Few other international racing classifications are as high-profile or influential than the GT3 segment. Unlike Formula 1 or Le Mans racers, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s strict homologation rules for GT3 dictate that each car needs to be closely based on a production model – linking a GT3 car’s success to the strength of the street car it’s based on. As a result, the GT3 class is crowded with some of the most desirable performance cars in the world, and automakers spend millions on their racing programs while jockeying for dominance at the track. With so much at stake, the competition usually carries on long after the race ends, as Mercedes-Benz has shown this week by releasing photos of the new Mercedes-AMG GT3 racer ahead of its official debut at the Geneva Auto Show.
Mercedes released the pictures to French website La Point just a few days after competitor Aston Martin unveiled their all-new Vulcan racer and Vantage GT3 cars. While Mercedes’s aggressive-looking car is closely based on the all-new Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S supercar, the GT3 model features a unique front fascia, flared fenders, and a massive rear wing. Performance numbers haven’t been released by Mercedes yet, but the new car will keep to keep 6.2 liter V8 from Mercedes’s outgoing GT3 car instead of using the twin-turbo 4.0 liter V8 from the road-going AMG GT S. The interior has been stripped for weight-saving purposes and replaced with an all-business racing setup. Looking to lose the outgoing car’s reputation as being one of the heaviest GT3 cars, the new Mercedes uses the GT S’s new aluminum frame and liberal amounts of carbon fiber to ensure that the new GT3 will be lighter and faster than the outgoing racer.
Unlike other GT3 cars that stay faithful to the production car’s design, the Mercedes front end takes clear styling cues from the iconic 300SL racer of 1952 – the legendary car that signaled Mercedes’s return to post-war racing. The unique sheet metal on the GT3 car has led to speculation that Mercedes is gearing up to make a limited-edition production version, either as a track-only model or as a road car. While the market for race-bred GT3 cars is limited, the class encourages privately-owned teams to compete, and the exclusivity of the Mercedes could make it a popular choice for racers.
Mercedes is looking to capitalize on the success of its GT cars to take on the the long-reigning class favorite Porsche 911 GT3. The race-prepped (and road-legal) Porsche has been in production since 1998, and its success and level of accessibility have made it a legend on the race track and a strong seller for Porsche. With the buzz already created by the aggressive-looking Mercedes, the temptation to put their own GT3 car into production might be too strong for the company to resist.
The near-simultaneous introduction of two new GT3-class cars by Mercedes and Aston Martin show how competitive the GT3 class is both on and off the track. A strong racing program almost always translates into increased brand exposure and a raised performance reputation, but there are some caveats. The Mercedes Formula 1 team is coming off of a World Championship season, and while that’s an amazing achievement, it won’t translate into increased road car sales. As fantastic and unobtainable as it may look, a recognizable looking Mercedes halo car like the GT3 racing in a high-profile series has a much better chance at getting attention for the brand – especially in the lucrative American marketplace.
Mercedes is hoping their new GT3 racer is enough to translate their Formula 1 success into the GT3 class, and based on looks alone, it just might be a contender. If the GT3 goes into production (and if it’s road legal), Mercedes could have the kind of ultra-exclusive supercar in its lineup it hasn’t had since the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. Mercedes’s AMG performance division has a reputation for turning out some of the best performance cars in the world, and it looks like the new GT3 will be no exception. We can’t wait to see what it can do at the track.
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