Brands Hatch was Mercedes-AMG territory last weekend in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe season-opener. The German brand was led to victory in the second race by Maro Engel, who handed off the Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 to co-driver Luca Stolz to race it to the team’s first win in the sprint championship.
Key to the win was the pitstop. Having started from third, Engel veered off into the pits at the first opportunity. As Stolz set a series of fast laps on new tyres, the team got the jump on the AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 and Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 when the pit window closed.
“We knew we had a new set of tyres in hand, so coming in early, especially with the safety car, was definitely the right strategy,” Maro Engel told GT REPORT.
“The team did a great job to get the car back out quickly, staying ahead of the number 88 was key at that point. And then finally Luca was able to stretch his legs with the new tyres and drove great.
“I’m really, really happy. It’s been a strong weekend.”
Black Falcon is making its full-time Blancpain GT season debut, having contested the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup for years but only dipping its feet into the Sprint Cup at the end of last year.
“It was tough to get this program together and ready in time with Silverstone coming up in just a few days,” Engel continued.
“We already know from the endurance series what the level is, but in the World Challenge the pitstops are at a whole new level. The leading teams in pitstops are training every day, so it’s a tough task. The team worked tirelessly to give us good pitstops and the guys did an awesome job, I’m very happy.”
Next up for the defending Blancpain GT Endurance Cup champions is Silverstone, where Yelmer Buurman rejoins Engel and Stolz in the blue AMG. Last year, the team finished its ‘weakest’ race of the season well within the top 10.
“I felt like the pace last year was OK, we came in 6th. Hopefully we can go better. But as everyone knows, endurance racing is a bit different from the sprint racing we did here. We’ve had a good run so far and want to extend that.”
Jurek Biegus contributed to this article.