Two class wins for SPS automotive performance at the opening round of the International GT Open

SPS automotive performance capped an impressive return to the International GT Open in Estoril, Portugal, with two class victories and a further podium finish. The #18 Mercedes-AMG GT3, with Reema Juffali (KSA) and Adam Christodoulou (GBR) at the wheel, won the PROAM class in both races. The Swiss duo of Dexter Müller and Yannick Mettler finished third in race two to join them on the PROAM podium.

The opening race at the former Grand Prix circuit was defined by many incidents and a lengthy break in the racing, caused by a crash involving multiple cars. After the restart, Yannick Mettler, who was first in the cockpit of the #54 Mercedes-AMG GT3, held onto second place in the PROAM. Mettler came in for the mandatory driver changeover at the end of the pit stop window. Dexter Müller took over from Mettler in the #54 Mercedes-AMG GT3 and slotted into third place in the class. Müller was then embroiled in some close and exciting battlers for position. At the end of the race distance, Müller crossed the finish line in fifth place in the PROAM class. In the #18 car, which started under the name Theeba Motorsport, Reema Juffali made up one position at the start and was running fourth in her stint. Juffali made an early pit stop and handed the car over to team-mate Adam Christodoulou. Christodoulou launched a terrific fightback, climbing from fourth to second place and soon putting the PROAM leaders under pressure. With roughly 20 minutes remaining, the Brit took the lead in the class and quickly opened a lead over the chasing pack. He went on to secure a commanding first class victory for the duo on their debut in the International GT Open.

Adam Christodoulou was first at the wheel of the #18 car, which started Sunday’s second race from third overall, which also meant third place in the PROAM class. Christodoulou stayed in touch with the leaders throughout the opening stages of the 60-minute race, and consistently pulled away from the cars behind him. The experienced Brit was determined to cancel out the extra ten seconds the car would have to spend stationary in the pit stop, as a result of the previous day’s victory. And this approach yielded great success. Christodoulou proceeded to attack the two cars in front of him, but refused to take any unnecessary risks and remained third. A good pit stop saw Reema Juffali, who had taken over the driving duties from Christodoulou in the #18 Mercedes-AMG GT3, rejoin the race in second place. The closing stages were dramatic at times, with Juffali fending off attacks from cars in the more powerful PRO class. However, she ultimately had to settle for a fine second place overall. An unfortunate lapping manoeuvre, in which multiple cars were involved, saw Juffali forced off the track in the Mercedes-AMG GT3, as she took evasive action to avoid a collision. This incident meant she briefly lost touch with the leaders in the PROAM class. However, she was not to be denied and closed the gap within a matter of laps, before putting her rival under pressure in the final few laps. This produced a decisive mistake at the end of the penultimate lap, and Juffali moved back into the lead in her class. She went on to claim the second class victory for her and Christodoulou on their International GT Open debut. Dexter Müller started race two from sixth place in the PROAM class in the #54 Mercedes-AMG GT3. The Swiss initially steered clear of any battles, and successfully defended his position. Towards the end of his stint, Müller climbed one position to hand over to team-mate Yannick Mettler in fifth. Mettler produced a flawless performance and set consistently fast lap times on his way to gaining a position in his class. Towards the end of the race, Mettler benefitted from a mistake by the leader and came home third in the PROAM class. This excellent result marked a successful return to the International GT Open for the Willsbach-based team.
Round two of the International GT Open takes place as soon as 20th to 22nd May at the French Grand Prix circuit, Paul Ricard.
Reema Juffali, #18 Mercedes-AMG GT3: “What an epic race! It had every high and every low, the pressure was immense and I’m extremely happy with the result. It’s been a big weekend for me and I feel like I have progressed throughout. I’m already looking forward to Paul Ricard and I feel like it’s going to be a good season!

Yannick Mettler, #54 Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We can be very happy with the weekend. P3 and P5 are a good result for us and we’re very satisfied with the season start. The team did a great job. Now we want to fight for the podium positions at Paul Ricard again.”

Stephan Sohn, team principal SPS automotive performance: “A fantastic start to the season in the International GT Open. We made an impressive return to the series, with two class wins and a third place. The whole team did a great job and deserves a lot of praise.”