Coinciding with the market launch of the production model in March of 2010, Mercedes-Benz also revealed a GT3 version of the SLS AMG Coupe. Bearing in mind the rich racing pedigree of the original 'Gullwing', it was almost inevitable that AMG would be tasked to turn the new SLS AMG into a racing car. Going for the production-based GT3 class is also the obvious choice as it pitches the V8-engined machine against its natural rivals from among others Audi, Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin.
With the GT3 class using performance balancing to level the playing field, the transformation of the SLS AMG to GT3 was relatively straightforward. Stripped of all luxuries, the road car's sophisticated aluminium spaceframe chassis is retained. As on the production version, suspension is by double wishbones at all four corners. The front features anti-dive geometry, while the rear also boasts anti-squad geometry. Stopping power is provided by ventilated carbon-ceramic disc brakes all around.
Like the road car, the GT3 car is powered by an all-aluminium V8, displacing just over 6.2 litre. As part of the performance balancing, the engine is fitted with air-intake restrictors, capping the power at 500 bhp and the torque at 600 Nm. While the production car uses a twin-clutch, seven-speed automatic gearbox, the GT3 car sports a six-speed sequential gearbox. Installed in unit with the multi-disc, locking differential, it is operated by paddles behind the steering wheel. A torque-tube with a carbon-fibre drive shaft connects the engine to the gearbox.
Although mechanically very similar, the GT3 car can nevertheless be easily distinguished from its road-going counterpart by the lower and wider body draped over the chassis. The vital downforce is generated by a front splitter, a sizeable rear wing and a long diffuser mounted under the tail of the car. Other features unique to the competition car include the steel roll-cage and the centre console with controls to adjust systems like the traction control or to select reverse gear. The brake bias can be adjusted by a knob on the transmission tunnel.
What makes GT3 particularly attractive to manufacturers is the fact that the cars are fielded by privateer teams, leaving developing and manufacturing the cars as their main responsibility. To ensure the cars are competitive, select teams do of course receive support in various forms, including help behind the wheel from works drivers like Bernd Schneider. The highly experienced racer, who was successful in both touring and GT cars, also helped to develop the final specification for the SLS AMG GT3 throughout 2010.
Ahead of its competition debut in the Spring of 2011, the car was first entered in three test races earlier in the year. The first was the Dubai 24 Hour in January, where the SLS AMG GT3 finished a remarkable third at its debut. Even ahead of this spectacular result, the 25-car order book had already filled up and by March the first customers took delivery. Eligible for a wide variety of national and international series, the SLS AMG GT3s were soon racing across Europe. Although instantly competitive with 26 wins, a major victory eluded the SLS AMG GT3 in 2011.
That changed early in 2012 when, a year after its impressive debut, the SLS AMG GT3 scored a 1-2-3 victory in the Dubai 24 Hour. Rule changes now also enabled the car to run in the FIA GT1 Championship where the Munnich Motorsport team ended the year first in the team standings. In total the SLS AMG GT3 scored 32 victories during the 2012 season. It has also proved a commercial success as at the time of writing AMG-Mercedes have built and sold no fewer than 49 examples of the SLS AMG GT3.