First Drive: The Mercedes-AMG GT GT2 Is a Professional Race Automotive for the Newbie Driver
Wheel guns rattle, and the pit crew pull the tire warmers out from under the fenders. There’s a hiss and a thunk as the onboard jacks drop the car to the ground. Thumb the red button on the butterfly shaped steering wheel, and 697 hp of twin-turbo V-8 explodes into life and settles into a fast-paced idle.
Clutch in, tug the right-hand paddle. The sequential-shift Hewland six-speed transmission sitting behind you engages first gear with a brutal metallic clunk. Revs up, clutch out. Feel for the bite point. There! The car lurches forward, clanging and banging, whirring and whining as you guide it down pit lane, past pit exit, and out onto the track. Foot down.
You’re punched hard into the seat as the engine snarls like an angry lion. Lights flash. You tug the right-hand paddle. Bam! They flash again. Tug. Bam! And again. Tug. Bam! The Hewland transmission fires through the ratios with the subtlety of a .50 caliber machine gun. Corner! Hard on the brakes, confident that the pre-warmed tires have plenty of grip. Fan the left-hand paddle. Bam! Bam! Second gear. Clip the apex and get back on the gas as you open the steering.
You’ll feel that epic thrust once more push you back into the seat, hear the surround-sound fury of that mighty engine roaring through the cockpit. And you’ll be grinning under the full-face helmet. Oh yes, the 2024 Mercedes-AMG GT GT2 is quite a ride.
Racing games are all very well, but there’s nothing like the real thing. And the motorsport-focused Mercedes-AMG GT variant makes it easy to channel your inner Mario Andretti in real life. The GT2 comes off the AMG assembly line in Affalterbach, Germany, ready to race. And it has been specifically engineered to enable those of us who don’t possess the razor-sharp reflexes of a gimlet-eyed pro driver to drive it fast, with confidence, on a racetrack.
The GT2 is the third factory-built race car offered by Mercedes-AMG, joining its GT4 and GT3 model versions. All look similar but offer different performance levels. The GT4 is the entry-level car, substantially based on the road-going Black Series edition of the outgoing AMG GT, and sharing its dry-sump, flat-plane version of AMG’s versatile 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine. The GT3 is powered by the thundering, naturally aspirated 6.3-liter V-8 and features a highly tuneable race car chassis and aerodynamics that deliver three times as much downforce as the GT4 at 125 mph.
Though the model designation may lead you to think otherwise, the GT2 has in fact been designed to split the difference between the GT4 and GT3 models in terms of its performance and the way it drives, being significantly quicker around the track than the former, but not as demanding near the limit as the latter. With GT3 racing—popular with both fans and automakers—now requiring elite drivers and multimillion-dollar budgets if you want a shot at the podium, GT2 has been created specifically to be both attractive and affordable for experienced amateur racers.
The GT2 is based on the 2023 AMG GT Track Series, a limited-edition track-day car that combines much of the chassis and mechanical hardware of the GT4 racer, but with an engine that delivers substantially more power. It has been engineered to comply with international GT2 racing regulations, and will be eligible to run in the GT America race series and Fanatec GT World Challenge here in the U.S.
The GT2’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 produces slightly less power and torque than it does in the Track Series—697 hp and 590 ft lbs of torque compared with 724 hp and 627 ft lbs—but that still makes it significantly more powerful than the GT4’s engine, which is tuned to produce between 400 hp and 510 hp. It’s also more potent than the GT3’s 6.3-liter V-8, which makes 550 hp and 479 ft lbs of torque.
With a baseline weight of 3,086 pounds (weight can be added to GT race cars as part of the balance of performance regulations designed to keep all cars competitive), the GT2 has a 20 percent better weight-to-power ratio than the GT3, whose minimum mass is pegged at 2,932 pounds. On paper, it looks as though the GT2 should be significantly quicker on track. But there’s one other key number to consider: Depending on the wing settings, the GT2 has just 50 to 55 percent the downforce of the GT3.
Higher downforce means the GT3 is much faster through high-speed corners, an invisible Hand-of-God steadying the car and pressing it down onto the track. The GT3’s more sophisticated, race-engineered chassis and suspension layout also allows drivers to find a superior handling balance. Properly configured and properly driven, the GT3 is a quicker car, but its optimal operating window is much narrower than that of the GT2, and its dynamic limits are harder to assess and approach.
A handful of laps around the fast yet technical Circuit Ricardo Tormo, just outside Valencia, Spain, proved the point. I’ve driven AMG’s beautifully engineered GT4 and GT3 racers, and the Track Series, and the GT2 is the sweet-spot car of the bunch. It’s fast, yet supremely confidence inspiring; a car that clearly telegraphs its punches and gives you time to react; a car whose limits can be approached by most enthusiastic amateur drivers within a relatively short time.
Like all modern GT racers, the GT2 comes equipped with 12-stage traction control and 12-stage antilock brake control. These are far from nannies to help keep the amateurs on track, though: Even professional drivers use them to help make the most of the available grip levels.
As with its GT3 and GT4 siblings, the GT2 has been designed to accommodate drivers of all shapes and sizes: Mercedes-AMG Motorsport understands many clients don’t have the snake hips and trim physiques of pro racers. A small lever next to the center console allows the spring-loaded pedal box to move back and forth, and the butterfly steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach.
The steering wheel, designed by SIM racing experts Cube Controls, is peppered with control buttons. Behind it is a dash comprising a Bosch DDU 11 high-resolution display unit. A center console hosts, among other things, the ignition switch, a push-button to select reverse, the onboard fire extinguisher switch, even an exterior mirror-adjustment button, as well as the knobs that control the traction control and ABS settings. They are all easy to find and able to be operated wearing fireproof racing gloves.
The GT2 is sold direct from the AMG factory, priced in euro. On current exchange rates, it costs between $440,000 and $450,000, plus shipping and taxes. It’s a much less expensive car to run than the GT3, which in endurance-racing specification now costs about $530,000, plus shipping and taxes. The engine should last 25,000 racing miles between rebuilds and the transmission, pending an inspection at 8,000 miles, should not need touching until 11,000 miles.
Like the idea of driving the GT2, but don’t have the time to get your FIA-approved racing license and commit to a season? Relax. Mercedes-AMG has you covered. The Mercedes-AMG GT GT2 Pro is, like the 2023 GT Track Series, designed to be the ultimate track-day car, allowing owners to take part in special customer-racing events organized by AMG.
Priced at about $520,000, plus taxes and shipping, the GT2 Pro is basically identical to the GT2, but with one special feature that’s not allowed in officially sanctioned GT2 races: A push-to-pass button that instantly boosts the engine’s output by 42 hp, to 739 hp. That’s certain to make the grin under your helmet even wider.
Click here for more photos of the 2024 Mercedes-AMG GT GT2.
Source: Robb Report