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April 07, 2020

Ten years of GT3: Markus Winkelhock, FIA GT1 World Championship, 2012

Ten years of GT3: Markus Winkelhock, FIA GT1 World Championship, 2012
Photo Credit To Gary Parravani/ Xynamic

With the enormously popular but hideously expensive GT1 cars phased out, by 2012 the FIA GT1 World Championship had become a GT3 series in all but name. As a result of this historical anomaly, Munnich Motorsport pair Markus Winkelhock and Marc Basseng were crowned the final GT1 champions with a Mercedes-AMG SLS GT3.

But whilst it was consistency that put them in the position to win the title – the Mercedes only won once at Portimao, but finished in the points in every race bar one – it was ultimately decided by the controversial final round clash with chief rival Yelmer Buurman at Donington Park. With both cars eliminated in the accident, Winkelhock and Basseng took the title by just a single point, although neither felt much like celebrating while Buurman’s condition remained unclear.

Winkelhock remembers the year fondly, but despite their success together, admits he never really clicked with the Mercedes. He would return to Audi in their customer racing pool in 2013, where he has been ever since.  

Of course it’s nice to be the last GT1 champion and so far it’s the only championship I’ve won in my career. We didn’t score so many wins, but we always collected points and this is the reason why we won the championship.

Of course what happened in Donington was not a nice way to end the season because I always had a good relationship with Yelmer and he’s a very nice guy, but we were both fighting for the championship and I think neither of us did something on purpose. It was just a bad incident that happened there, but everybody who knows me knows exactly that I never would push him into the wall on purpose because you never want to win a championship like this.

On the outside of Redgate there was quite a lot of dirt and pickup, so he tried to push me a little bit on the dirt, I was just holding against it and then it happened. In the first moment I was not thinking about the championship, I was first looking for Yelmer but the marshal didn’t let me go to him because he was unconscious, then I went straight to the medical centre and was asking about him. For me in that moment, the most important thing was that he was okay. It was not really the typical atmosphere you have if you win a championship because first of all we were not sure what was going to happen and we weren’t sure what Yelmer’s condition was. We were not in party mood shall we say.

We won the championship with it so clearly it the Mercedes wasn’t that bad, but to be honest the car was always too soft and never felt fast. Somehow the laptime was still there! It was a compromise with Marc, but for me the Audi was always a more agile race car compared to the Mercedes, maybe because of the shorter wheelbase. But I won the championship!

I really love GT3 because we have good racing, many different manufacturers and for me it’s so much fun to drive, so for me there is nothing else in the moment I could imagine driving. I hope it’s still getting bigger because if you look at the championship, especially the Blancpain Endurance Cup with 60 cars on track, this is something amazing. Okay on some tracks it’s not possible to drive with 100 cars but for me it’s a really cool thing and I hope that it continues like this.

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About The Author

James Newbold

James Newbold is Racing.GT's Editor. He graduated from a politics degree at the University of East Anglia in 2015, which should help him navigate through the political minefield that is GT racing. He likes Marmite on toast and Oreo cookies. Speaks Spanish, but only when no one is looking.