It has been a success right from the beginning: The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 has already reached the top in its first racing season. 34 gullwing cars have been sold to ambitious private teams and 27 of them have already been delivered. In the world of motor racing, this can be called a successful start. As part of the Mercedes-AMG Customer Sports Programme, the SLS AMG GT3, whose design closely resembles its standard version, will be entered in races all over Europe and on different continents. During the first six weeks of the 2011 motor sport season, the fast gullwing car achieved four wins and several more good finishes in 17 races.
FIA GT3 European Championship: Seven of the 27 cars entered for the season opener at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal were SLS AMG GT3s; the gullwing car of Graff Racing with Mike Parisy/Philippe Giaque at the wheel clinched pole position. In Saturday’s race, they were the best customer team ending up fourth. On Sunday, Dominik Baumann and Brice Bosi of HEICO Motorsport moved up to third place in the dramatic closing stages and thus achieved a podium finish.
VLN (Germany): Chris Mamerow and Armin Hahne driving for Mamerow Racing won the second round of this long distance series on 30 April 2011 at the Nürburgring. Starting from pole position, they took their first victory with the SLS AMG GT3 in the new season. In the first race, they had to retire from the lead, in the third race they came home fifth. During this event, they were supported by Pierre Kaffer as third driver – he will also start for Mamerow in the Nürburgring 24-hour race in June.
Generally, the customer teams with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 are in good shape: Black Falcon team with drivers Kenneth Heyer/Thomas Jäger/Jan Seyffarth/Jeroen Bleekemolen started the VLN series with a good third place. In the second race, HEICO Motorsport’s Lance David Arnold/Christopher Brück/Christiaan Frankenhout posted the fastest lap of the race and in the third race, ROWE Racing with Marco Schelp/Hubert Haupt/Klaus Rader at the wheel the best Mercedes private team were in fourth position which also meant first place in the SP9 category.
ADAC GT Masters (Germany): In the ADAC GT Masters‘ second round at Sachsenring, the customer teams took positions five and six on Saturday and seventh place on Sunday. In the first race, Dominik Baumann and Hari Proczyk (HEICO Motorsport) scored points ahead of their brand colleagues David Sigacev and Florian Stoll MS RACING’s gullwing car; in the second race, MS RACING’s second team, Maximilian Mayer and Maximilian Götz achieved this in their race debut with the gullwing car.
French GT Championship: In the French GT Championship’s two races at Dijon, Graff Racing drivers Renaud Derlot/Gerard Tonelli already achieved their third race win of the series. Derlot/Tonelli had already won twice in the season opener at Ledenon. – Traditionally, France is a good place for Mercedes-Benz. 110 years ago, in the 1901 Nice race week, a race car with the brand name Mercedes won a race for the first time ever.
British GT Championship: After three races, brothers David and Godfrey Jones are second overall with their gullwing car. They achieved their best result of the season so far with second place in the second round; most recently, they ended up with a good fourth place at Snetterton.
The space frame – Core of the SLS AMG GT3
The SLS AMG GT3 has is based on a aluminium space frame, an exclusive and complex design, and a consequent approach to building sportive and lightweight cars. In the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, the space frame is used for both the standard and the race version, the SLS AMG GT3.
The aluminium space frame of the SLS is a completely new development. It consists of cast aluminium components and aluminium sections. Lightweight aluminium sections connect the nodal points to a sturdy structure. The large, low-set cross-sections of these aluminium sections ensure high resistance torque, thus providing the required direct transfer of drive, braking and suspension forces. The structure prevents unwanted flexibility directly and with practically no torsion, thus maintaining the vehicle’s rigidity. These high-quality features are part of the standard as well as the race version and are one reason for the gullwing car being so popular among customer teams.
45 per cent of the intelligently designed, weight-optimised aluminium space frame is made out of aluminium sections, 31 per cent out of aluminium sheet, 20 per cent out of cast aluminium and 4 per cent out of steel. Maximum occupant safety requires the use of ultra-high-strength, heat-formed steel in the A-pillars. The body shell weighs a mere 241 kilograms – an absolute benchmark in the super sports car segment in relation to the peak output. At the same time, the space frame is also the basis for excellent Passive Safety.
The entire vehicle concept has been adjusted for the lowest possible centre of gravity. This applies both to the low connection of the powertrain and axles, as well as to the arrangement of the rigidity-conducive body shell structure, which has been kept as low as possible. Examples include the rigid flexural and torsional connections between the front and rear section and the safety passenger cell, which have been realised consistently using force paths that are as low as possible. This results not only in a low centre of gravity but also in a harmonious and therefore efficient force path in the vehicle structure.
Other prominent features of the lightweight construction are the transverse reinforcing struts at the front and rear axles, which are integrated into the body shell structure. The sections connect the side members precisely where the highest forces act upon the body shell under dynamic cornering. The advantages of this sophisticated solution include unrivalled transverse rigidity and the absence of heavy secondary reinforcement or supports.
This is something the drivers and their technicians in the teams like because with this basis the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 is easy to adjust to the many different race tracks. In racing series for close-to-production cars as in GT3 racing this is not natural.
There have been quite a few brothers in motor racing. Mercedes-Benz, for example, enjoy racing with Michael Schumacher in Formula One, and with Ralf Schumacher in DTM. These brothers, however, are probably unique even in the wide world of motor racing: David and Godfrey Jones are not only brothers, they are twins and 58 years old, born on 22 March 1953. This is the reason why they race with the number 22 on their respective race cars – this year it is a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 they entered in the British GT Championship.
After racing with different brands in the last couple of years, they chose Mercedes-Benz this time. “We swayed in the direction of the Mercedes because of the build quality and the reputation of chassis builder HWA,” David told the British GT Championship website. It caused a sensation when they unveiled their car during the pre-season tests in March.
David and Godfrey have been racing in the British GT Championship since 2004 and they are some of the drivers to beat. In 2009, the fast twins took the championship title. Last year, they ended up 11th despite three wins and four pole positions. After changing to the gullwing car, the brotherhood got in gear again. After fifth, second and fourth places out of the first three races, they are second overall.
To be continued at Brands Hatch on 19 June 2011 … watch out!
ADAC GT Masters: Worldwide TV coverage
The ADAC GT Masters is the only German racing series besides the DTM which can be seen live on German TV, but it can also be watched in many other parts of the world. 20 different TV stations broadcasted either live coverage or tape-delay reports, news and highlights from the first two Masters weekends in more than 50 countries. Viewers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland can watch the races live on the German station kabel eins (cable one) which has been showing the Masters races since 2010.
Every race of the series can be seen in 40 European countries, for example on the channel „Motors TV“, and in Australia, South Africa and the Middle East.