When the traffic lights turn green, Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing teams around the world begin the pursuit of race wins, titles and trophies. But what exactly is Customer Racing? Join us as we explore the unique performance universe of GT sport.
The foundation on which Mercedes-AMG was built lies on the racetrack. Based in Affalterbach, the manufacturer remains closely connected to its motorsport roots, despite its evolution to a now performance and sports brand focussed on road vehicles. For more than 50 years, Mercedes-AMG motorsport vehicles have been competing in the fastest and best-known motorsport categories, dominating the action in the DTM and continuing to break Formula 1 records. The successes on the racetrack still define Mercedes-AMG's self-image today: "Driving Performance" is not an empty brand catch phrase, it’s based on empirical evidence.
Sharing this vision with Mercedes-AMG's customers was the inspiration for forming of the Customer Racing Programme and the goals were clear: to demonstrate the performance of Mercedes-AMG vehicles through racing, and to celebrate joint successes with enthusiastic customer teams from around the world.
The Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Programme celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2020 and looks back on a decade of excellence. While the programme has been continuously developed over the years, the fundamental objective has not changed – to provide maximum support to the customer teams in their motorsport activities. This starts with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and the Mercedes-AMG GT4, two of the most successful customer sports cars of all time, which are continuously being further developed in close cooperation with the teams.
At the heart of the cooperation between Mercedes-AMG and the customer teams is the desire for perfection through distinct application. The Mercedes-AMG experts support the teams along the way with know-how, superb technology and numerous service offerings.
CUSTOMER TEAMS IN FOCUS
The customer teams have fierce passion that proves to be their driving force. It is both an incentive and a privilege to be a partner of the world-famous performance and sports car brand from Affalterbach. The same respect applies in reverse, Mercedes-AMG regards the teams as ambassadors of "Driving Performance". They claim to provide customers with the best possible experience, and they’ve stayed true to their word.
In 2019 alone, the Customer Racing Programme saw a total of 93 active customer teams from all over the world, which recorded 489 races, sensational 247 class victories and 625 podium places. These figures are a source of pride for all parties involved and are a fantastic display of dedication and skill. Development in the Customer Racing sector is also constantly advancing and the competitive environment is becoming increasingly fierce – not least due to the growing commitment of numerous manufacturers.
Despite continued professionalization, private teams still form the basis of the Customer Racing Programme. Thanks to their outstanding success and performance, they can be recommended for assignments as so-called Performance Teams with extended technical support by engineers and motorsport specialists from the Affalterbach headquarters.
A further building block in the support offer is the Mercedes-AMG Driver Pool. Here, the teams have the opportunity to supplement their own driver squads with full professionals who place their skills and expertise at the service of the respective teams for the defined missions. The Mercedes-AMG driver squad includes some of the most famous names in motorsport – from young talents like Raffaele Marciello to highly decorated veterans like Maro Engel and motorsport legends like DTM record champion Bernd Schneider.
AROUND THE GLOBE
The customer teams are competing on the most renowned racetracks in the world which take place in a variety of series and individual events designed for GT3 and GT4 vehicles. Depending on the event format, a distinction is made between sprint and endurance races, which the drivers compete in either individually or as a team with driver changes.
Some of the most well-known series in the customer racing sector include the worldwide IGTC (Intercontinental GT Challenge), the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and the ADAC GT Masters with races in Germany and other parts of Europe. The participants usually compete in individual and team classifications. In some series, certain class divisions are also used, which are usually based on the FIA classification of the respective drivers.
Highlights of the GT season are particularly prestigious individual races, such as the FIA GT World Cup in Macau. Manufacturers compete on the notorious narrow city circuit with their top teams and drivers. In 2019, Mercedes-AMG motorsport triumphed here once again: Raffaele Marciello clinched the fourth Macau victory for Affalterbach. The legendary 24-hour races at the Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps are further highlights. Places at which in 1971 Mercedes-AMG achieved one of its first major successes in motorsport. In particular, the endurance classic in the "Green Hell" of the Nürburgring-Nordschleife, which demands everything from the drivers, mentally and physically.
Parallel to their racing programmes, the teams and drivers compete in yet another event, the brand-internal Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing championship. Divided into the GT3 and GT4 classes, the drivers and teams collect points here with their racing successes over the entire season. The best drivers and teams are honoured at the traditional end-of-season party of the Customer Racing family. Even amateur division drivers can collect the same valuable prizes as their professional counterparts.
Unlike in DTM or Formula 1, where the respective regulations of the series ensure comparable racing cars, very different vehicle concepts come together in customer sport. A certain framework is set by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile), which all GT vehicles must adhere to. In addition to this "approval" by the highest international motorsport authority, there is also the "Balance of Performance" (BoP), with which the FIA and race organisers allow for equal opportunities and fair racing. The BoP makes specifications, concerning the limitation of the maximum performance and handling criteria of a car or the weight. The aim is to tune the cars so that they can drive approximately the same lap times in their classes. The BoP is a dynamic scale that can vary from series to series, depends on the respective track and is constantly being adjusted. This adjustment further promotes competition between teams and drivers. Tight races are pre-programmed, which makes GT racing all the more enticing.