Mercedes team GruppeM set to exit DTM over “unpredictable” damage costs

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GruppeM was one of the several established GT3 teams to foray into DTM when the championship switched away from Class 1 cars in 2021 and has enjoyed factory support from Mercedes-AMG in the championship.

However, after just two seasons in the DTM during which it scored three podiums and one pole position, the Hong Kong-based is now considering moving away to other categories, with SRO’s Intercontinental GT World Challenge emerging as its primary option.

“The DTM is not an easy championship, it’s almost impossible to make a budget because the cost of damage is unpredictable,” team boss Kenny Chen told Motorsport.com’s sister title Motorsport-Total.com.

“You have seen in the DTM this season and last season: If you are in the midfield, there is an 80 percent chance that your car will be damaged.

“We are still in talks with AMG. It’s possible that we won’t compete in the DTM if we participate in other major international programmes.

“Now that travel is also normalising after COVID-19, we are planning to move back to the IGTC as an AMG Performance team. And also Macau [GT race]. We’ve always enjoyed that.”

Maro Engel, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

GruppeM claims to have spent around two million euros alone in repairs across its two cars this year. For comparison, the operating cost of a single car over the course of a season is one million euros.

The high damage bill was contributed in part by both Maro Engel and Mikael Grenier requiring new chassis due to separate accidents over the course of the season.

Engel was one of the many drivers to be involved in the Norisring carnage, where he crashed head-on into the wall after contact with Lamborghini’s Mirko Bortolotti, while Grenier needed a chassis change after aquaplaning into the barriers in qualifying at the Red Bull Ring.

GruppeM also had to deal with high cost of repairs when it entered a single car in 2021 for factory driver Daniel Juncadella.

Chen explained that GruppeM “is possibly the only team here that is 90 percent financed by ourselves”, with BWT, the primary backer of Engel’s car, not a team sponsor but a “strategic partner” of Mercedes.

Chen feels DTM’s Indy-style restart procedure is the main cause of the problem, echoing comments from some drivers that they can cause “mayhem” and force them to take undue risks.

 “You only have to look at the restart,” he said. “Everybody is fighting each other, but how to solve it? And if there is no solution, then there will always be this damage.”

Chen also didn’t understand the call to use double-file restart with just a single lap to run in the second race at Spa Francorchamps

“That was completely unnecessary. The damage [to Engel’s car] alone cost us 55,000 euros.”

A potential exit from GruppeM could mean Mercedes being left with just three teams in the DTM, namely, HRT, Winward and Mucke Motorsport, barring any other changes over the winter.

The DTM is planning to restrict each manufacturer to just six cars in 2023, although the proposed rule is yet to be finalised by series promoter ITR. It is unclear how it will impact the plans of the remaining Mercedes teams on the grid.

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