The Mercedes AMG GT3 makes its customer team race debut this weekend at Dubai 24 Hours and British professional racing driver Tom Onslow-Cole was among the first to test it in today’s practice session. After winning the 2015 24H Series’ GT3 class in the AMG GT3’s predecessor, the Mercedes SLS AMG, OC was keen to see how different the German manufacturers’ latest creation is to drive...

“Driving a new car is always exciting but there’s definitely a benefit in knowing your machine before you head into one of the most important races of your year. Dubai 24 Hours is one of those blue riband events that everyone wants on their CV so, as keen as I was to see how the car had improved, I was hoping for a sense of familiarity. 

In 2015, I really got to grips with the SLS. It’s an easy car to jump in and drive but, like with any GT3 car, it takes a few runs to really squeeze the most out of it. That was a little like how our season went too: we came away from Dubai with a second place finish in a car we’d never seen before, but it took until Paul Ricard to get the elusive win, after a hat-trick of silver finishes. 

Climbing aboard the new AMG GT3 earlier today, I felt like a kid on a shiny new bike, however, within a few laps, it felt incredibly homely… but not because it was very similar to the SLS.

As well as some obvious visual differences – like the shorter wheelbase that makes it much more nimble in the corners and the removal of the gull-wing doors, which were pleasing on the eye but had some practical draw-backs – there are many more subtle changes within the cockpit that are much more intuitive than the SLS and this is what makes it feel so natural and easy to drive. 

For example, there is an internal blacklight and the switches now glow in the dark (something that will come in handy this weekend) and the centre console and switch gear are now angled towards the driver. You can tell that it has been designed by drivers, for drivers. 

The AMG GT3 is a sign of things to come in GT3 racing. Like in the computer-age, we moved from a functional machine that processed data but needed a manual to use it, to a battle of the user-friendly operating systems that worked intuitively. Manufacturers have worked hard to offer reliable, hard-working machines but their ability will always be capped through Balance of Performance (BoP). This has shifted the focus to getting the most out of the driver.

The potential of the car is huge and it’s definitely not realised here in Dubai due to the BoP. Hopefully, this will be adjusted before the race but, if not, we’ll just have to work with what we have. “

Dubai 24 Hours starts at 1400hrs on Friday 15 January and fans can watch on MotorsTV or on the live stream at www.24hseries.com. Tom will drive the RAM Racing #30 Mercedes AMG GT3, which will run with a white, red and black livery.

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