Tobias Moers' favorite racing memory is vivid.
It was the last lap of the Nurburgring 24 Hours in 2016. Teams driving Mercedes-AMG GT3 cars were about to make history by sweeping the top four spots.
"We had two cars that were very close, first and second, and the second overtook the first in the last lap," recalled Moers, the Mercedes-AMG boss and a former amateur racer. "They had a little bit of contact. It was really a breathtaking moment."
Under Moers, AMG has expanded its racing program. The brand's GT3 race cars, based on the AMG GT street car that went on sale in 2015, were introduced that same year. In 2017, Mercedes-AMG joined the International Motor Sports Association series in North America, where it notched several victories in its inaugural year. AMG added a GT4-class race car last year, and it is selling briskly.
For Moers, the investment is a proof point that AMG is serious about developing sports cars.
"You have to be present," Moers said. "If you would like to be known for a sports car and performance direction, it is mandatory you are present in GT racing."
The racing endeavors are more about burnishing the AMG brand vs. making money on racing programs, he said. It helps boost the positioning of AMG's growing GT family of street cars.
Racing has always been part of AMG's heritage, Moers points out. When Moers started with the company in 1994, it was developing street cars and race cars side by side. In 1999, the motorsports department was spun off to AMG co-founder Hans Werner Aufrecht's new firm, HWA.
In his early days at AMG, Moers was still driving race cars in competition. He declined to identify his racing vehicle of choice other than to wryly note, "Not a Mercedes."
Moers got involved in motorsports as a team mechanic at age 20 and went on to do hill climb and endurance racing on his own during his 20s and into his 30s. He's raced the famed Nordschleife circuit at Nurburgring. Race excursions weren't frequent — a few times a year, Moers recalled, depending on how much money he had. "It's pretty expensive," he said.
He didn't score any wins while he was racing but found fulfillment anyway.
"It was always a challenge — having the car at the limit and having the challenge between different people on the racetrack," Moers said, "but keep it safe, bring the car back home."
Today, Moers still drives the Nordschleife on occasion, but now it's with his engineering team as they test vehicles in development.
"I'm often in a car on the racetrack, so I don't miss racing," he said.
And Moers makes sure to get to races where AMG cars are competing when he can — though he notes that it's "not often enough" for his liking. When Moers is at a race, he gets involved. In North America at the IMSA races, he talks with team owners and drivers and race officials. AMG offers support with replacement parts and technical expertise at the racetrack.
At the Nurburgring 24 Hours, he takes a little different role.
It's "a little more factory driven, otherwise you wouldn't be competitive there," Moers said. "We do the strategy, and we are the decision-makers there — together with the teams, for sure, but the final decision sometimes belongs to us."
And that's enough for the former racer. While he thinks he'd be able to keep pace, he has no intention of getting behind the wheel again in competition.
"I think it's a bit ridiculous to run, to race, as a CEO," Moers said. "Even though for sure I'm not the slowest guy."