factory supported entries for the season-ending Kyalami 9 Hour due to the current COVID-19 situation.
“In Spa we will have our season contenders out of World Challenge. This is clear,” he said.
“And for Kyalami I cannot say anything yet. Kyalami is a restricted area, a danger area for Germany at the moment.
“Even if it’s at the end of the year, still maybe it makes no sense for us to make the efforts to go there if we are not able to score points in Indianapolis.
“It looks like we will not compete in Kyalami.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report