For the 70th edition of the Total 24 Hours of Spa, Mercedes-AMG has a presence that is stronger than ever before: the field of 68 cars includes a total of 13 Mercedes-AMG GT3s. Thus, the German performance and sports car brand has the largest entry of all manufacturers. The cars from Affalterbach will be run by five teams with 46 drivers between them to take on the classic endurance race, including some of the highest-ranking names in motorsport. Among the favourites are the four cars of the Mercedes-AMG Performance Teams AKKA ASP, BLACK FALCON, MANN-FILTER (HTP Motorsport) and STRAKKA Racing.
Prior to the start of the Total 24 Hours of Spa (26-29 July 2018), Mercedes-AMG is making its first mark with a record line-up: the 13 Mercedes-AMG GT3s that will be racing at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps will also include four cars with extended factory support.
Daniel Juncadella (ESP), Raffaele Marciello (ITA) and Tristan Vautier (FRA) will be racing for the Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP with starting number 88. After its third- and second-place finishes from the two previous years, the French team is highly motivated to claim that first place on the podium that is still missing this year. The Mercedes-AMG Team BLACK FALCON also has ambitions to score a top result with Yelmer Buurman (NED), Maro Engel and Luca Stolz (both GER) with the #4 Mercedes-AMG GT3. Their car is sporting the livery of the ‘320 Changes Direction’ initiative (www.changedirection.org), founded by Talinda Bennington to support people with mental health issues. The Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing has a strong line-up, too: the #43 Mercedes-AMG GT3 has Maximilian Buhk (GER), the runner-up of the 2017 Blancpain GT Series, as one of its drivers. He is sharing driving duties with Maximilian Götz (GER) and Alvaro Parente (POR). The fourth Performance car is the one of the Mercedes-AMG Team MANN-FILTER: Edoardo Mortara (ITA), Gary Paffett (GBR) and Renger van der Zande (NED) will be alternating behind the wheel of the yellow-and-green ‘mamba’ with starting number 84.
The further nine Customer Racing cars will also be taking on the marathon race with strong driver line-ups. Among the most prominent names is ex-Formula 1 professional Rubens Barrichello (BRA), who will be making his Mercedes-AMG GT3 racing debut in the #44 STRAKKA Racing car he will be sharing with Felipe Fraga (BRA) and Christian Vietoris (GER). Another driver with Formula 1 experience is Vitaly Petrov (RUS) who can be found in the #35 SMP Racing by AKKA ASP car. Petrov is supported by his compatriot Denis Bulatov (RUS) and Michael Meadows (GBR). The quick Brit made an impression in the Mercedes-AMG Young Driver Test at the beginning of the year and was nominated as a Mercedes-AMG Driver for the Spa 24-hour race. The #89 AKKA ASP Team’s sister car will have football European and World Cup winner Fabien Barthez (FRA) as one of its drivers. Five times’ DTM champion Bernd Schneider (GER) has more experience with the cars from Affalterbach: the Mercedes-AMG brand ambassador, who managed to win the Total 24 Hours of Spa in 2013, will be racing the #175 SunEnergy1 Racing Team HTP Motorsport car together with Kenny Habul (AUS), Thomas Jäger (GER) and Martin Konrad (AUT).
Next to the overall classification, the widely-ranging line-up of Mercedes-AMG is also aiming at good results in the various classes: six Mercedes-AMG GT3s are racing in the Pro category, four in the Pro-Am Cup, two in the Silver Cup and one in the AM Cup. The Total 24 Hours of Spa counts towards two championships: there are particularly many points at stake in the Endurance Cup of the Blancpain GT Series, with points being awarded for the positions after six, twelve and 24 hours of racing. Simultaneously, the race is the second of four rounds of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
Maro Engel, Mercedes-AMG Team BLACK FALCON #4: “The Spa 24-hour race is an undisputed highlight on the racing calendar. Driving here is simply just fantastic. The track has a super rhythm – fast corners, combined with high-speed straights. Of course, it is our goal to bring victory to Affalterbach. We are super prepared and we will do our utmost to win.”
Maximilian Buhk, Mercedes-AMG Team STRAKKA Racing #43: “The Spa 24-hour race is extremely demanding. Every little mistake immediately shows its consequences. Competition is enormously close and overtaking is very hard as a result. But we are very well prepared. In the race, you then have to put in 100 percent as a driver from the very beginning.”
Edoardo Mortara, Mercedes-AMG Team MANN-FILTER #84: “I am looking forward to the race. The track at Spa is unique: extremely fast and up and down all the time. The race will certainly be thrilling. The field is very strong and usually, weather conditions are changeable during the race. It will not be easy, but we have a good chance of being in contention for victory. And that is what we will try to do!”
Raffaele Marciello, Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP #88: “My expectations are very high. In 2017, I was on the podium here at Spa and currently, I am doing quite well in both championships: P2 in the Intercontinental GT Challenge and P3 in the Blancpain GT Series. From that perspective, a tactically clever race strategy is also important to score as many championship points as possible.”
Michael Meadows, SMP Racing by AKKA ASP #35: “Being one of the official Mercedes-AMG Drivers during the 24-hour race at Spa is a huge honour for me. Last year, we were very strong in the race already. We managed to rack up laps in the lead and eventually came third. Of course, I want to do even better than this in 2018.”
press release Mercedes-AMG