MONTEREY, CA. – Mercedes-AMG Motorsport drivers Tristan Vautier and Kenny Habul swept the driver championships in the 2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC) while Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams Strakka Racing and DXDT Racing scored a one-two Mercedes-AMG GT3 race finish in the Pro-Am class in Sunday’s season-ending California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
In total, Mercedes-AMG Motorsport drivers and teams left California with both the overall and bronze-division driver titles and a total of four podium finishes in the eight-hour IGTC finale on the 2.238-mile Laguna Seca circuit.
Vautier came out on top in the overall driver championship standings while his SunEnergy1 Racing teammate Habul clinched the bronze category crown.
Co-driving with Maximilian Buhk and Maro Engel in the No. 175 Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, Vautier sealed the overall driver championship with a third-place finish in Sunday’s finale.
Vautier and Raffaele Marciello headed into the season finale tied for the IGTC championship lead. The duo raced together in the first three rounds of the series but were assigned to different cars for Laguna Seca to maximize the chances of winning the driver championship.
Marciello co-drove the No. 43 Mercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Maximilian Götz and Lewis Williamson, and the trio joined the No. 175 drivers in battling for the lead throughout the race.
A major turning point came three quarters into the race when the No. 43 pitted from the lead at an inopportune time under a safety car caution period.
Having dropped out of the lead group, closing driver Marciello subsequently took many risks to make up positions. He was forced off the track at one point, allowing dirt and dust to come into the car’s air filter and cooling system, which led to a considerable loss of engine power and eventual seventh-place finish.
Habul had an equally eventful race in the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. An early contact incident required two hours of repairs in the garage, but Habul and co-drivers Luca Stolz and Mikaël Grenier eventually made it back into the race and to the checkered flag.
The SunEnergy1 No. 75 completed just enough of the race distance to be officially classified, ensuring Habul would seal the bronze championship after a roller-coaster day.
With victory for Vautier in the overall driver championship and the bronze title for Habul, SunEnergy1 Racing secured no less than two titles for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport in the finale. In the IGTC manufacturer championship final standings, Mercedes-AMG ended up in second position.
While Habul’s No. 75 entry never had a chance to battle for the California 8 Hours Pro-Am class win, two other Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams stepped up for the one-two sweep.
Felipe Fraga, David Fumanelli and Nick Leventis claimed the Pro-Am victory in the No. 42 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Second place went to the No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of David Askew, Ryan Dalziel and Mike Hedlund that earned podium runner-up honors in the team’s major endurance race debut.
The fourth and final podium result for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport in a successful California 8 Hours was a third-place finish in the GT4 class by Jeff Mosing, Tim Probert and Justin Piscitell in the No. 65 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4.
The Bathurst opener will be followed by the California 8 Hours, which moves to a new date next year, March 28 – 30, for the third running of the race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Stefan Wendl, Head of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing: “It was an incredibly intense race, a very close battle from the very first second until the finish. During the first six hours of the race, we clearly managed to defend the lead, but then lost it due to an unfortunate safety car intervention that didn’t fit into our strategy concept. The driver title for Tristan Vautier and the bronze title for Kenny Habul are great achievements. Huge thanks go out to all the teams that have contributed throughout the year and helped us to secure these titles. Congratulations to Audi Sport on winning the manufacturer title, and many thanks for the fair battles we have had this year. We will see each other again at Bathurst next year.”
Tristan Vautier, Driver – No. 175 Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a thrilling, close battle, every second counted, we were under a lot of pressure. Therefore, keeping cool all the time was all the more important. We knew that it would come down to the final two hours. We pushed, and it paid off. It was a strong achievement by the team that has done a fantastic job. Huge thanks to everyone, now it is time to celebrate!”
Raffaele Marciello, Driver – No. 43 Mercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We had a very good start into the race and we were all the way up front. During the safety car phase, we then were slightly unlucky with the strategy. After I had gone off the track, we also had problems with the engine. For us, the race was unlucky. I tried everything, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”
Kenny Habul, Driver – No. 75 SunEnery1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Of course, it is disappointing that we dropped back at such an early stage because of the accident. After all, we would have been able to be in contention quite far up the ranks with our Mercedes-AMG GT3. We have had a lot of luck this season, but sometimes you can be unlucky too. In any case, we can be very proud of the title in the bronze category.”
Maro Engel, Driver – No. 175 Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Congratulations to Tristan, I am really happy for him. Of course, Raffaele would have deserved the title, too. We have been fighting hard and have done our utmost for eight hours. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough for the race win here at Laguna Seca. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 once again was an outstanding car today.”
Maximilian Buhk, Driver – No. 175 Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “At the beginning of the race, we managed to keep out of all the battles. It was tough to keep pace with the leaders at the start, as we were on a slightly different strategy. Once all the pit stops were completed, we were able to keep up with the pace. All in all, we can be very happy with the weekend.”
Nick Leventis, Driver – No. 42 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “For the entire Strakka Racing team, I am happy with victory in the Pro-Am class. We safely brought first place home. Our maiden season with Mercedes-AMG was great. We are very happy with this partnership, and we are already looking forward to getting the car on the grid again at Bathurst next year.”
Maximilian Götz, Driver – No. 43 Mercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Of course, being in the lead for so long and then heading home empty-handed is very disappointing. During the safety car intervention, we had a bad moment for our pit stop. After that, Raffaele risked a lot.”
Luca Stolz, Driver – No. 75 SunEnery1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a difficult race for us. Initially, the pace was good, but then the accident happened. The team has done an incredible job and repaired the car really quickly. Then, it was down to us to safely bring the car home. That Kenny has secured the bronze title with the result is obviously making us very happy.”
David Askew, Driver – No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I am super happy. The goal going in was to finish, but to actually end up second is beyond my expectation for the day. The crew worked flawlessly, we didn’t have any mistakes, and I think I was the only guy to have some trouble with a cut tire. That was a little exciting, but we got that handled and right back on track.”
Ryan Dalziel, Driver – No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “First and foremost, the goal was to finish, make no mistakes, take our time on the first pit stops and then kind of improve from there. That’s exactly what we did, and at the end we were matching the front-running teams with both pace and our pit stop times. We didn’t make any mistakes, my co-drivers David and Mike did a great job, and I am just super happy for the team. We’ll build on this.”
Jeff Mosing, Driver – No. 65 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “I was really impressed all year long with the reliability of our new Mercedes-AMG GT4. It’s been pretty flawless, and I didn’t have any anxiety at all thinking we were going to run into any issues with our car. It did exactly what it was supposed to do. It ran perfectly for eight hours, not a single hiccup with anything, and the Murillo Racing team executed perfectly. No penalties and no mistakes.”
Jochen Übler Tel.: +49 (0) 7144 302-92 470
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Adam Saal Tel.: +1 321 890-2848
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