- Mercedes-AMG Performance Teams with second and third place in Brickyard classic
- Jules Gounon heading to Abu Dhabi season finale as leader in IGTC drivers’ standings
- GT World Challenge America: Pro-Am drivers’ and teams’ title for CrowdStrike by Riley
- GT America: Memo Gidley crowned as champion as Mercedes-AMG GT2 makes US debut
Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing has scored a remarkable double podium result in the fourth running of the Indianapolis 8 Hour. Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing with Maximilian Götz (GER), Jules Gounon (AND) and Raffaele Marciello (SUI) finished the penultimate season round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli (IGTC), covering a record distance of 333 laps, in second place. Following the overall win from the previous year, it is the second consecutive podium finish for the team at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing with Maro Engel (GER), Daniel Juncadella (ESP) and Luca Stolz (GER) followed in third place overall with the #999 Mercedes-AMG GT3. As a result, the battles for the IGTC drivers’ and manufacturers’ championship will only be decided during the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Qualifiying: Mercedes-AMG Performance Teams battling for the fastest lap
In the three-part qualifying session on Friday afternoon, the two Performance cars from Affalterbach were duelling for the fastest lap time. Maro Engel posted the fastest time in Q1 with the #999 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing car. Raffaele Marciello took the lead with the #77 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing car in the second segment. His teammate Jules Gounon, the 2022 pole sitter, was fastest in the third qualifying heat. As a result, the two Mercedes-AMG GT3s with extended works support advanced into the pole shoot-out in which the first ten starting grid positions were determined.
In the 15-minute session in the evening, both Gounon with the #77 car and Luca Stolz with the #999 entry were able to improve continuously. Eventually, Gounon came within just 33 thousandths of a second of his second pole position in a row for the Indianapolis 8 Hour. Accordingly, the #77 car started the eight-hour race from the front row, second on the grid. The #999 car qualified in third place.
Race: Challenging opening stage for Maximilian Götz and Luca Stolz
Maximilian Götz took over the #77 Mercedes-AMG GT3 at the start of the race on Saturday for the first stint of the Indianapolis 8 Hour. Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing opted for shoot-out driver Stolz as the starting driver in the #999 car. The two Mercedes-AMG Performance Drivers were unlucky with the lines they had chosen in the first corners and therefore initially dropped back. In third place with the #77 car, Götz was still on a podium position while Stolz ran in fifth place. In race trim, the two drivers were able to increase their speed and therefore also to improve their lap times. With fresh tyres following the first range of pit stops, around one hour into the race, Götz even achieved the fastest race lap up to that time around the 4.192 kilometres long Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Most cars used the first and only safety car intervention of the race with 68 laps completed to make their second pit stop. The situation was caused by a technical failure in the drivetrain of the #91 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. Maximilian Götz stayed in the car for another stint, his third, and remained in third place after the restart. Maro Engel, who had already taken over the #999 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing from Luca Stolz during the first tyre change, was fourth as racing resumed following a quick pit stop.
Mercedes-AMG Teams take second and third place with a little over two hours remaining
As the race went on, the Mercedes-AMG Teams were no longer able to interfere in the battle for the overall win. The car that led the race got involved in an accident, allowing the #77 GT3 run by Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing to move up into second place. The #999 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM car was now in third position overall.
In the closing stages of the race, there were no more position changes at the front. The previous year’s race winner Raffaele Marciello crossed the finish line in second place with the #77 car. Luca Stolz increased the pressure on his fellow Mercedes-AMG driver during the final 30 minutes but didn’t take any risks with the #999 car and brought home third place for Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing. Two further Mercedes-AMG GT3s were classified within the top 10: the #04 CrowdStrike by Riley entry ended up sixth, the #27 TR3 Racing car concluded the race in ninth place overall. Remarkable: 20 of the 22 cars that had taken the start made it to the chequered flag in the demanding eight-hour race.
Title battles to be decided in IGTC season finale in Abu Dhabi
Following the penultimate IGTC season round, Jules Gounon still holds a commanding lead in the drivers’ standings. Prior to the season-ending Gulf 12 Hours in December, his advantage over the second-placed driver amounts to eight points. Luca Stolz and Raffaele Marciello also still have mathematical chances of securing the title. The manufacturers’ title is also within reach: Mercedes-AMG is just one point down from the leading position in this ranking. The title-deciding season finale will be held at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit on 10th December.
GT World Challenge America: Pro-Am titles for Colin Braun, George Kurtz and CrowdStrike by Riley
Traditionally, the Indianapolis 8 Hour also serves as the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS season finale. CrowdStrike by Riley’s Colin Braun and George Kurtz (both USA) took on the final round of the year in second place of the Pro-Am standings. 18-year-old Nolan Siegel (USA) was nominated as the third driver. Although the #04 Mercedes-AMG GT3 had started the race from seventh place on the grid in its class, Colin Braun was already battling for the Pro-Am class lead with his championship rival before the halfway point of the race. While lapping a slower car, Braun saw his chance and went past his opponent. Subsequently, the two combatants swapped positions multiple times, staging a thrilling on-track battle for the title. However, strategy was decisive in the end: the #04 CrowdStrike by Riley car having had to make one less tyre change, Colin Braun and George Kurtz won the Pro-Am class and therefore also the coveted titles in the drivers’ and manufacturers’ standings. Having started from last place on the grid, the #27 TR3 Racing car finished third, also securing a Pro-Am class podium finish.
GT America: Mercedes-AMG GT2 wins its class on American debut
Another highlight of the action-packed weekend was the American competition debut of the Mercedes-AMG GT2. Previously, the powerful customer sports car had already had multiple successful outings at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife and in the GT2 European Series. Now, Dan Know (USA) was allowed to drive the #80 Lone Star Racing car in GT America powered by AWS for the first time. Having started second in class for the 40-minute race on Friday, Knox immediately proved the potential of the Mercedes-AMG GT2. As a result, he also completed the necessary overtaking move so that he was able to crown the premiere with a class win right away. For the seventh time this season, Memo Gidley (USA) drove the #101 TKO Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the overall win in GT America. As a result, the experienced American has already sealed the drivers’ title with one race remaining. His title rival and fellow Mercedes-AMG driver Jason Daskalos (USA) finished sixth with the #27 CRP Racing car. In the final race on Sunday, the two customer sports teams are still in contention for the SRO3 teams’ championship title.
“We are overjoyed that CrowdStrike by Riley has won the Pro-Am championship title in GT World Challenge America. That really is a great achievement by the team for which it has worked for many years. The race itself wasn’t particularly exciting. We had expected the opposition to be strong. Our two Performance Teams have done a perfect job, have driven without any mistakes and got the maximum out of it. We are happy that we were able to achieve this double podium result and therefore reduce the gap in the manufacturers’ standings to a single point. Jules is still leading in the drivers’ standings. Accordingly, we will do our homework and will head to Abu Dhabi in an optimistic mood.”
Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing
“I am feeling well. A fortnight ago, I won in IMSA here at Indianapolis and now I am allowed to stand on the podium again. I am happy with the result that is also very important for the championship. At the end of the day, it is second place and valuable points coming with it. Thanks for that to my teammates Max and Raffaele, but also to the entire team and to Mercedes-AMG. I am still leading the standings, but my margin isn’t huge anymore. Therefore, we have to be focused in Abu Dhabi and give it our all.”
Jules Gounon, Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing #77
“I am very happy with second place. At the end, we were under pressure from Luca, but Raffaele solved it in a great way and kept his position. It was really close, the final 20 minutes were the most thrilling of the race. I was strong during my stints. The car handled very well, we had a strong pace. With second and third place, we can be happy. Now, we look forward to the showdown in Abu Dhabi.”
Maximilian Götz, Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing #77
“We delivered the cleanest possible race that we could. Today, however, we didn’t have the necessary pace to attack the leaders. Second and third place is a good result. Traffic while lapping was really challenging today as they were all driving their own race and didn’t give way. That was very frustrating at times. Being patient and not making any mistakes was key today.”
Maro Engel, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing #999
“It was a race that was relatively short of action. Sadly, we had no chance to challenge for the overall win today. Therefore, we mainly battled for the podium with our fellow Mercedes-AMG drivers. Then, we benefited as the leader made a mistake and dropped back. All in all, it was a good race that I personally enjoyed very much.”
Daniel Juncadella, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing #999
“The team has done a fantastic job today like they have all year. We had some highs and lows this season. I am very proud of us for finally having won the Pro-Am championship after so many attempts. Once again, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 worked perfectly. Colin was fast as ever, and Nolan has shown a remarkable performance in his first-ever GT3 race. Now, first of all, we want to enjoy it.”
George Kurtz, CrowdStrike by Riley #04
“Being able to call myself GT America champion is an unbelievable feeling. Thanks to my team TKO Motorsports and to Mercedes-AMG. Racing at such a historic track like Indianapolis was a joy. All in all, it was really close all year long. Therefore, we were able to witness so many exciting racing moments. Now, I am already looking forward to my bed as there is no doubt that I will be able to sleep very well.
Memo Gidley, TKO Motorsports #101