DTM driver Daniel Juncadella has been crowned the inaugural Stars & Cars champion at Mercedes' end-of-season event in Stuttgart, while Lewis Hamilton was eliminated in his semi-final by eventual runner-up, Pascal Wehrlein.
Featuring a competitive element for the very first time, Juncadella beat 2015 DTM champion and Mercedes F1 tester, Wehrlein 2-0 in the best-of-three final.
“I'm absolutely delighted,” said Juncadella. “I felt really comfortable in the SLS AMG GT3 and found a good rhythm. Stars & Cars was a super event - there were so many fans here tonight. Simply incredible. I was nervous going into each of the races, but it's been a very special occasion.”
The four knockout rounds of the competition were contested by 16 drivers in total, including, in addition to Juncadella, Wehrlein and Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, two-time F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen, former F1 and DTM driver David Coulthard and record DTM championship winner Bernd Schneider.
The pairs of drivers were given identical cars, although as they progressed through the competition, they moved up to another vehicle class. A total of four different vehicles were used: the Mercedes-AMG A45 4MATIC (first round), the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S (quarter-finals), the Mercedes-AMG GT S (semi-finals) and the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 (final).
On the way to victory, Juncadella prevailed over Lucas Auer, Schneider and Rosberg, while Wehrlein eliminated Jean Alesi in his first round before going on to beat Coulthard in one of the quarter-finals and Hamilton in the semis to secure his place in the final.
“That was a lot of fun,” remarked Hamilton, who ended up third overall. “The donuts and the drifts were great. I lost the semi-final against Pascal on the start. Unfortunately, I got off to a poor start, but Pascal drove really well. It was incredibly close - there was less than a tenth in it.”
“That was simply fantastic,” Wehrlein added. “It was a real DTM final, with me up against Daniel. I gave it everything I'd got, but ultimately it wasn't to be. All the same, it's been an incredible evening. I'm looking forward to doing it all over again next year."
The event opened with demo laps by the Mercedes-Benz motorsport champions of 2015 in their respective championship-winning vehicles: the Mercedes-Benz F1 W06 Hybrid, the Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 and a Dallara-Mercedes Formula 3 racing car.
Between each of the four rounds of Stars & Cars, there were 'show duels' with a novelty factor. One of these special encounters was between two former McLaren team-mates, Hakkinen and Coulthard, each driving a Mercedes-Benz G 63 AMG 6x6.
Other exhibition runs were contested with historic Silver Arrows or DTM cars such as the Mercedes-Benz W 196 R, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR and the Mercedes-Benz 190 EVO II.
Meanwhile, there were also appearances by Sir Stirling Moss, Hans Herrmann and Susie Wolff and in addition to the races on the track, which had been specially laid out on the pitch of the Mercedes-Benz Arena, the 35,612 fans enjoyed a varied programme of entertainment, including pit stop competitions between the Formula One and DTM crews, interviews with the drivers and musical performances by Cro, Culcha Candela, Marlon Roudette and Larry van Housen.
“We've achieved all of our goals this year. We again won the Formula One drivers' and constructors' world championship with Lewis and the team. In the DTM, we bounced back this year after a tough season in 2014, and the successes of the guys in the other series put the icing on the cake,” summarised Mercedes-Benz head of motorsport Toto Wolff.
“There is no silver bullet in motor racing. You have to make the right decisions and mould the best drivers and engineers into a team. Having the right team spirit is often underestimated, however, but it's especially important. Our team spirit was outstanding this year.
“We all pulled together and, as a team, experienced the most successful motor racing year in the history of our brand.”