Keating, Bleekemolen and No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Top Mercedes-AMG GT3 Finisher in Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix
TORONTO, CANADA – July 10, 2017 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams persevered to finish the Mobil1 SportsCar Grand Prix IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park where a seventh-place GT Daytona (GTD) class finish by Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports was the top Mercedes-AMG GT3 showing.
The two-hour and 40-minute race was caution-free and run in clear weather for nearly the first two hours, only to see a short but heavy rain shower and three yellow flag periods in the final 50 minutes.
The changing weather conditions and complexion of the race provided an opportunity for Keating, Bleekemolen and the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, but also caught at least one other customer racing team out.
After taking over from starting driver Keating just past the race’s 45-minute mark, Bleekemolen made his biggest move when the skies opened up. Electing to stay on slick Continental racing tires despite heavy rain showers around most of the 2.459- mile road course, Bleekemolen improved several positions on the wet track. He drove the No. 33 to a race-high seventh with less than 35 minutes to go and defended the position to the checkered flag.
The No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of co-drivers Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette survived not only today’s tough conditions but a challenging weekend in total. Jeannette was uninjured when a Prototype Challenge (PC) car sent him and the No. 50 hard into the wall in Friday morning practice, an incident that required an all-night rebuild of the WeatherTech Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Despite the setback and lost track time, both MacNeil and Jeannette paced the Mercedes-AMG GT3 contingent at various points in today’s race. MacNeil ran a race- high 10th in his opening driving shift, and Jeannette overcame the rain and the trio of cautions in his closing stint to cross the finish line 11th in GTD.
The No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of co-drivers Kenny Habul and Tristan Vautier finished 13th in Sunday’s race. Starting driver Habul moved the No. 75 to a race-high ninth on the first lap and ran with the No. 33 and No. 50 Mercedes- AMG GT3s throughout his opening stint.
Vautier took over at the 45-minute mark and was at the wheel when the SunEnergy1 team called him to the pits as the rain began to fall. The No. 75 was one of the few GTD teams that decided to gamble on switching to rain tires, but unfortunately was hit with a 60-second stop-and-hold penalty for entering the pits when they were closed to GT-class competitors. The penalty and a later stop to switch back to dry tires ultimately put the No. 75 two laps down and to the eventual 13th place finish.
Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut, July 21 – 22.
The Northeast Grand Prix can be seen live on FOX Sports 2 (FS2) at 3 p.m. EDT on Saturday, July 22.
Ben Keating, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We had great pit stops and great strategy and finished seventh. I guess all I can say right now is that it didn’t rain enough for us. If it had rained more it would have been a different race for us. It was unusual, we didn’t have any yellow flags for the first hour and a half which is just really rare. We just struggled, we struggled all week, it’s frustrating but that is where the rules have our Mercedes-AMG GT3 right now. I think without the rain we would have ended up in ninth or 10th.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a hard race for us. Not having the top speed available makes it really hard to race other cars. We maximized our package with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 but it is just not enough at the moment. I pushed hard, especially in the rain, we got very competitive in the wet and made up some spots. We just needed more rain to have a good race today and it didn’t come. As soon as there was a dry line the top speed was missing again, and you could see that other cars were just driving around you.”
Cooper MacNeil, Driver – No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was not the best weekend for us. We started with a wreck but big thanks to the guys for fixing the car, which took a long time. We have some positives we can take away from the weekend. We learned a bunch about the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and figured some things out about the setup. Overall, the car was decent in the race. We were just a bit slower than all the other cars as far as BoP (Balance of Performance) goes. We drove our own race. It was clean. Now, we’re on to the next one.”
Gunnar Jeannette, Driver – No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “The car was decent. We lost a couple of places in our second pit stop, and I was really conservative when it rained. I didn’t want to crash the car twice in one weekend. We were right there under the last yellow, and could have made up some spots, but it was just such carnage. People that were multiple laps down were fighting, banging wheels, getting involved in stuff they shouldn’t. It was a crazy race.”
Source: Mercedes-AMG USA