Maro Engel took a last-gasp victory in the final kilometres of VLN9. In what was all set to be second place, the driver of the #6 Black Falcon Team AutoArena Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 suddenly found the #911 Manthey Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R stranded at the Karussell.
“It was quite unbelievable because you don’t really expect that,” Maro Engel said about the moment he saw the Porsche standing sideways. “I’m sorry for these guys, it’s always hard to have an issue on the last lap. From what I understand it would have been quite close anyway because they were getting a penalty of 37 seconds and I was told I was 40 behind so I think it would’ve been a very close story on the last lap to see what the gap would’ve been at start-finish.
“In the end I’m just very happy for the team, for our guys, because they’ve worked so hard. So much dedication goes into putting programs like these together and it’s a fantastic way to end the year for Team Black Falcon.”
The now four-time winners this season had to come back from an early issue that saw co-driver Patrick Assenheimer come into the pits after just one lap with a front radiator clogged up by autumn leaves that was overheating the engine. It nearly took the team out of contention, but with Assenheimer and Engel nailing the throttle in the remainder of the four-hour race, it all came back to them when Engel began the final laps of the year on the heels of three cars all fighting for second place.
“It was definitely very exciting and great to finish it off like this, even though it was obviously a little bit luck in the last lap there with our opponents having an issue or a crash. Nonetheless it was a massive, awesome job from the whole Black Falcon team and Patrick.
“After the start of the race we didn’t really think it would be possible, but we definitely weren’t giving up. Then, coming out behind those three cars, my engineer was quite positive and said, ‘keep pushing, you can get them!’ It’s not so easy to overtake around here, usually you only get chances coming onto Döttinger Höhe or on the Grand Prix track.
“I went into the final stint with maximum attack, pushing as hard as possible and try and catch them and get whatever is possible. I knew it was important for Patrick to get as many points as possible [for the Rowe Speed-Trophäe] – I didn’t realise we would have a chance to win! I went with maximum attack and tried to overtake the cars and get past. They definitely didn’t make it easy for me, but I found a way past.”
On the back of their 2018 Blancpain GT championship victory, Maro Engel and Black Falcon showed themselves to be top competitors whenever it counted but, unlike the year before, came out with nothing to show for it. Looking back on the season, Engel rues the bad luck that befell the team in Blancpain GT and the Nürburgring 24 Hours.
“It was a season of highs and lows. Like I said about the guys, it’s been amazing dedication and hard work from everyone and it was definitely a successful season, but there were some highs as well as lows.
“Personally, the pole positions at the Nürburgring and Spa were special, and the podium at Spa as well but we would’ve loved to have won those two races. Especially the Nürburgring was a bit of a heartbreak as well as Blancpain GT – when you are so close you want to win it. But in the end, there is a big grid of strong cars, strong competitors, the field in GT3 is amazing, full of amazingly talented drivers. When you’re racing at the front and racing for wins you can’t take anything for granted. I think it was overall very successful.
“I have two races left for myself [at Kyalami and Macau] and I’ll try and make the most of them and come out on top if possible in both races.”