►Facelifted GT3 driven
► €400,000 before tax
► Fast but accessible
Mercedes-AMG has been campaigning its GT3 racer competitively since 2016, so it’s made some updates to keep it at the front of the pack, and make it easier to work with and cheaper to run.
That’s relative, of course, racing doesn’t come cheaply at any level, but AMG’s GT3 does promise to be a bit cheaper than its rivals costing €400,000 before tax, and around €9 a km to run, before tyres and fuel. Its engine only needs a strip down after 40,000 km, that a ridiculous distance for a racing unit, AMG sticking with its tried and tested 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8, which, depending on the balance of performance formula application, develops around 550hp.
So what’s new?
The GT3 has had its styling brought into line with the road cars, the front grille and lights now matching the road cars. That said, it’s also gained a bit of aero development, so you’ll do well to notice the subtle changes, the front splitter, massive rear wing and a diffuser that looks like the entrance to a stadium underground car park somewhat distracting your attention from them.
It’s all functional, too, and more quickly replaceable and configurable, AMG working hard on making the sacrificial parts easier to haul off if they’re broken if the racing’s turned to rubbing, or adjusted if the heavens open and the drivers want more downforce. There are some clever innovations, too, like optional drop start, where the engine fires automatically when the air jacks drop, and computer logged lifing for components.
All that in a package that’s designed to be easy for a gentleman (or woman) drivers to compete, with a hired hot shoe pro as a team mate for guidance in endurance GT racing championships on every continent around the globe.
Know any gentleman racers?
Not really, so CAR sent me, though I do hold a racing licence, for what it’s worth. Thomas Jäger, AMG’s test and racing driver, reckons I’ll be okay, and he should know, because he’s developed it to be as easy as possible for the weightily walleted owner drivers who pay teams and pro drivers to make them look good at the weekend. Today I’m that gentleman, only without the bank balance, or the talent. Ten laps in a GT4 first, the GT3’s €200,000 relation and first rung of AMG’s customer racing cars, means I’ve an idea of where I’m going, but it doesn’t make getting in the GT3 any less terrifying.
Wings, diffusers and wideness
In isolation that GT4 looks formidable enough, but in comparison to the GT3 it looks like a road car with some race bits stuck on. The GT3 looks pure racer, its splitter wide enough that it’d take your ankle off just looking at it, and a rear wing so gargantuan as to worry air traffic control.
Getting in is, as with any racer, a challenge. Squeezing through the door, over the high sill and through the roll cage with a helmet, HANS device not something that’s done with any grace. Once in, it’s familiar, it being little different to the GT4, so it’s stripped, with a two grip steering wheel like the ones the F1 boys use ahead of me, with a smattering of buttons I’ll not be touching. There’s variable traction control and the ability to change the ABS settings/brake bias and more, but, despite Jäger’s assertions that I should play with the traction control and suchlike, I’ll probably just leave it as is.
Before I’ve too much time to think about it the air jacks are dropped, I thumb the starter button and head out to run around the 3.4km ‘short course’ that fills the middle of the Lausitz EuroSpeedway in Germany. Trundling down the pitlane is always intimidating in a race car, as they just don’t like slow speed, exiting it allowing the GT3 to reveal that, as Jäger, said, it’s actually remarkably easy to drive. The steering is light, it’s incredibly accurate, while the chassis is astonishingly composed, too, it being less bouncy than the GT4 was around Lausitz’s sometimes bumpy tarmac.
A couple of familiarisation laps and the pace starts to increase, the GT3 doing an incredible job of flattering my amateurish skills set with some real speed. The naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8 engine is so beautifully linear in its delivery there are no spikes to worry about to upset its fine balance, the V8 filling the stripped, focussed cabin with a raucous, intense V8 soundtrack that’s absolutely intoxicating in its intensity. It, as much as the red lights atop the digital display tell you when I need another gear, a quick finger flick of the paddle-shifter having the next ratio selected absolutely immediately.
It’s that immediacy that defines the driving experience, there’s just no slack, the GT3 absolutely faithful to input, yet for all that intensity and speed, it is surprisingly easy and forgiving to drive. The brakes are mighty, the grip and traction huge, that aero really planting the GT3 to the track.
A few laps in and I’m finding a rhythm, starting to chip away at times, finding speed everywhere, but, crucially, without it feeling like I’m trying too hard. Ask too much of it and the traction control can be felt doing its work, but the GT3’s so biddable, and friendly, that, the idea of doing hours in it, in a GT race is really rather appealing.
It’s possible too, as you can hire one, AMG lending them to race teams for €16 a km, with transportation and deployment costs on top of that. I’m pretty certain the damage waiver is even more extensive, and potentially expensive, than you’ll sign at an airport car rental desk, too. If you’ve an existing GT3, AMG will sell you the bits to update it to 2020 spec, the kit costing €45,000 or so, depending on how old it is.
Doing so will keep your car competitive, the AMG GT3 a front running car in all the championships it enters. That’s genuinely impressive, as you’d think that a competitive car might be challenging to drive, but AMG’s GT3 just isn’t, which, is a credit not just to AMG, but Jäger and the team of pro drivers who have developed it.