Maro Engel has been racing all around the globe this year, competing in championships ranging from DTM to Formula E to GTs. The Nürburgring, however, hasn’t seen much of the successful racer from München in 2017. His last outing dates back to the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring last May. Coming back to the Eifel for the Münsterlandpokal, Engel came storming in and took a hard-fought second place in the VLN season finale.
“It was an exciting race,” the racer of the Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 says. “We didn’t quite get a clean lap in qualifying, so we had to start from P9. Hubert [Haupt] did a fantastic job in the first stint moving the car forward in the wet. I think he called the right moment to go from wets to slicks.
“Unfortunately, we were speculating on a little bit slower race, which meant we would have had one lap less, but at the time it was the right thing to do and it enabled us to get free air and lead the race in the middle of the race.
“For me, it was a very good middle stint. I got some good clean laps and battled with the Porsche: some laps he was closer, some laps he was further away.
“It was quite close with the Porsche. I think in my stint it was quite a good battle. We were both flat-out pushing. I had the feeling that initially he was a little bit quicker, but towards the end I was quicker.
“Eric [Johansson] did a fantastic job in the last stint. It’s only his third VLN race in a GT3, he did fantastic.”
Coming in a lap earlier than most gave Black Falcon the lead for the following two stints. The unrelenting Manthey Racing Porsche 991 GT3R, however, kept the pace up forcing the race to go one lap longer than what Black Falcon could reach on fuel mileage.
“We knew we had to come in one more time. We were about ten seconds behind and even from that point it would’ve been hard to achieve [the win] because the Porsche was doing similar lap times to us.
“The splash-and-dash was more about securing second place than attacking for P1. We had hoped that the rain we’re experiencing right now would’ve come a bit earlier, that would’ve thrown up the opportunity to go for the win, but it just didn’t come early enough.
“I have to congratulate and thank the team and AMG, it was a good day for us.”
Porsche has been the brand to beat in 2017, winning over half the races while drawing criticism from some who claim the 991 GT3R enjoys too much of a Balance of Performance advantage. Engel, however, recons the performance of both his AMG GT and the 911 was evenly match over the four-hour sprint.
“What made the biggest difference was how we were hitting traffic: at first, I was getting past the traffic a bit better which is why I could pull a little bit of a gap. Towards the end, even though I felt that I was a little bit quicker than him, I was hitting traffic at the wrong places, so he could always close up again. It was quite closely and evenly matched.
“Obviously, we have seen some other cars turn some very fast lap times, especially in the end there, so there remains some work on that side, but it’s always a tough job.
“It’s gonna be a long winter break with a lot of data to analyse, and hopefully next year when we get to the 24 Hours there will be a lot of manufacturers all with a good chance to compete in terms of BoP.
“I think the guys here are doing a good job; it’s not easy. Hopefully it could be a bit more evenly matched than at the 24 Hour race this year.”
2018 will see Engel return with Mercedes-AMG. The full extent of his program isn’t known yet, but another season in Formula E has recently been announced, while more Nürburgring appearances seem likely as well.
“I have a multi-year contract with AMG, and have been with them for many years. I’m proud to represent them and race for the brand. Hopefully it’s a very similar program. For me, that would be the perfect program.
“Formula E has been announced yesterday. With respect to the other programs, we’ll have to wait a little bit longer because they follow a more traditional calendar.
“I’m hopeful of a very strong program again and one where I’ll be racing and representing AMG in many races.”