Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Teams Endure Challenging Detroit Grand Prix IMSA Race
DETROIT, MI – June 5, 2017 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing team WeatherTech Racing, and co-drivers Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette, persevered to the finish of Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at the Detroit Grand Prix, taking the checkered flag 12th after a challenging race that saw two other Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams retire after incidents less than 30 minutes into the 100-minute sprint.
Stepping up to carry the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing team flag after both the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports and No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 entries were eliminated, Jeannette and the No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 were running as high as seventh in the late stages of the race.
The WeatherTech team was challenging for a run at a top-five finish only to have an unexpected electrical issue slow the No. 50 and force an unscheduled pit stop with 10 minutes remaining. Some quick restarts and a throttle reset cleared the issue, but the delay ultimately cost Jeannette and the team a lap and five finishing positions.
Separate contact incidents on the track on the same lap saw both the No. 33 and No. 75 Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams forced out of the race after just 26 minutes.
Ben Keating was running eighth and in the lead pack in the No. 33 when his Mercedes-AMG GT3 made hard contact with the Turn 8 wall. A bump in that area of the track caused trouble for other competitors during the weekend and may have factored into Keating briefly losing front-end grip and the ability to turn going into the corner. Keating was uninjured in the incident.
SunEnergy1 Racing’s Kenny Habul battled with front-end issues before the race even started, pitting during the parade laps for what was determined to be a split left front wheel. The SunEnergy1 team overcame that setback only to see Habul later have a brake issue on the No. 75 going into Turn 3. Heavy contact with the tire wall ended SunEnergy1’s day. Habul was uninjured in the incident.
Despite the disappointing weekend, Keating, co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen and the Mercedes-AMG Team Riley No. 33 still lead the IMSA WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) driver and team championship standings. Keating, Bleekemolen and the No. 33 team have 150 points, leading the second-place Ferrari drivers and team by nine points.
Mercedes-AMG has also held its GTD manufacturer championship lead and is nine points clear of Ferrari, 159 – 150.
Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York, June 29 – July 2.
Ben Keating, Driver – No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I’m OK. I really can’t answer the question of what happened because I don’t know. I went to make a turn I have made 100 times so far this weekend and the car did not turn. The good news is that we got points and maintain our championship lead, but it went from a very large lead to not much. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 was good today and we had a chance to run up there near the front, but it was obviously not the finish to the race we wanted.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Driver – No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes- AMG GT3: “Stuff like this happens. We all know it is part of racing. It’s frustrating, of course, but you have good moments when you are super happy, and then you have bad moments that make the happy days even better. It’s part of racing, part of the sport, and that’s why winning is the best feeling. We are still leading the championship, we have been strong the whole season so far, and the Mercedes-AMG GT3 has been running great. I don’t see any reason to be too disappointed; we will keep our chin up and fight for more race wins.”
Cooper MacNeil, Driver – No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “My stint was pretty clean. The WeatherTech Mercedes-AMG GT3 was pretty good, just a little pushy, but it was safe to drive. I did the best I could to keep it off the walls and off the other cars. I ended up brushing the wall one time on the right side trying to push hard, but that’s racing. I turned the car over to Gunnar in seventh place. My hat is off to the Riley guys for working hard, performing the pit stop flawlessly, and keeping us going. Now, it’s onto Watkins Glen. I’m looking forward to that race and having Shane van Gisbergen back with us.”
Gunnar Jeannette, Driver – No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “This was not the day Mercedes-AMG wanted. In the race, the car was decent, but it was just really hard to make anything happen. We had a real high level of understeer, so we just kind of sat where we were once we came out of the pits. About 10 minutes from the end of the race the throttle became unresponsive. We made it into the pits and just reset the electronic throttle and then it came back to life. It was a bummer. We could have maybe finished in the top five.”
Kenny Habul, Driver – No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I’m OK, but a little bit sore to be honest because that was a big hit. This was one of those weird weekends. We went out on the warmup lap and the wheel exploded. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. We limped around and changed the wheel and tire. And then I went out and basically had no brake on the left front. That was a problem trying to stop, and then I went down into turn three and there was no brakes at all suddenly. I’m really sorry for the Visit Florida guys. It was big hit.”
Tristan Vautier, Driver – No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It just wasn’t our day today. Something happened and we broke a rim on the warm-up lap, and the wheel just came off the car. Then, we don’t really know what happened yet, but something happened when Kenny got into the braking zone. He couldn’t stop, and we feel very bad for the Visit Florida guys because that ended their race too. It’s a shame to only be able to get a couple of laps under our belt in the race.”
Source: Mercedes-Benz USA