July 31, 2023

The Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed Mercedes AMG-GT3 trio of Maro Engel, Luca Stolz, and Fabian Schiller finished the three-hour fourth round of the 2023 Fanatec GT World Challenge powered by AWS Endurance Cup in a hard-earned second position at Germany’s Nürburgring circuit on Sunday.

After qualifying in third place, Engel initially slipped back to fourth following a melee at turn one before recovering strongly, while Schiller pushed the Mercedes hard in second place in stint two. Stolz challenged hard for the lead over the closing laps and finished just 1.99 seconds behind the triumphant Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes, crewed by Raffaele Marciello, Jules Gounon and Timur Boguslavskiy.

The result strengthened the Akkodis ASP Team’s title challenge, after a disappointing race outcome for their title rivals Philipp Eng, Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly in the Rowe Racing BMW M4.

The BMW trio finished 13th of the 17 Pro Cup runners to set up a thrilling finale in Barcelona with the German race winners having an 18-point lead and unofficially needing only a top five finish to seal the title. Engel holds third in the championship and Stolz and Schiller are provisionally joint fifth.

Paul Ricard race winners Marciello, Gounon and Boguslavskiy had clocked the quickest lap of 1min 55.163sec in the free practice session on Saturday morning in their Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.

Lying second in the title standings ahead of the race, they won the session by 0.042 seconds from the Iron Lynx Lamborghini crew of Leonardo Pulcini, Michele Beretta and Rolf Ineichen. The Al-Manar Racing Mercedes set a quickest tour of 1min 55.727sec and slotted into fifth of the Pro Cup runners in advance of the pre-qualifying stint on Saturday afternoon.

The Al-Manar Racing Mercedes topped the times in the pre-qualifying session with a best run of 1min 54.173sec, before Engel guided the car to the sixth quickest time in the Pro Cup category in the rain-drenched Q1 session with a run of 2min 12.699sec.

Stolz was seventh in Q2 with a tour of 2min 10.230sec and then Schiller won the Q3 stint with a lap of 2min 06.179sec in improving track conditions.

With the three sessions combined, pole position went to Akkodis ASP’s Marciello, with the Iron Lynx trio of Mirko Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli and Jordan Pepper snatching second place on the grid ahead of the Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed Mercedes.

Starting third on the grid for the three-hour sprint race in drier weather conditions, Engel took the wheel of the Al-Manar car for the opening stint, although, after chaos at turn one, he slipped a place to fourth behind the pole-winning Marciello, the Rutronik Racing Porsche and the Comtoyou Racing Audi with Dennis Olsen and Frederic Vervisch at the wheel of the cars running in second and third. The Iron Lynx Lamborghini, driven by Pepper, pitted early and slipped to the rear of the field.

After 30 minutes of racing and 15 laps on the register, Marciello led by 7.066 seconds with Engel less than 10 seconds behind the leader. The German managed to move in front of Vervisch and snatch third place several minutes later.

Schiller took over for the second stint and the Al-Manar Racing Mercedes was now running in second overall behind Boguslavskiy in the Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes. The German continued to nibble into the leader’s advantage and the gap was 9.094 seconds after 52 laps and 100 minutes of racing.

Schiller maintained second to the final switch to Stolz and his fellow countryman continued to pressurise Gounon throughout the last stint with the gap dropping to less than one second between the leading two cars for a few laps.

Gounon gradually began to edge away through traffic as the race headed into the final minutes, despite continued pressure from the German, and the Frenchman reached the chequered flag, after 92 laps, with a winning margin of 1.99 seconds from Stolz in the Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed Mercedes.

Ricardo Feller brought the Tresor Orange 1 Audi R8 home in third place, while Patric Niederhauser in the Sainteloc Junior Team Audi and Thomas Preining’s Rutronik Racing Porsche rounded off the top five.

The final round of the 2023 Fanatec GT World Challenge powered by AWS Endurance Cup takes place in Barcelona on September 29th-October 1st.


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