- Endurance racing classic gets 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship underway
- Four Mercedes-AMG GT3 will face the Daytona challenge in the GTD and GTD PRO classes
- IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season opener with three Mercedes-AMG GT4s on the grid
For the start of the season, the race schedule again has a particular highlight in store for Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing in 2024. On 27 and 28 January, the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona will be held in the ‘sunshine state’ Florida. In 2023, the WeatherTech Racing team with Performance Drivers Maro Engel and Luca Stolz (both GER) secured victory in the GTD PRO category. Moreover, Mercedes-AMG will get the new season underway as the reigning Michelin Endurance Cup champion. In the 62nd running of the world-famous endurance race in the US, four Mercedes-AMG customer sports teams will be in action to defend the title. SunEnergy1 Racing will compete in the GTD PRO category, Team Korthoff/Preston Motorsports, WINWARD RACING and Lone Star Racing in the GTD class. Preceding the much-noticed IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener, the annual Roar Before the Rolex 24 was held last weekend, during which the starting grid positions for the race were determined at the 5.729 kilometres long Daytona International Speedway.
The prologue served as a first assessment at the spectacular road course, the twelve corners of which also include sections of Daytona’s famous ovals with its 31-degree banked corners. Six practice sessions and qualifying for the Daytona 24 Hours were held from 19 till 21 January. Maro Engel qualified the #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG in tenth place of the GTD PRO class grid. On the GTD grid, Philip Ellis (SUI) for WINWARD RACING, Mikaël Grenier (CAN) for Korthoff/Preston Motorsport and Adam Christodoulou (GBR) for Lone Star Racing reached grid positions 17, 18 and 20. The Rolex 24 At Daytona gets underway on Saturday, 27 January, at 19:40 CET (13:40 local time). In the Michelin Endurance Cup, points for the prestigious endurance classification of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship are attributed after 6, 12 and 18 hours.
Four powerful line-ups aim for Daytona honours
Maro Engel and Jules Gounon once again team up to defend the GTD PRO title. Together with Kenny Habul (AUS) and Luca Stolz (GER), they are racing the #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. In the race for the GTD class win, the Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Teams are also present with strong driver combinations. At WINWARD RACING, all four drivers already previously stood on the top step of the podium at Daytona. The 2021 GTD winning trio of Indy Dontje (NED), Philip Ellis and Russell Ward (USA) is back together again in the car with starting number 57. Like in 2023, they will be accompanied by Daniel Morad (CAN).
In the Korthoff/Preston Motorsports ranks, Mercedes-AMG Performance Drivers Maximilian Götz and Mikaël Grenier will be racing alongside the two Americans Kenton Koch and Mike Skeen. Lone Star Racing, meanwhile, rounds out the trio in the GTD class. This year, the team from Texas is making its debut in the long-standing Daytona 24-hour race with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and does so with four drivers with vast experience in endurance racing: Mercedes-AMG Driver Adam Christodoulou, Rui Andrade (POR), Scott Andrews (AUS) and Salih Yoluc (TUR).
Start of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season
Next to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge also gets its new season underway at Daytona. For the season opener, two teams are running one Mercedes-AMG GT4 each in the GS class. WINWARD RACING was already present last year. For the team, Daniel Morad will be sharing driving duties with American Bryce Ward. For JMF Motorsport, it will be the first participation on the IMSA stage. The newcomers have Michai Stephens (USA) and Jesse Webb (CAN) as the drivers for their debut. The four-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race starts on Friday at 19:45 CET (13:45 local time).
“Our teams had a very productive test, and we had a flawless run through our programme. The track time was used primarily to acquire valuable experience with the new Michelin tyres and to set the cars up accordingly. We will use the upcoming days to analyse the data and to get ourselves into the best possible position for the race.”
Stefan Wendl, Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing
“We have worked very well over the weekend. Progress with the set-up was good, but the pace doesn’t make us happy yet. Tenth place on the grid is not our ambition. Now, we will get together to optimise our package. The race will be a huge challenge, but I am looking forward to it. Racing as the title defender is a nice feeling and our team is highly motivated.”
Maro Engel, SunEnergy1 Racing #75
“The feeling during the weekend was even better than last year, even though we still have some things to work on. On the grid, we aren’t where we belong, but in a 24-hour race, anything can happen. I have full confidence in my team and I am really happy to be racing with Maro and Luca again, and also with Kenny, with whom I have won the Bathurst 12 Hour twice already.”
Jules Gounon, SunEnergy1 Racing #75
“The car is getting better with every session and the team is doing an outstanding job. We still have to collect more information about the new tyres, but it is already going into the right direction. Prior to the race, we still have four sessions during which we can take care of the detailed set-up work. I am confident that we will find more pace until the race starts.”
Mikaël Grenier, Team Korthoff/Preston Motorsports #32
“We mainly worked on the balance for the long runs this weekend. Our line-up is very experienced and we know what matters in an endurance race. The Daytona 24 Hours are extremely demanding as there are many strategic elements to move up in the classification. Our experience definitely is an advantage and we will use these strengths to extract the maximum from our opportunities.”
Philip Ellis, WINWARD RACING #57
“I am really happy to be back at Daytona. My last participation here was in 2018 and my deal with Lone Star Racing was a last-minute affair. I am really grateful to the team and Mercedes-AMG for this chance. Daytona is always a great event to start the season. We had some challenging days. We didn’t put the focus on qualifying and continuously worked on the set-up instead because that is what matters at the end of the day.”
Adam Christodoulou, Lone Star Racing #80
Rolex 24 At Daytona Facts:
- Race start: Saturday, 27.01.2024, 19:40 CET (13:40 local time)
- Opening Daytona International Speedway: 1959
- Premiere Daytona 24-hour race: 1962
- Lap record GT3: 1m 44.541s
Mercedes-AMG Race Facts:
- Participations Mercedes-AMG GT3: 7 (2017 – 2022)
- Victories Mercedes-AMG GT3: 2
- Podium results Mercedes-AMG GT3: 4
- Pole positions Mercedes-AMG GT3: 2
- Fastest laps Mercedes-AMG GT3: 1
- Winner GTD PRO 2023: WeatherTech Racing #79 (Mercedes-AMG GT3)
Maro Engel (GER), Daniel Juncadella (ESP), Cooper MacNeil (USA), Luca Stolz (GER)
- Total distance GTD PRO 2023: 729 laps (4,176 km)
- Average speed winner GTD PRO 2023: 173.530 km/h
- Fastest race lap GTD PRO 2023: 1m 45.541s - Jules Gounon (Mercedes-AMG GT3)
- Pole position GTD PRO 2023: 1m 46.312s - Maro Engel (Mercedes-AMG GT3)
- Pole position GTD 2023: 1m 46.093s - Philip Ellis (Mercedes-AMG GT3)