2020 Mercedes-AMG could debut at Mount Panorama

THE FIRST current-specification GT3 vehicle to compete in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour could race as soon as 2020, if Mercedes-AMG plans come to fruition. 

Traditionally the 12-Hour has operated by using the previous-years GT3 homologation cycle vehicles – meaning that the 2019 race was contested by 2018-specification vehicles.

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This is primarily down to the lengthy process required by SRO, the body appointed to manage GT3 homologation and Balance of Performance Requirements, and the FIA in order to fix the specifications and performance balancing for each upgrade, each year.

Given the timelines involved, in the past cars have not been homologated for the season until following the early-February Bathurst 12 Hour – meaning an awkward extra race for the previous-specification cars before they can be quickly updated for the remainder of the season.

For instance, Audi Customer Sport Racing were required to run their Audi R8 LMS fleet in 2018-specification prior to bolting on the upgrade components to bring them to 2019 ‘EVO’ specification in time for the opening round of the Australian GT season in March.

However, efforts by Mercedes-AMG’s Customer Racing arm could see the AMG GT3 be readied in 2020 ‘Evo’ specification prior to the January 30-February 2 12-Hour next year.

AMG took the wraps off their 2020-specification GT3 at the Nurburgring 24 Hour this year, before contesting the 24 Hours of Portimao in Portugal – a race that allows non-homologated cars to run alongside current GT3 machinery.

The car then ran in pre-event official practice sessions at the Catalunya circuit in Spain with SRO Balance of Performance test driver Jean-Marc Gounon driving.

The extensive process, which also included a marathon 35-hour endurance test at the Slovakia Ring, has been designed to achieve full sign-off by 1 January and comes following changes to the process in place by the FIA and SRO designed to speed up vehicle homologation.

This would allow for the car to not only contest the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, but allow Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing teams to contest the full Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season with the same car.

When asked about the potential to run the 2020 car at Mount Panorama, Mercedes-AMG Head of Customer Racing Stefan Wendl told Sportscar365.com: “From my perspective, I would like to. For sure, it’s only possible if you have the homologation and you have the BoP done.

“That is something we will see. First of all, we do it only to do everything necessary to have all options open. I think this is one part of it, the long BoP process.

“We are in the middle of the process so next week there will be the wind tunnel testing with the FIA and afterwards, technical inspection.

“It means that from our side, the car is ready and we try to use all opportunities we have, as early as possible, to share the data with the SRO and start on a good level wherever it is, next year.”

Should it be homologated in time for Australia’s International Enduro, the car would be issued with the usual Balance of Performance adjustments for the race ensuring there would be no advantage relative to the competition, regardless of specification.