In previous years Manuel Metzger has steadily risen through the ranks of the VLN championship on the Nordschleife. After a break-out season in 2015, the German was promoted to the Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Black Falcon for a 2016 assault on the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. That what hardly anyone saw coming, happened: Metzger, together with Maro Engel, Adam Christodoulou and Bernd Schneider, came out on top after a grueling 24 hours of racing. A year on from the win that shot him to fame, Metzger is back, now proudly sporting the number 1 on his car and the three-pointed Mercedes-Benz star on his overall.
Manuel Metzger has never had the racing budget to buy his way into the spotlights. His only currency was a collection of race wins and a championship and his extensive knowledge of the Nordschleife and driver coaching. After his ‘N24’ win that all changed. Now a winner of the most prestigious GT3 race in the world, AMG came calling: The tuner from Affalterbach wanted him to join the works roster for the Eifel classic. A new chapter in his career had begun.
“When it comes down to it, it’s still the same,” Metzger explains what it’s like racing for a manufacturer. “Whether I’m a works driver or not, I want to achieve the best possible outcome. Maybe this time there’s more pressure because now I’m driving for a brand and the expectations of defending the title are quite high. That’s the only difference.
“Last year I was the underdog, no one had me on their list. In my mind I felt freer. But for now, I’m still relaxed.”
What is different is the departure of Bernd Schneider and the addition of Yelmer Buurman. While Schneider was pivotal in last year’s victory when he carried the AMG through the treacherous conditions on Saturday evening, Buurman is no slouch either.
“We’re working the same way as last year with Bernd. Obviously, Bernd is very experienced, especially in the rain, so we’ll miss that a bit. But Yelmer has shown here as well as in Blancpain GT that he’s also very quick and reliable. I look forward to working with him, we have a strong team again.”
Unlike last year, all eyes, including those of the competition, are now on the white-blue Black Falcon AMG.
“A year ago, we were the hunters, now we are the hunted. We have the number 1 on the car. Everyone wants to have it, and it’s up to us to defend it.”
Joe Hudson contributed to this article.