> GruppeM Racing also expands its California 8 Hours commitment
> Four Mercedes-AMGs confirmed for March 28-30
Strakka Racing will enter a pair of Mercedes-AMG GT3s in the remaining four rounds of this season’s Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli, starting at the California 8 Hours on March 28-30.
Both of the British squad’s entries, as well as two more from GruppeM Racing, have been nominated to score Intercontinental GT Challenge points at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for championship leaders Mercedes-AMG, which also confirmed its full California 8 Hours programme this morning.
Strakka was a regular contender throughout 2018 before skipping this year’s curtain raiser at Bathurst where Mercedes-AMG claimed an early lead in the Manufacturers’ standings.
Now Strakka returns to the fold in California where it qualified second last October. Lewis Williamson, who was part of that squad, comprises one-third of a crew that also features reigning Intercontinental GT Challenge champion Tristan Vautier – who clinched the title at Laguna Seca – plus two-time DTM champion and current Formula E driver Gary Paffett who also contested Bathurst in February. The same trio will compete together at the Total 24 Hours of Spa, Suzuka 10 Hours and Kyalami 9 Hour.
“I’m really looking forward to starting the IGTC season,” said Paffett. “I competed at Bathurst with Black Falcon and Craft Bamboo and now I’m excited to get the rest of the season started with Strakka racing and working with my new team-mates. I’ve never been to Laguna Seca before so I’m looking forward to driving on that track and can’t wait to get going. After that we go to Spa, which is a circuit that I know, and I’ve competed in the 24 Hours a couple of times already. It’s going to be a good year doing this alongside my Formula E racing.”
Strakka’s second car will be crewed by a selection of drivers throughout the year. Christina Nielsen, the first woman to win a WeatherTech Sportscar Championship series title, remains the one constant factor in a line-up featuring Adam Christodoulou and Dominik Baumann at the California 8 Hours. Both have already achieved success with Mercedes-AMG.
While Nielsen’s Spa co-drivers remain TBC for now, Strakka has confirmed the Dane will be joined by Christodoulou and Malaysian amateur Adrian Henry D’Silva in Japan and South Africa.
“I’m thrilled to team up with a team and a brand that for sure has proved to be among the best in the business,” said Nielsen. “I drove the Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the first time at Bathurst in February, and I can’t wait to get back in that awesome car again. I like new challenges, and this time I really found some. This is a new championship for me, a new car and a new team, and I’m looking forward to it. There’s a lot of races ahead on tracks I have never been at, but luckily the first race with Strakka will be at one of my favourites. I can’t wait to get back to Laguna Seca with this new squad.”
A familiar face missing from Strakka’s driver line-up is team founder Nick Leventis who has chosen to skip this season’s Intercontinental GT Challenge and Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup campaigns due to his business commitments.
Elsewhere, GruppeM Racing has expanded its Intercontinental GT Challenge programme to include a second Mercedes-AMG. Raffaele Marciello, Maxi Buhk and Maxi Goetz, who currently occupy second in the Drivers’ standings, are again paired together, while Yelmer Buurman is reunited with fellow reigning Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup champions Maro Engel and Luca Stolz after racing for different teams at Bathurst.
Results in Australia see Mercedes-AMG lead Porsche by eight points in the Manufacturers’ Championship. And Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing, Stefan Wendl, believes extending that lead is of paramount importance on March 30.
“At Bathurst, we had a good start of the Intercontinental GT Challenge and we want to build on that in Monterey,” he said. “The California 8 Hours is an extremely demanding race in which anything can happen. We saw that last year when the IGTC season finale took place here. We got to see an incredibly intense battle in which we claimed two titles, but unfortunately also just missed out on the Manufacturers’ crown. This year, it may not be about the title yet, but in a series that only includes five rounds, you can’t afford to make any mistakes. Especially with the competition being very close as we got to see at Bathurst. Our goal at Laguna Seca Raceway is to extend our lead in the Manufacturers’ standings.”
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca hosts round two of this year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge – the California 8 Hours – on March 28-30.