If it hadn’t been for a late stop-and-go penalty, SPS automotive-performance would’ve won at the Nürburgring on its first try. But the dream was too beautiful to come true—the Mercedes-AMG GT3 team finished a close second to the winning AutoArena Motorsport, leaving Renger van der Zande disappointed not to make the most of it.

RACE REPORTGALLERY | AUDI R8 LMS GT3 EVO 2019 WALLPAPER | INTERVIEWS : DOMINIK BAUMANN

“It’s amazing to drive with this car at the highest level on a track like this. Especially when you’re with just two drivers, you have so much more driving time. When you’re with three drivers you have to hand in a lot of time,” says Renger van der Zande, who took charge of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the first two stints of the 50. ADAC Barbarossapreis before handing it over to co-driver Edoardo Mortara.

“In that regard, I’m happy to be here, but we could’ve won. It would’ve been especially nice for the team who are here for the first time. Instead we came in second, which is also very good, but honestly, I came here to win. That’s disappointing, but it’s been a good test for the 24 Hours next year.”

A pitstop 0.9 seconds short of the minimum pitstop time cost the SPS team a 1-second stop-and-go penalty with half an hour left.

“This is bitter,” Van der Zande continues. “We were over 20 seconds in front of the others.

“I had a good start, a good first stint, and the second stint was even better. We had about a 20-second lead and crossed the pit exit 0.9 seconds too fast. That is a bit stupid. I mean, even if you lose 5 seconds you still have a 15 second gap and now this costs you the win.

“‘Edo’ did well at the end. He raced like a beast to close the gap, but it wasn’t enough for the win. Altogether we really did miss out on a victory.”

SPS’ performance came unexpected as the team had never raced at the Nordschleife before. Van der Zande contributes a number of factors to the team’s flying start.

“The engineer here was also with Haribo when I raced there. He has a lot of experience with this car and is now with this team.

“We know what we have to do with the car. We have the right tyres from Michelin—meaning we know when we have to drive on which tyre compound—and together with them we worked on the car during practise. We’ve been taking little steps to optimise the car which makes things go rather smoothly.

“There’s a relaxed atmosphere within the team because they’re all fulltime people, which I think always makes a difference.

“We’re rapidly moving in the right direction.

“I think I’ll continue with this team. It’s a very good team and they only go for the win, which makes it fun to be involved with them. We have some homework to do now.”