Football fans can look forward to two highlights in the next few days. The German national football team will play against Italy in Milan on Friday, and against England in London next Tuesday.
Mercedes-Benz has marked these classic encounters with an advance contest of a special kind between the three countries. The idea was this: how well can racing drivers play football? And are footballers able to compete with racing drivers?
Each of the three nations was represented by a team consisting of a former footballer and a professional racing driver.Thomas Doll, former national team member and football coach, and DTM driver Pascal Wehrlein stepped forward for Germany. The former Formula 1 driver Vitantonio „Tonio“ Liuzzi and the top goal scorer in the 1990 World Cup, Salvatore „Totò“ Schillaci, formed the Italian team. The two-times Champions League winner and former national squad member Owen Hargreaves and Formula 3 driver Alexander Lynn represented England in this international contest.
But an athlete of a different kind was also in the limelight during the event – the teams had to demonstrate their skills on the racetrack and skid pad in the A 45 AMG. It quickly became clear that the sporty 360 hp model was right in its element. „I felt real racing excitement in the AMG. I was impressed with the power that can be obtained from a two-litre engine,“ said Italian racing driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, who competed in Formula 1 from 2005 – 2011. There was more praise from the German duo: „If our German eleven gets off the mark like the A 45 AMG, neither England nor Italy or anyone else will be able to stop them!“, was Thomas Doll’s forecast for the World Cup in Brazil.
Four different modules in which the six protagonists had to demonstrate their driving and football skills awaited the three teams. 19 year-old Pascal Wehrlein, who completed his first DTM season a few weeks ago, was full of hope as he entered the contest: „I think that we Germans are perfectionists, we are ambitious and we will try to make the best of this, and hopefully we will be just that little bit better than the others.“
On the skid pad, a water-covered circular surface, the racing drivers were required to complete as many laps as possible in the set time of 90 seconds. Team England took first place with nine laps ahead of Germany (8¾) and Italy (8½). It was the German team that showed clear superiority on the Auto-X handling circuit, however. Thomas Doll proved to be the best driver in this discipline, and won first place ahead of Owen Hargreaves and Salvatore Schillaci by a margin of four and seven seconds respectively. However, England did not suffer this defeat for long and came back strongly in the next challenge: which team can kick the ball hardest? 106 and 102 km/h for Alex Lynn and Owen Hargreaves could not be bettered by the other two teams.
So the final decision would come down to the racetrack. The requirement for the experienced racing drivers was to complete two laps in a time of 51 seconds each. Vitantonio Liuzzi came closest to this target with a lap time of 51.04. But as the laps completed by Alex Lynn and Pascal Wehrlein were more consistent overall, the Italian team once again had to be content with third place. Alex Lynn showed his outstanding skill with a total deviation of only 0.61 seconds. Pascal Wehrlein had to admit defeat by a slim margin of 0.11 seconds more.
As there were three points for the winner in each discipline, two for the runner-up and one for third place, the total score was a clear victory for the English team with 11 points, ahead of Germany with 9 and Italy with 4 points. Owen Hargreaves had no doubt who was responsible for the victory: „I think that Alex made all the difference today. He drove very impressively, had the hardest kick and performed superbly.“ Alex Lynn: „We made a very good start, found our rhythm and showed great teamwork. It’s also nice to win against the Germans in a football competition.“