Amid the pressure cooker of mounting media attention and a narrowing points margin, the cool head and steady hand of Michael Ammermüller prevailed once again this weekend in Mexico City.
The 32-year-old German drove a steady final round of the 2018 Porsche Mobil1 Supercup, bringing his D/BWT Lechner Racing GT3 Cup car in second and third in the final two races at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. With these solid points finishes, Ammermüller was able to successfully defend his Supercup crown, becoming only the fifth driver in the history of this high profile one-make series to achieve such a feat.
A former Red Bull F1 test driver, Ammermüller’s racing career almost came to an abrupt end after a serious accident left him requiring surgery on his hand. But patience, extensive physio and the hard physical training that has come to characterise his career eventually bore fruit, and Ammermüller returned to racing in GT cars in 2010.
After a successful stint in the highly competitive ADAC GT Masters, Ammermüller made the switch to Porsche’s Carrera Cup Deutschland and the high-profile international Mobil 1 Supercup in 2012. His consistency and unflappable temperament has long been a source of comment in the paddock, his face forever a picture of concentration behind his trademark rimless spectacles. Against the world’s best Ammermüller soon showed his class, twice finishing third and once fourth overall in Supercup prior to his debut title in 2017.
His experience and relative seniority on the grid (title rival Thomas Preining is just 20 years old) saw him approach the 2018 season with an unflappable calm and control. He won the first race of the year in Barcelona but has since then made do with strong and consistent points finishes. Seven podiums, including three second-place finished at Monaco, Silverstone and Monza, underline a hard-earned ability to pick his battles and stay out of trouble. With that concrete capacity to deliver the goods with mitigated risk, Ammermüller led the championship throughout the year and arrived in Mexico City last weekend with a five-point advantage over Briton Nick Yelloly.
And despite the obvious tensions of a wide-open finale, Ammermüller approached the weekend with the same sang froid as he has the whole season. He qualified on pole for Round 9, but was quickly passed by Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer on the opening straight. Rather than launch an attack for the outright lead with a driver out of championship contention, Ammermüller simply drove his own race. Thomas Preining heaped pressure on him for most of the 16 laps, but the seasoned Supercup specialist defended expertly: “It was a difficult race and my aim was to bring home as many points as possible. A collision would have been devastating for my title chances. Tomorrow I want to be crowned champion for the second time in a row,” said Ammermüller on Saturday.
Forced to play the long game after a frustrating outing in Austin the week prior, Ammermüller had chosen to steady the ship, regroup and wait. And lest we forget, he has been here before. In 2017 Ammermüller travelled to Mexico with another narrow points advantage over main title rival Dennis Olsen. The German kept his cool that time, when he was still short of that elusive maiden championship, so Round 10 last Sunday was just another day in the office.
Starting from pole once again, Ammermüller could only watch as the faster car of Julien Andlauer passed him early for the second time to lead the field. Right behind him now was closest rival Nick Yelloly, nine points adrift after Race 9 but technically in the hunt with twenty points available. The determined Briton used Ammermüller’s slipstream to surge into second on the Autodromo’s main straight, leaving the defending champion alone in third. Andlauer would win his second consecutive race, with Yelloly needing Ammermüller to finish seventh or worse to pinch the series at the death.
Unsurprisingly, that was not to be. Unfazed by the pressure, the phlegmatic German steered a steady course to the chequered flag and his ninth podium of the season. “Even if it looked easy today, I was tense to the last lap,” he conceded. “I still can’t believe I’ve won the title for the second time straight. The most important thing is to earn as many points as possible at every race. And that’s what I did at both races this weekend.”
So what next for the qualified car mechanic and economist, competitive cyclist and now two-time Porsche Mobil1 Supercup champion? Time will tell, but for now its back home to his wife and their baby daughter. And when the dust has settled, a return to the day job at his parents’ waste disposal company.