- A 1-2 for Mercedes-AMG by AKKA ASP and HRT in the first race on Sunday
- Three class podium finishes in the Pro-Am classification for SPS automotive performance as well as one victory and one second place in the Silver Cup for Madpanda Motorsport
Mercedes-AMG Motorsport has successfully started the sprint competition of the GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS. In the three races that were scheduled at the Misano World Circuit this weekend, the Customer Racing Teams with the Mercedes-AMG GT3s scored a total of seven podium results. In the race on Sunday afternoon, the performance and sports car brand from Affalterbach had a 1-2 to celebrate: Raffaele Marciello (ITA) and Timur Boguslavskiy (RUS) won the entertaining race with the #88 AKKA ASP Team car, leading home Maro Engel (GER) and Luca Stolz (GER) in the HRT team’s #4 entry. In the Pro-Am class, Customer Racing Team SPS automotive performance finished on the podium three times while in the Silver Cup, the Madpanda Motorsport team secured a pair of podium places.
After the successful endurance racing season opener for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport at Imola, the GT World Challenge Europe switched to sprint race format this weekend. At the 4.226 kilometres long Misano World Circuit, three races of one hour each had been scheduled. In the first race on Saturday evening, drivers not only had to deal with hot temperatures, but also with a low-standing sun. Unfazed by it all, Luca Stolz put in a furious start with the #4 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Customer Racing Team HRT that saw him move up four places from ninth on the grid. After the driver change, Maro Engel continued the attack and claimed fourth place. A safety car just before the end of the race brought him within striking distance from the podium positions, but after the restart, Engel couldn’t mount a challenge anymore, so that the #4 HRT entry finished the race in fourth as the best-placed Mercedes-AMG GT3. Classified eighth following a start from P14, the #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 (AKKA APS Team) with starting driver Timur Boguslavskiy and Raffaele Marciello, also finished in the top ten.
In qualifying for the second race, Raffaele Marciello came out on top of the entire field. His fastest time of 1m31.841s meant pole position for the #88 AKKA ASP Team car. Engel with the #4 HRT GT3, meanwhile, posted the third-fastest time of the session. AKKA ASP and HRT managed to convert the good grid positions for the race on Sunday around lunch time into a 1-2 for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport. As the race got underway, Marciello maintained the lead and pulled a slight gap. A safety car intervention briefly enabled his rivals to close up again. After the restart, however, the 2018 Blancpain GT champion again extended his lead and handed the car to Timur Boguslavskiy at a late stage. In the first laps of his stint, the 20-year-old youngster defended the lead against fierce attacks by his main rival, who then dropped back following a driver error. Driving the #4 car, Luca Stolz also benefited and moved up into second place. After 36 laps, the lights-to-flag victory for Marciello/Boguslavskiy and the double podium result for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport by Engel/Stolz in second place was in the books.
The third and final race of the weekend brought two further top ten results for the HRT and AKKA ASP Customer Racing Teams. In the process, Luca Stolz and Maro Engel again managed to make a recovery that was worth watching: having started the race from tenth on the grid, the HRT duo moved up to fourth place like on the previous day already. Timur Boguslavskiy and Raffaele Marciello, who had started from seventh with the #88 car, lost some positions in the opening stages of the race. A courageous drive, however, enabled final driver Marciello to still move up to sixth place until crossing the finish line.
In the Pro-Am class, the Misano race weekend resulted into a total of five podium finishes for the Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Teams. In the race on Saturday, Dominik Baumann (AUT) and Valentin Pierburg (GER) finished second in class with the #20 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of the SPS automotive performance team. On Sunday, the duo added a third and another second place in class. In the Silver Cup category, Customer Racing Team Madpanda Motorsport managed to finish on the podium twice: on Sunday, Ezequiel Perez Companc (ARG) and Axcil Jefferies (ZWE) finished second in class with the #90 Mercedes-AMG GT3. In the final race, the duo finished second again, but a post-race penalty for the initial winners promoted Madpanda Motorsport to the class win in the Silver Cup.
The support package of the GT World Challenge Europe at Misano also included the GT4 European Series. In the series’ race on Saturday, Spanish duo Lluc Ibañez and Xavier Lloveras came out on top with the #15 NM Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT4 and claimed the overall win. The next round of the GT World Challenge Europe will be held in Germany from 5th-6th September as participants will contest a six-hour endurance race at the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit.
Raffaele Marciello, AKKA ASP Team (#88): “All in all, I am happy with our performance this weekend. At the track, however, we can still improve as a duo. At least, we were able to score one victory from three races! The basis of the car remains very good. That is something we can build on.”
Timur Boguslavskiy, AKKA ASP Team (#88): “The race on Sunday around noon was great for us. But it was very hard, too! In the early part of my stint, my pace was good as I had fresh tyres, but then, I had to defend a lot and I had contact with the [#31 WRT] Audi. When he dropped back, I was no longer under pressure. I simply had to make it to the finish. I am really happy with my maiden victory in the series.”
Maro Engel, HRT (#4): “First of all, a big thank you to the entire HRT team. We had a mega strategy and mega pit stops. In all three races, the stops helped us to move up. As a driver, we didn’t have an easy time. The pace wasn’t quite there as we had wanted. Still, Luca and I made the best of the situation. With fourth, second and fourth place, it was a very good start of the sprint season in the GT World Challenge Europe. We are looking forward to the next races, especially at the Nürburgring, the home round for the HRT Team. We will do our utmost to be in contention for victory there.”
Luca Stolz, HRT (#4): “All in all, it was a very good weekend for us. We knew that Misano didn’t really suit us that well, something we already saw last year. On Thursday, we didn’t have a chance to test due to some minor issues. That wasn’t exactly helpful. But from then on, everything played out really well. The crew was unbelievably quick. The results were good, too. One second place and a pair of fourth places, we really can’t complain about that.“