- Craft-Bamboo Racing secure front-row start after strong Friday Qualifying
- Marciello fends off late challenge to hold onto strong overall P2 result at The Brickyard
- Hong Kong team leads double podium for Mercedes-AMG at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
The fourth round of the 2023 Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC) Powered by Pirelli at the Indianapolis 8 Hour Powered by AWS saw Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing secure a second consecutive podium finish at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway last weekend. The 2022 champions of The Brickyard classic maximized their results with an overall P2 finish, despite late damage putting their runner up position on the podium at risk. While overall victory was out of reach, Jules Gounon (AND), Maximilian Götz (GER) and Raffaele Marciello (SUI) managed to complete a strong and faultless 8-hour race in what proved to be an uphill battle, despite a strong Qualifying performance. The Hong Kong crew led a double podium for Mercedes-AMG, scoring essential points and setting up a thrilling battle for the IGTC drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships at the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
The #77 Mercedes-AMG GT3 showed promising pace on Friday, as the formidable trio secured a combined Qualifying time that was best of anybody. Gounon, the 2022 pole sitter, was tasked with the responsibility to repeat last year’s feat and was continuously improving during the 15-minute Pole Shootout session. Eventually he came tantalizingly close to his second pole position at the Indianapolis 8 Hour, falling short by just 33 thousandths of a second. Nevertheless, the quick lap time by the Performance car from Affalterbach meant it would start the 8-hour enduro from the front row of the grid.
The race began under sunny skies on Saturday afternoon as Götz was first in the driver’s seat for the MSI-liveried Mercedes-AMG GT3. Despite dropping a position at the start of the race, the German driver quickly got into a rhythm as he steered clear of any accidents for the duration of an impressive triple stint. He remained in P3 before handing driving duties to Marciello under the first and only Safety Car intervention of the race. The Swiss driver took control of the car for an hour, setting consistently fast lap times around the 4.19 km Indianapolis Motor Speedway roadcourse. Next, Gounon was tasked with a double stint in which he came under attack from a chasing BMW that was recovering from a drive-through penalty. The straightline speed of the chasing car was unmatched throughout the race, due to which, despite his best efforts, the Andorran was forced to concede position and settle for P3. It was towards the end of his double stint that the leading BMW got involved in an incident, handing P2 back to Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing.
As the race progressed, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 was not able to mount challenges to the leading car, lacking in overall pace. Maricello took over the last 2 stints of the 8-hour, as the day slowly transitioned into the night, but the Swiss driver’s double stint was far from smooth sailing. During the final hour of the race, the front splitter of the #77 Craft-Bamboo Racing challenger slowly started to come loose, causing him to lose downforce. Battling and nursing a wounded car, Marciello fell susceptible to the chasing rival Mercedes-AMG, struggling to extract the maximum pace in colder conditions. A race against the clock ensued, with Marciello doing just enough to take the checkered flag in P2, in a nail-biting finish where he sensationally ended a mere 0.53 seconds ahead of the driver behind after 8 hours of racing.
Despite a commendable result at one of the most challenging races of the year, it was a bittersweet moment for the Hong Kong team, as the noticeable pace disparity left Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing unable to challenge the frontrunners. The team executed a flawless race but left Indianapolis with a sense of disappointment, not having the opportunity to contend for the overall victory and defend their crown at The Brickyard. However, a double podium at the fourth running offor the Indianapolis 8 Hour scored valuable points for the German marquee and IGTC Drivers’ standing leader, Gounon – taking the battle for the championship to the final race of the season at the Gulf 12 Hours. The team would like to thank all of its partners including MSI, Theodore Racing, Lone Star Racing, Pikes Peak International Raceway, Hong Kong Asia Medical Group, Evisu, FreeM and Gravity Partnership for their continued support.
Darryl O’Young | Team Director, Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing
“I’m not too sure how best to describe our weekend. On one hand, I’m really proud of the team for the great race as we made zero mistakes and brought home a solid podium result. On the other hand the Balance of Performance was so far off this weekend that we stood no chance against the BMW’s. Nevertheless, to have back-to-back years with P1 and P2, is a strong effort from the team, so big thank you to everyone involved to make this possible, including our three rocket drivers Lello, Max, and Jules. Also big thanks to Mercedes-AMG, our event partner Lone Star Racing, our sponsors MSI, Theodore Racing, Pikes Peak International Raceway and Hong Kong Asia Medical Group. Let’s try to come back in 2024 to take back the crown.”
Jules Gounon | Driver, #77 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing
“I’m very happy to be back on the podium in Indianapolis especially with Craft-Bamboo Racing. It’s redemption for the heartbreak in 2021, so I really wanted to make a point in going on the podium with this great team. We had a fantastic race, we were the best of the rest, shall we say, and the team did a fantastic job. They made no mistakes throughout the 8 hours, the car was amazing and my teammates did an amazing job. I think we can be proud of the result as we achieved more than what we set out for since we were only in P3 for most of the race so thank you to Craft-Bamboo Racing and my teammates for an incredible job.”
Maximilian Götz | Driver, #77 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing
“I’m super happy with what we have achieved. With the tools we had, I think we maximized our results. The team did a great job without any troubles or mistakes and we had a great car – it felt like a rocket. I really enjoyed doing the race start and doing a triple stint. I felt really good in the car, I could’ve done 4-5 hours in a row. At the end of the race we suffered a bit of damage at the front of the car but Lello managed to bring the car back in style. I think second place is well deserved, it was a shame we couldn’t compete against the BMW’s, they were just too quick for us but I’m super happy and proud of the team. Being with these two guys on the podium is great and it’s all because of the team so thank you.”
Raffaele Marciello | Driver, #77 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing
“It’s very nice to be back on the podium again, especially with Craft-Bamboo Racing. Last year we finished first and now second. We maximized our results and I had a lot of fun with my friends and teammates. It was the maximum possible so we should be proud of it.”