Perfect start for SPS automotive performance in Imola

SPS automotive performance took victory in the Pro-Am class at the opening round of this season’s Endurance Cup in GT World Challenge Europe, which took place in Imola. A virtually flawless performance from Valentin Pierburg (GER), Ian Loggie (GBR) and Dominik Baumann (AUT) in the #20 Mercedes-AMG GT3 was key to the success in a turbulent race in the world’s strongest GT3 series.

Having only raced in the Middle East so far this year, SPS automotive performance made its first European outing of 2022 in round one of this season’s GT World Challenge Europe at Autodromo Dino e Enzo Ferrari in Imola, Italy. The Willsbach-based team, with drivers Valentin Pierburg, Ian Loggie and Dominik Baumann at the wheel of the #20 Mercedes-AMG GT3, lined up in the Pro-Am class at the iconic Grand Prix circuit in the Emilia-Romagna region.

The three qualifying sessions each saw the field of 52 GT3 cars strive to secure a good starting position for the opening endurance race in this high-class SRO series. As such, there was a lot of traffic out on the track. Pierburg, Loggie and Baumann mastered this challenge with great aplomb. The top three lap times were used to calculate the timed result, which gave the SPS automotive performance trio second place in the Pro-Am class and with it a great position going into the three-hour race.

Loggie was the first man into the cockpit of the #20 Mercedes-AMG GT3. The experienced Scot initially took the lead in the Pro-Am class, as the early stages of the race were dominated by a number of incidents and safety car phases. The appearances of the safety car resulted in the whole field bunching together again and cut the lead that Loggie had opened up to just a few tenths of a second. Throughout his time in the car, Loggie was constantly battling for the top positions in his class. When he eventually came into the pits at the end of his sting, the car was lying third in its class.

A well-timed pit stop allowed Pierburg, who took over from Loggie at the wheel of the black Mercedes-AMG GT3, to gain a position and take second place in the Pro-Am class within the first few laps of his stint. Pierburg was running second throughout his entire stint. Another long safety car phase towards the end of his stint made it impossible to make any progress. Pierburg came in for the team’s final pit stop while the race was neutralised and handed over to Baumann. The team once again did a perfect job on the #20 Mercedes-AMG GT3 and sent Baumann back out in first place in his class.
After the restart, Baumann initially extended his lead, before the race had to be neutralised again just a few laps later following another incident. However, the Austrian was able to defend his lead at the next restart. The SPS automotive performance driver produced a commanding performance to gradually pull clear of his rivals in the Pro-Am class, lap by lap. At the end of the three hours, Baumann took the chequered flag in first place to present the Willsbach-based team with its first class victory at the opening round of this season’s GT World Challenge Europe. It also marked the second win in a row in the Endurance Cup within this high-class GT3 series, having also triumphed in the final race of last season.

Round two of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup sees SPS automotive performance travel to Circuit Paul Ricard in France from 3rd to 5th June. Before then, the team will line up at the opening round of this season’s International GT Open, from 29th April to 1st May in Estoril, Portugal.

Stephan Sohn, team principal SPS automotive performance: “We are obviously very happy with the result. A perfect start for us. The team did a perfect job again, which helped us take victory in the end. We must now take the momentum from this fantastic start into the rest of the season.”

Dominik Baumann, Mercedes-AMG GT3 #20: “That was a crazy race with a good result for us. Valentin, Ian and the whole team worked hard this weekend and did a flawless job. We drove smartly and stayed clear of any trouble. With so many incidents, you also need a little luck. This kind of result gives us extra motivation for the races ahead.”