Mercedes-Benz Sweeps FIA GT Championship Season Opener
CLK-GTRs Finish One-Two-Three at Oschersleben
MONTVALE, N.J. (April 13, 1998) - Mercedes-Benz scored a clean sweep of the victory podium at the FIA GT Championship season opener in Oschersleben, Germany, as Team AMG-Mercedes driver Klaus Ludwig led a trio CLK-GTRs across the finish line. The first ever one-two-three victory for the series, the result marked Mercedes' third consecutive win in FIA GT competition. The Silver Arrows captured the penultimate and final rounds of the series last season to claim the 1997 driver's and team championships.
Porsche presented the biggest challenge for the four-car, eight-driver Mercedes-Benz contingent, with its new 911 GT1 setting the pace early. By the end of the 500 km event, however, the V12-powered CLK-GTRs had proved that speed is nothing without reliability.
Former Formula 3000 champion Ricardo Zonta, making his first appearance with Team AMG-Mercedes, partnered Ludwig in the winning car, and Marcel Tiemann and Jean-Marc Gounon claimed the runner-up spot in the first of two Team Persson Motorsport CLK-GTRs. Despite losing their left front wheel late in the race, Australian Mark Webber, co-driving with 1997 FIA GT Champion Bernd Schneider, was able to limp around to the pit lane for repairs, re- join the race and finish third. A fourth CLK-GTR, driven by Persson Motorsport pilots Bernd Maylaender and Christophe Bouchut, retired after 91 laps with gearbox trouble.
Round two of the FIA GT Championship is scheduled for May 17 at the Silverstone circuit in England.