Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Finishes Fourth
in No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in IMSA Season-Opening
Rolex 24 At Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, FL – January 30, 2018 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports finished fourth in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in this weekend’s record-setting Rolex 24 At Daytona after frequently leading the GT Daytona (GTD) class and battling with the top-three finishers. All three Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams competing this weekend finished the fast-paced endurance race that saw the overall winner complete a record 808 laps for 2,876.34 miles on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway (DIS) road course.
Full-season co-drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen were joined by endurance race teammates Luca Stolz and Adam Christodoulou in keeping the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the hunt for the GTD class win in the season-opening IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race. All four drivers led multiple laps during their stints, with the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 unofficially leading the GTD field for 94 laps over the span of the race.
The No. 33 team came up just seconds shy of matching their third-place showing earned in the debut IMSA and Rolex 24 race for Mercedes-AMG last year, but did leave Daytona with a solid start in both the overall IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup (NAEC) standings.
In the NAEC rankings, the No. 33 and its drivers scored 13 points, just one point behind the team that finished second in GTD in the Rolex 24.
The No. 33 team was one of three Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams competing in this year’s Rolex 24, and the entire trio made it to the finish.
The No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 took the checkered flag in a race-high eighth place after team drivers Kenny Habul, Thomas Jaeger, Maro Engel and Mikael Grenier fought through the field. It was the first Rolex 24 finish for the
SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 team after retiring with handling issues in last year’s race, which was the Daytona debut for SunEnergy1 Racing.
Debuting Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing team P1 Motorsports finished 12th with the driving team of Juan “JC” Perez, Kenton Koch, Robby Foley and Loris Spinelli. The team cracked the top-10 to run ninth early on Sunday and later overcame a string of teething problems for the solid 12th place result.
Next up for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the 66th Annual 12 Hours of Sebring, March 15 – 17. Mercedes-AMG won its first ever IMSA race with the No. 33 team in last year’s 12 Hours of Sebring with the SunEnergy1 Racing No. 75 also on the podium with a third-place showing.
Ben Keating, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We definitely were more competitive this year than we were last year. The reasons we finished third in 2017 were that it rained for 10 hours and that we had a perfect race with zero mistakes. Not so this year, we had some mistakes and penalties, and it was unusual we had only four yellows the whole race. I think last year we had 15 caution periods. We still ran a really good race, it was exciting at the end, but we also focused on getting the maximum Endurance Cup points in the 18th hour. That put us off of the correct fuel strategy, but we made the judgement call there would probably be a yellow in the final six hours, which didn’t happen. I have never seen a Rolex 24 with this few yellows, but it was an exciting race. I am happy leaving here with a fourth-place finish. The first two cars are not full- season entrants, so we should be in good shape in the Endurance Cup standings, too.”
Kenny Habul, Driver – No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I’m really happy. Thanks to the Riley Motorsports people and Mercedes-AMG. It’s solid to finish here, it takes a lot and I’m really proud of my drivers Maro, Thomas and Mikael. I drove well and I’m really happy. We had some issues, weird things, a wheel fell off and then some issues with the brake pad change, and if it wasn’t for that we would have be there, right on the podium. It just shows what we can do. Congratulations to the No. 33 team on the fourth place. It was a strong showing for us all, strong for reliability and for performance. Fourth and eighth after 24 hours and more than 700 laps for each of us. What more do you want? I’m really looking forward to Sebring.”
Thomas Jaeger, Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Program Coordinator and Driver – No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “This year’s race was not only extremely thrilling until the end, but also extremely demanding. During the 24 hours, track conditions changed significantly and we made setup changes over and over again. That was also very demanding for the drivers. Traffic was another factor: there was a lot going on and you had to be really careful to avoid any incidents. At the end of the day, the performance of all three Mercedes- AMG GT3 was very good, even though the No. 33 unfortunately didn’t make it onto the podium. That is a pity, but for the championship, it was important to pick up these points.”
Maro Engel, Driver – No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “That was a very untypical Daytona 24 Hours: in total, there were only four safety car interventions. Last year, we had at least 15. Accordingly, we had no chance to make up for the laps that we had lost in the opening stages. At the beginning, we had to return to the pits at slow speed due to a loose wheel and we had to change the brakes. That cost us around five minutes that we were lacking later to be on the lead lap and battle for the lead with the others. The pace to do so was definitely there. But huge compliments to all drivers and the entire team for the super job they have done.”
Robby Foley, Driver – No. 71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I would argue that the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is easily the most reliable car in the field. We had no issues the entire time. Mechanically the car was sound for 24 hours which as a driver is nice because there’s no little issues coming up that you’re dealing with. It was smooth sailing. The car as a whole is great to drive, very easy to drive. I did two triple stints, nearly three hours in the car each time, and it was consistent during the run. I don’t have many laps in this car, I really didn’t have a lot of laps until the race, so I learned a lot about it and I’m a big fan of how it drives. I’m new to GT cars in general, but it’s definitely a good piece and served us well in this race. I’m lucky to have the opportunity with P1 Motorsports and to be able to finish was really the goal. A lot of people try this race many times and never end up finishing, so to finish my first one and the first one as a team is very special. I think we can be proud of what we achieved and we’ll take these experiences and move on to these next couple of endurance races for sure.”
Source: Mercedes-Benz USA