Luca Stolz believes Black Falcon is in a strong position to defend its Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup title with a largely unchanged entry this season.
The German claimed the Endurance Cup title along with co-drivers Maro Engel and Yelmer Buurman after a breakout year for Stolz and Black Falcon in Blancpain GT competition.
While the Nürburgring-based team has had plenty of success at its home track, it had always struggled in Blancpain GT Series until last season, when it scored a podium at Monza and won at Barcelona to claim the title.
“Coming here as a champion is not the easiest position because the pressure is quite high and everyone is expecting a lot,” Stolz admitted to Sportscar365.
“The team, myself and my teammates prepared well over the winter.
“The winter break is not so long because COTA was my last race at the end of November and then I started Daytona testing, then Daytona, Dubai, Bathurst, so I was in the car quite often.
“It’s not the start of the season, it’s just the start of the Blancpain Endurance. It’s a good thing as a driver because you’re really in the rhythm.
“I’m happy to be in the same position as last year with Maro and Yelmer and, together with Black Falcon, I think we have a really strong AMG team, if not the strongest AMG team.
“We proved it last year so never change a winning team.”
Aside from Stolz’s Blancpain GT Endurance Cup title, last year also brought class podiums at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Pro-Am win in the Suzuka 10 Hours and an overall podium at the Nürburgring 24.
This success in his breakout year led to the 23-year-old being awarded full factory status with Mercedes-AMG for 2019.
“It’s a nicer position because you’re finally a proper factory driver,” he said. “On the other hand, it doesn’t allow me to run other brands like I could do last year. Last year I did Le Mans, for example.
“I already had some good years before but lots of bad luck and some races when I could not really show myself.
“Last year, everything went really well. We had a lot of nice results, not only in Blancpain but IMSA, Nürburgring, Le Mans. Everything came together.
“For sure, you always need to be quick, you need to be consistent, but you also need a lot of luck in these races.”
Black Falcon Improvement Down to Dufour Signing
He put much of Black Falcon’s improvement last year down to it signing a new lead engineer in Renaud Dufour, the man who oversaw much of HTP Motorsport’s success with the Mercedes-AMG GT3.
“In 2017, we were already quite OK but we had lots of bad luck,” Stolz explained. “I think we could have finished on the podium several times, which we did last season.
“Another thing is they changed their main engineer, it’s Renaud now. It’s a bit of an advantage now, because he’s really confident with the AMG car.
“He was really successful in the past with HTP and I think he brought some knowledge to Black Falcon. This whole package makes us really successful.”
Stolz believes this consistency in having the same team, co-drivers and car puts Black Falcon in a better position than many of its rivals.
The trio started off their title defense well with a third-place finish at Monza earlier this month, matching their result from the same race last year.
“We know each other pretty well, which really helps,” he said. “You don’t have to practice pit stops so much and stuff.
“You’re in a rhythm and you know each other, so you know what the other guys are thinking. The setup doesn’t change so much because we’re on the same tires, the DHD2. It really helps.”