Mercedes-Benz jump-started its press conference at the 2010 New York International Auto Show, which included the world debut of a restyled R-Class family hauler and the U.S. introduction of the E-Class wagon, by unveiling the racing version of its already racy gull-winged SLS AMG sports car.
The SLS race car bears a strong resemblance to the production model, though the bodywork has been largely replaced by lighter-weight carbon-fiber parts that have been massaged to meet the aerodynamic requirements of sports car racing. At the front is an air dam with enlarged air intakes ducting cooling air to the engine oil cooler and front brakes.
The splitter extends back to meet a smooth underbody panel that reaches all the way back to the diffuser behind the rear axle for maximum down-force. A surprisingly deep well penetrates the center of the car’s hood, extracting heat from the engine bay, while side openings in the fenders permit air flow through the wheel wells.
Overall, the fenders spread 2 in (51 mm) wider than on the production SLS, accommodating the bigger racing wheels and tires. At the rear the SLS AMG GT3 wears a huge carbon-fiber wing that is widely adjustable to suit various track conditions. The car has plastic side windows for reduced weight and a plastic windshield is also available. A 31.7-gal (120-L) fuel cell mounts behind the driver for ideal weight distribution.
The 6.3-L AMG V8 under hood is unmodified per FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) rules for the GT3 racing category. The race car does substitute a six-speed sequential rear racing transaxle for the production seven-speed dual-clutch unit.
Like the production car, the race car has double-wishbone suspension at all four corners, but with slight modifications due to the car’s lighter weight. The ratio in the steering rack is quicker for the race car, and speed-dependent power assist is retained.
AMG-branded six-piston front-brake calipers and four-piston rear calipers squeeze ventilated, slotted, and drilled cast iron rotors mounted on aluminum hubs. The production car’s optional carbon ceramic rotors will not fit within the FIA-specified 18-in wheels, Mercedes explained.
The AMG-branded aluminum center-lock racing wheels are 12 in wide in the front and 13 in wide in the rear. An integrated pneumatic jack system assists quick tire changes during pit stops.
Inside, the car features a quick-release open-top steering wheel, racing seat, and six-point racing harness. A fire extinguisher and brake bias adjuster round out the interior equipment.
Customers can begin placing orders this fall with deliveries before the start of the 2011 racing season. Mercedes plans to have the SLS AMG GT3 approved by the FIA by March 2011.