Maro Engel says Black Falcon could have finished second in the Total 24 Hours of Spa by making its final pit stop a lap later but didn’t want to risk receiving a stint time penalty.
The German says coming in later, likely resulting in a shorter stop, would have “most definitely” moved his Mercedes-AMG GT3 up a position but the possible penalty would have damaged their Blancpain GT Series championship hopes.
Engel and co-drivers Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman ended up settling for third, finishing behind Nick Tandy’s ROWE Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“We were on the edge, I was pushing really hard,” Engel said. “We just didn’t quite have the pace at the end that the two cars [in front of] me had.
“It would have been a risk to do another lap, risking a penalty, and we do have to have an eye on the Blancpain overall title race and championship.
“The decision was taken to stop a lap earlier. Most definitely, we would have come out in P2 but whether we would have held that, I don’t know.”
While his Mercedes enjoyed consistency throughout the race, Engel says it was no match for the Porsches on slick tires in damp conditions.
“On the wet tires, in general, we were probably a little bit stronger and could give the Porsches a better run for their money,” he explained.
“[But] on these mixed conditions with the slicks in the slightly damp conditions, [the Porsches] were just super quick.
“That’s certainly where they had a real advantage.
“I would love to have resisted a little bit harder and for sure, we have mixed feelings because we came here to win this race but there just wasn’t anything we could do at the end of the race, or I could do. They were just quicker.”
Safety Cars Played Against Black Falcon
Engel says the prevalence of safety cars in the race, used at the end of most Full Course Yellow periods, were detrimental to Black Falcon, and that a Nürburgring 24-style format without safety cars would have been preferable.
“At the Nürburgring, you don’t have safety cars so that would have been nice in our situation [here] and I think we would have ended up with a bigger lead because we really didn’t put any feet wrong at any point,” he explained.
“The advantage you gain early on will always be erased by safety cars but it can bring you back into the game if you’re trailing a little bit at some point.
“Maybe, if this was a race without safety cars, maybe it would have been a different result but it isn’t. It’s a different character, it’s an exciting race and we hope to be on top next year.”
He described the rain-affected contest as a “bloody tough race”, especially during the heavy rain showers overnight.
“Every one of us did extremely well to keep the car on the track at that pace,” he explained.
“I remember saying to the team at night that I can’t see where the dry line is, I cannot see whether it is wet or dry.
“At some points, you couldn’t see any rain on the windscreen either but the track was getting wetter. It was super tough, you had slides all the time and had to catch the car all the time.”