Engel and Mercedes-Benz win the first FIA GT World Cup | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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Engel and Mercedes-Benz win the first FIA GT World Cup

The German make scored a drivers’-manufacturers’ double in Macau thanks to Maro Engel’s victory and Renger van der Zande’s fourth place. René Rast (Audi) and Stefan Mücke (Aston Martin) filled the other two steps on the podium.

Maro Engel at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz will go down in motor racing history as the winner of the first FIA GT World Cup. The German make also won the manufacturers’ title in the face of fierce opposition from Aston Martin, Audi, McLaren and Porsche.

The German driver in the Mercedes AMG Driving Academy team, who was on pole after his win in the previous day’s qualifying race, lost first place straight away as he was passed by Edoardo Mortara who made a blinding start in his Audi R8 LMS. It was too good to be true as the Stewards hit him with a penalty after the race. But in the meantime, Engel had taken the law into his own hands by regaining the lead from the Italian on the inside in the Mandarin corner, while his team-mate Renger van der Zande also slipped past the Audi. It proved to be a decisive double overtaking manoeuvre for Mercedes-Benz before the cars tackled the roller-coaster section on the upper part of the circuit.

At the end of the first lap the first 10 were: the two Mercedes-Benz in front of Mortara, Mücke (Aston Martin), René Rast (Audi), Alvaro Parente (McLaren), Darryl O’Young (Aston Martin), Keita Sawa (Bentley Team Absolute), Marchy Lee (Audi) and Pasin Lathouras (AF Corse). This year’s Le Mans winner, Earl Bamber (Porsche) was already on his way to an early bath after a collision with Richard Lyons (Aston Martin) and Kevin Estre (McLaren), who were both eliminated on the incident. Engel opened up a gap of 3.6sec and looked to be in a comfortable position on the challenging Macau layout, but van der Zande was under pressure from Mücke, who was unable to find an opening, and had Mortara and Rast looming in his rear-view mirrors. The top 5 were covered by six seconds and the rest of the field had no hope of catching them as they were already over 18 seconds behind!

At half-distance Derdaele (Porsche) went straight on in Lisboa and retired (puncture), while O’Young moved up into sixth place by getting the better of Parente. At the front things began to hot up on lap 12 when van der Zande, still hassled by Mücke, went wide. It was a costly mistake as he skimmed the guardrail in the streets of Macau and damaged the left-hand rear of his Mercedes-Benz. Mücke saw his opportunity and they came into Lisboa side by side. Neither wanted to give way under braking and they both went wide letting Mortara and Rast in their Audis shot through on the inside to take second and third places.

Shortly afterwards the race was neutralised when Vutthikorn Intrhaphuvasak (Porsche) went off in the Paiol corner. It restarted with only two laps to go, but Race Control decided to stop the event after 16 laps because of a pile-up on Moorish Hill where John Shen’s Porsche 997 GT3R blocked the track. Engel emerged the winner from Mortara and Rast. However, the Stewards decided to hand the Italian a 20-second penalty for jumping the start (Art. 16.3 of the FIA GT World Cup Sporting Regulations and Art. 8.6 of the International Sporting Code) dropping him back to sixth place. This moved Rast up to second behind Engel with Mücke clinching the final place on the podium.

Maro Engel (Mercedes AMG Driving Academy – Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #1): “It’s unbelievable, I’m overjoyed as the best GT drivers were up against each other in this race, so I’m proud to be the first winner of the FIA GT World Cup! But I’m especially proud of my team. I made a big mistake in qualifying on Friday and I thought right there, standing in the wall, that my weekend might be over and I blew the opportunity we had here. To win this race is amazing because I just love this place, I love this track. I had to make a really good start and I knew I had to hold the inside line and stay in front or try to get ahead in the Mandarin corner, otherwise it would be difficult. I just managed to pass Edoardo Mortara on the left-hand side, so that was the key to retaking the lead. From there I really put my head down; I just focused on my driving, trying to keep cool and open up the gap.”

René Rast (Audi Sport Team WRT – Audi R8 LMS #7) : “As a rookie it’s quite a challenge to cope with this amazing circuit. Obviously the first practice session on Thursday was critical for me, I was not comfortable at all, then with track time I started to feel good session after session, especially yesterday during the qualifying race, and today even more. We had a good pace and I’m very happy to be on the podium of the FIA GT World Cup.”

Stefan Mücke (Craft Bamboo – Aston Martin Vantage GT3 #97): “It’s not the nicest way to get into the top 3 and I would have preferred to do it on the track, then to go on the podium for the ceremony. Anyway, it’s a good result as it was only my second time in Macau, and it’s a positive outcome for the Craft Bamboo team, especially after our misfortune in the Qualifying Race. We’ve been competitive with the Vantage. This FIA GT World Cup was a great event and I’m looking forward to come back.”

Jochen Bitzer (Head of AMG Customer Sports): “We started the weekend the right way in free practices, then both cars crashed in qualifying. The engineers and the mechanics did a very good job overnight. They repaired and prepared the cars perfectly for the qualifying race and we had a happy end with a victory, providing us with a good position for the main race today. It went very well and Maro Engel did it again. Renger van der Zande also did a good job, but unfortunately, his coming-together with Stefan Mücke ended badly. Overall a great race here in Macau like last year in the GT Cup. I would like to thank the organisers. This FIA GT World Cup is a great event and for sure we will come back next year, hopefully with our new GT3.”

Christian Schacht (President of the FIA GT Commission): “The first edition of the FIA GT World Cup was a success on a very spectacular circuit and we have to thank our Macau hosts. We would have preferred another kind of race ending but that’s part of motor sport. The Manufacturers were very satisfied to be part of the event in such an important market and the drivers really enjoyed the challenge. Let’s look forward to continuing with the concept.”