Rolex 24 At Daytona


Highs and lows for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport in IMSA season opener at Daytona.

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  • A 1-2-3 for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the four-hour race of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge
  • Eleventh place in the GTD class for the #74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the Rolex 24 At Daytona
  • Victory for the Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 #35 
  • Second and third place for Winward Racing (#57 and #4)

 

Mercedes-AMG Motorsport had a mixed weekend during the IMSA season opener at Daytona. In the Daytona 24-hour race, traditionally the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the #74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 ended up in eleventh place of the GTD class. In the four-hour opening race of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge that took place on the support programme of the classic endurance race, the performance and sports car brand from Affalterbach achieved a convincing clean sweep of the top three. Victory went to Customer Racing Team Riley Motorsports (#35) with drivers Jeroen Bleekemolen (NED), Jim Cox and Dylan Murry (both USA).

This weekend, Daytona International Speedway once again served as the venue for the traditional season opener of the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. A total of 38 cars, among them the new #74 Mercedes-AMG GT3 run by Riley Motorsports, took on the Daytona 24-hour race in excellent weather conditions on Saturday afternoon.

The newly configurated driver quartet of Lawson Aschenbach, Ben Keating, Gar Robinson (all USA) and Felipe Fraga (BRA) drove the new #74 Mercedes-AMG GT3 on its debut in the prestigious North American race series. The #74 car had started the race from 15th place on the grid. With a consistently strong performance and a cleverly chosen strategy, Riley Motorsports managed to get the car with starting number 74 temporarily up into fifth place during the first 18 hours of the race and thus show the potential of the new Mercedes-AMG GT3. However, a minor electronic failure abruptly stopped progress: after a brief repair break, the #74 was able to rejoin the race, but considerably dropped back in the classification. After 24 hours, Riley Motorsports (#74) crossed the finish line in eleventh place of the GTD class.

A 1-2-3 for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge

On Friday already, a total of seven Mercedes-AMG GT4 had started the season with the first four-hour race of the 2020 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. With the #35 Riley Motorsports car, Jim Cox (USA) started the race from 15th place on the grid and managed to make up valuable positions in the opening stages already. Jeroen Bleekemolen (NED) having taken over the wheel of the #35 car in tenth place, he started an impressive progress and made it all the way up into first place. Dylan Murray (USA) built on the good achievements by his teammates and kept the #35 Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the lead. However, with Winward Racing (#57), another Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Team with driver pairing Bryce Ward (USA) and Philip Ellis (GER) also still had its eyes set on victory. Having started from 18th place, the #57 Mercedes-AMG GT4 had worked its way up to second place over the course of the race. Final driver Ellis put the leading Mercedes-AMG GT4 under pressure and even managed to claim a temporary lead. After the final pit stop, he had to let the #35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 past again. A final attack never materialised as the field didn’t get back to racing speed following a caution just before the four hours had elapsed. As a result, Riley Motorsports (#35) safely drove victory home, followed by Winward Racing (#57) in second place.

Another Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 completed the clean sweep of the podium for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport: Russell Ward (USA) and Indy Dontje (NED), who had started the race in third place and consistently ranked among the front runners in the field, crossed the finish line in third place with the #4 Winward Racing entry. Another top ten result rounded out the strong achievement: Eric Foss (USA) and Jeff Mosing (USA) secured eighth place with the #56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4.

With the clean sweep of the top three for the Mercedes-AMG GT4, Mercedes-AMG Motorsport successfully started off its mission title defence in the series’ manufacturers’ standings. For the first time ever, the Mercedes-AMG GT4 locked out all the three podium slots in a race in North America.

Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing: “For us, the IMSA season opener was a weekend with highs and lows. With the triple victory for our Mercedes-AMG GT4, we had a perfect start of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. However, we can’t be satisfied with the performance of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the 24-hour race. The preparation stage for the race was very brief and we weren’t able to fully keep up with the pace of the top 3 in the GTD class. Thanks to a consistent drive and a clever strategy, Riley Motorsports and its driver quartet in the new configuration temporarily moved up as high as fifth place and showed the potential of the new Mercedes-AMG GT3. When we can also get to the point where we were last year with the balancing of the new Mercedes-AMG GT3, the results will follow as well. We still have some work ahead of us, but we are optimistically looking forward to the next races. We will be attacking again at Sebring!”

Lawson Aschenbach, Riley Motorsports #74: “The new Mercedes-AMG GT3 has been fantastic throughout the weekend. Admittedly, the car is still very new and when you are taking on such a race, there are still some unknown quantities. However, when you are taking delivery of a car that is this new, only test it once and then are competitive in a race as demanding as this, it is proof for the good work done by Mercedes-AMG. We can build on this performance at Sebring. We still have to carry out some improvements and find some more speed.”

Felipe Fraga, Riley Motorsports #74: “Up to our technical problem, it had been a very good race for us. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 was good to drive. During the night, we were around fifth, sixth place and perhaps could even have been in contention for a podium finish in the end. It really is too bad that we dropped back. It was a tough race, the field was closely together. Now, I am looking forward to Bathurst!”

Jeroen Bleekemolen, Riley Motorsports #35: “The entire Riley Motorsports team has done a super job with the pit stop strategy and the entire preparation. That is playing a major role in the success and Jim and Dylan were driving well, too. I have already done many races with Riley Motorsports. They have a good car and they simply know how to do it. When racing a Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG, you just know that you will be in contention for a top position.”

Jim Cox, Riley Motorsports #35: “Being in victory lane at Daytona as a gentleman driver with this car is a great success. For us, it is the third consecutive victory in an IMSA four-hour race. We are considering filing a request to IMSA for all the races to be run over four hours from now on.”

Dylan Murray, Riley Motorsports #35: “Driving at Daytona is one thing. Being able to win here is a completely different level, a different world. My father has raced here, I have been coming to this 24-hour race all my life and watched my father race here. I have always said that if I was to win one race, it would be Daytona, and it has come true.”

Philip Ellis, Winward Racing #57: “We were slightly lacking speed to attack the leading Mercedes-AMG GT4. We were waiting for our chance at the pit stop, but unfortunately, the other car rejoined the race in front of us. Perhaps, we could have had another chance to attack, had it not been for the final safety car at the end of the race.”

Bryce Ward, Winward Racing #57: “We started the race in 18th place and I was able to move up to tenth position during my stints. The Mercedes-AMG GT4 simply was great to drive. Today, Philip has done a fantastic job. Second and third place are an unbelievable success for Winward Racing.”

Indy Dontje, Winward Racing #4: “That was a very good, smooth race for us. A great team achievement and the Mercedes-AMG GT4 was running superbly. All in all, we can be very happy with our performance.”

Russell Ward, Winward Racing #4: “It has been a great day for Winward Racing with second and third place. We had a fantastic race and my stints were also super. Now, we are looking forward to Sebring.”

Result GTD class, Rolex 24 At Daytona*:

Pos.

Nr.

Car

Team

Drivers

1.

48

Lamborghini Huracan GT3

Paul Miller Racing

Bryan Sellers (USA)
Madison Snow (USA)
Corey Lewis (USA)
Andrea Caldarelli (ITA)

2.

44

Lamborghini Huracan GT3

GRT Magnus

Marco Mapelli (ITA)
Spencer Pumpelly (USA)
John Potter (USA)
Andy Lally (USA)

3.

88

Audi R8 LMS GT3

WRT Speedstar Audi Sport

Mirko Bartolotti (ITA)
Rolf Ineichen (SUI)
Daniel Morad (CAN)
Dries Vanthoor (BEL)

 

 

 

 

11.

74

Mercedes-AMG GT3

Riley Motorsports

Lawson Aschenbach (USA)
Felipe Fraga (BRA)
Ben Keating (USA)
Gar Robinson (USA)

Result GS class, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, Daytona*:

Pos.

Nr.

Car

Team

Drivers

1.

35

Mercedes-AMG GT4

Riley Motorsports

Jeroen Bleekemolen (NED)
Jim Cox (USA)
Dylan Murry (USA)

2.

57

Mercedes-AMG GT4

Winward Racing

Philip Ellis (GER)
Bryce Ward (USA)

3.

4

Mercedes-AMG GT4

Winward Racing

Indy Dontje (NED)
Russell Ward (USA)

 

 

 

 

8.

56

Mercedes-AMG GT4

Murillo Racing

Eric Foss (USA)
Jeff Mosing (USA)

20.

51

Mercedes-AMG GT4

MCC MOTORSPORT

Atila Abreu (BRA)
Leonardo Sanchez (BRA)

21.

14

Mercedes-AMG GT4

Bluff City Racing / Autometrics Motorsports

Dan Clarke (USA)
Cory Friedman (USA)
Anton Dias Perera (USA)

25.

65

Mercedes-AMG GT4

Murillo Racing

Brent Mosing (USA)
Justin Piscitell (USA)
Tim Probert (USA)

* excerpt subject to confirmation by the organiser