To coincide with the 2016 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, Mercedes-AMG is presenting its very latest racing car: the new Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the first time in Australia. Motorsport and Mercedes-AMG are inseparable entities: competition on the racetrack is deeply ingrained in the DNA of AMG, and constantly drives the team in Affalterbach on to achieve top-class performance. In no other customer race series in the world is there so much variety as in those held according to the FIA's GT3 rules. They attract the entire international sports car elite to the starting line. The mixture of demanding sprint races and legendary endurance classics around the globe constantly confronts the teams with new challenges.
"We are entering a hotly contested and strongly occupied competitive environment with the new Mercedes-AMG GT3. The high technological level and fair race rules motivate us to be right up in the front rank with our new customer racing car," says Tobias Moers, Chairman of Mercedes-AMG GmbH. "Our standard version of the AMG GT is already aimed specifically at the fiercely contested sports car segment. We are now systematically continuing this strategy on the racetrack as well. Only those who win against the best can substantiate a claim to leadership."
The spectacular design and cutting-edge technology of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 will make their mark in customer sport, and the high racetrack performance of the standard GT already provides the best possible basis for this. The development team also had the benefit of the experience gained from the successes of the SLS AMG GT3. This first customer sport racing car from AMG, which celebrated its debut in 2010, has had an impeccable career with 187 victories, and was able to win the "Grand Slam" in 2013: the four endurance classics in Dubai, Bathurst, at the Nürburgring and in Spa-Francorchamps.
The design lines of the new Mercedes-AMG GT3 say everything about the character and ambitions of this racer: make way for a car that is primed for the attack, and wants only one thing, namely to win. Its matte paintwork in designo selenite grey magno covers the muscular contours like a second skin. As an alluring contrast, yellow exterior highlights create sophisticated effects in counter lighting. From whatever the viewing angle: this racing car from Affalterbach already makes a mighty impression at standstill, and embodies sheer power.
The widened body, the large air inlets, the diffuser and the enormous rear aerofoil – numerous features from motorsport give the Mercedes-AMG GT3 a decidedly dynamic appearance. At the same time it avoids any sign of unnecessary showmanship: all modifications to the body are in the interests of maximum downforce and aerodynamic efficiency, for best results on the racetrack. The specially incorporated features also improve the effective cooling of components subject to high thermal loads.
The new "Panamericana" radiator grille is particularly noticeable when viewed from the front. Its design with vertical chrome struts is reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car. In 1952 this won the famous "Carrera Panamericana" endurance race across Mexico. With this modern reinterpretation of a classic design, Mercedes-AMG is paying respectful homage to its illustrious racing antecedent. Its victories are both a powerful incentive and an obligation to strive for peak position once again.
The three-dimensionally formed Panamericana radiator grille is more convex at the top than at the bottom – designers refer to these proportions as a "shark nose". It is particularly recognisable from the side, and gives the Mercedes-AMG GT3 a combative demeanour. The shape of the Panamericana radiator grille opens out downwards, suggesting the stylised "A" that is typical of the front end in AMG cars. The lower air inlet above the large front diffuser is likewise A-shaped. The carbon-fibre front diffuser transitions into a smooth underbody to produce hefty downforce together with the rear diffuser and rear aerofoil. Special cooling ducts in the front apron ensure efficient cooling of the front brakes, which are particularly subject to high thermal loads when racing.
To keep the vehicle weight as low as possible, the body is mainly of carbon-fibre: the bonnet, doors, front wings, front and rear aprons, side walls, side skirts, diffuser, boot lid and rear aerofoil are made from this particularly lightweight yet extremely strong material. As in the road going version, the vehicle structure of the GT3 consists of a likewise extremely lightweight yet rigid aluminium spaceframe. With numerous detailed improvements, systematic implementation of the "AMG Lightweight Performance" strategy has resulted in an even lower kerb weight than that of the SLS AMG GT3.
Flics mounted on the sides of the front apron generate downforce at the front axle, as do the so-called "louvres", the wheel arch air vents at the top of the front wings. On each side, the wider body compared with the standard version of the AMG GT3 creates space for the wide track of the double wishbone axles and 45.7 cm (18-inch) light-alloy wheels with centre locks. An air inlet on the left and right shoulders ahead of each rear wheel conducts the necessary cooling air to the transmission at the rear axle. The standardised connection for the fast-fuelling system is located in the C-pillar, where it is ergonomically ideal for the pit crew.
A large, central aperture in the bonnet has the appearance of a gaping mouth. Its purpose is to expel large volumes of air warmed by the cooling module. Behind the front wheels there are noticeable wheel arch air vents which likewise conduct away warm air. Air inlets ahead of the rear wheels assist cooling of the rear brakes. Directly in front of each one is an exhaust tailpipe – it is from these scarcely muffled "sidepipes" that the typical AMG eight- cylinder sound thunders. Music to the ears, not only of hard rock enthusiasts. Below the side skirts, the smooth underbody ensures an efficient airflow beneath the vehicle.
Extremely wide and sporting its large rear aerofoil, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 also cuts an impressive figure from the rear. Maximum downforce at the rear axle and high aerodynamic performance are ensured by the multiply adjustable rear aerofoil and the prominent diffuser. Large apertures in the rear apron expel the warm air from the rear wheels.
The AMG 6.3-litre V8 engine, with additional improvements for the new racing car, ensures the fulminating power already familiar from the SLS AMG GT3. Low operating costs, long service intervals, the user-friendly technology and, not least, the great reliability of this naturally aspirated, high-revving AMG engine were the reasons for staying with this concept for the customer sports segment. Dry sump lubrication obviates the need for an oil sump, allowing the V8 engine to be installed low down in the chassis and well behind the front axle.
As is usual for the standard production engines, the racing engine also has an AMG engine badge bearing the signature of the technician who assembled it: Production of the V8 engine is a manual operation following the traditional "one man, one engine" principle applied in the AMG engine shop in Affalterbach. Naturally these AMG engine specialists are particularly proud to be assembling engines that are used to compete on legendary race circuits.
The sequential six-speed racing transmission of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is mounted at the rear axle (transaxle concept), and connected to the engine by a torsionally rigid torque tube. A drive shaft rotates at the engine speed inside the torque tube. Both components are of lightweight carbon-fibre. A multi-disc locking differential integrated into the transmission acts together with the adjustable traction control to ensure that the engine power is optimally transferred to the racetrack during acceleration. The driver shifts the six gears using two steering wheel shift paddles. Gearshifts are performed by pneumatic actuators which are likewise integrated into the transmission.
Like the road going version, the GT3 has a double wishbone suspension made almost completely of aluminium. This solution once again demonstrates how closely regular production and racing technology are linked at AMG. The same applies to the vehicle concept, with a low centre of gravity, perfect weight distribution, long wheelbase and wide track. This layout guarantees precise self-steering characteristics, high lateral acceleration, first-class agility, high traction and low inertia during fast changes in direction. On the different race circuits, all of these attributes give the driver the advantages necessary to achieve top placements.
For their individual, circuit-specific setup, customer teams are able to precisely set the springs and dampers, stabilisers, suspension height, track and camber. The servo-assisted, direct ratio rack-and-pinion steering likewise contributes to agile handling. The development team paid particular attention to the vehicle's predictable handling and good controllability at the critical limits. In these respects the SLS AMG GT3 has already scored top marks from racing drivers all over the world.
Neither did the AMG engineers accept any compromises when it came to the brakes: Good deceleration is ensured by a fade-resistant and very effective steel racing braking system with composite technology and adjustable racing ABS. Rapidly replaceable brake linings reduce idle time during endurance races. The pneumatic jacking system with four plungers integrated into the underbody allows fast pit stops and tyre-changes.
Functionality and safety are dominant features in the cockpit of the new Mercedes-AMG GT3. In addition to high passive safety standards, ergonomics was very high up in the list of development specifications. A clearly laid-out interior, ergonomic access to the controls and good ventilation to ease driver stress are very important aspects during sprints and endurance races.
The cockpit layout is basically the same as that of the road going sports car: the low, sloping dashboard resembles a powerful wing, and emphasises the width of the car. Numerous controls are arranged in the prominent centre console, whose shape is reminiscent of an NACA air intake, e.g. the main switch, the switch activating the ignition and the starter button for the V8 engine. A manual brake balance adjustment is located next to the rotary switch for traction control and ABS. Reverse gear and the fire extinguishing system can also be activated on the centre console.
The quick-release racing steering wheel eases access and egress. Like that of the pedal cluster, its position is adjustable within a wide range for rapid adaptation to different sizes of driver. As only the steering wheel and pedals are adjusted, but not the seat shell, the car's centre of gravity and therefore the wheel load distribution always remain the same. This safeguards the setup during endurance races, where up to four different drivers often take the wheel. It also ensures that each driver is seated in the safest position within the confines of the rollover cage. Ergonomically arranged shift paddles allow gear changes without the driver's hands leaving the wheel – a further safety aspect. The driver is able to activate the two-way radio, headlamp flasher or drink function using keys on the steering wheel.
The central display is optimally positioned in the driver's field of vision. The so-called DDU (Digital Display Unit) provides all relevant information such as road speed, engine speed, operating temperatures, lap times, current gear and upshift indicator. A function key on the steering wheel is also used to switch between the information shown by the colour display.
The safety concept of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 translates the exemplary safety level of the road going GT to the racetrack. The development focus was on the greatest possible driver safety. One of the central elements of this philosophy is the carbon-fibre seat shell for the driver, which has a specially developed structure providing much greater protection than a conventional racing seat. The already well-proven concept of the SLS AMG GT3 was further optimised and adapted to the current FIA requirements.
Thanks to its special shape, the safety cell bolted to the rollover cage and aluminium spaceframe provides a high level of protection for the driver's shoulders, pelvis and legs, and it is also compatible with the HANS system (Head and Neck Support). The HANS system helps to prevent serious head, neck and spinal injuries, and is mandatory in many race series. The seat shell is individually foam-padded for every driver, features a six-point seat belt with reinforced anchorage points and provides an outstanding level of occupant protection.
Additional protection is ensured by the rollover cage of high-strength steel, which is bolted to the aluminium spaceframe and helps to rigidify this even further. It too was optimised for easier access and egress by the driver. An escape hatch is integrated into the roof, so that the driver can be rapidly rescued in an emergency if e.g. no access is possible via the doors. For reasons of balance, the carbon-fibre safety fuel tank is located directly behind the passenger cell and features an inner sac of elastic rubber.
Production is in close cooperation between Mercedes-AMG GmbH and HWA AG, at the Affalterbach plant. A long-standing motor racing partner of Mercedes-Benz, HWA AG is one of the most successful teams in international motor sport: in total, the team won ten driver's titles (DTM and ITC) and three team titles for Mercedes-Benz and as such is the most successful team in the history of the DTM.
Hankook Tyre driver Fredric Aasbo brought home a first place podium finish in Long Beach, California at the opening round of the 2015 Formula Drift season, that also sees Hankook Tire as an official series sponsor. Competition was intense from the start of the racing weekend which saw Aasbo qualify in third place on Friday in his Hankook/Rockstar Energy Drink Scion tC, placing him in an ideal position for the following day’s battles. After contact with driver Masashi Yokoi early on competition day, Aasbo quickly worked his way through the field meeting up against Aurimas ‘Odi’ Bakchis in the Final. After a close final battle, Aasbo piloted his turbo nitrous Scion to a first place finish, putting him in the 2015 championship points lead and placing Hankook number one in the 2015 Tyre Manufacturer Championship.
“This is the perfect way to begin the 2015 Formula Drift season,” said Aasbo. “After losing second gear earlier in the day I had to shift between first and third for the final battle, but my Hankook tyres performed great all weekend and gave me the edge I needed to bring home our first win of the season.” All of Hankook’s Formula Drift drivers race on Hankook’s Ventus RS-3 Extreme Performance tyre. The Ventus R-S3 is designed for serious sports car, sports coupe and performance sedan enthusiasts looking for race tyre-like traction on the street, or for use in autocross, drifting or track events. “Fredric and his team did a great job this weekend, from qualifying on Friday to the podium on Saturday,” said Paul Jho, Hankook Motorsports Marketing Manager. “A first place win at Round 1 is the perfect way to begin the season.” In front of a sell-out crowd of 20,000, defending 2014 Formula Drift champion Chris Forsberg qualified second in his Hankook Nissan 370Z, but was eliminated in the Top 16 battle, eventually placing ninth.
Formula Drift next heads to Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia on May 8-9 for round two of the 2015 season.