Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Teams Ready for Season-Opening Daytona Races in Late January After Successful Rolex Roar Test

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Nine Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing entries in two different IMSA racing series completed a successful three-day Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona test session at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) this past weekend in preparation for the first races of IMSA’s 50th Anniversary Season at DIS three weeks from now, January 24 – 27.

The No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports and No. 71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams prepared for the 57th Rolex 24 At Daytona IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race, January 26 – 27, while seven Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams tested in advance of the four-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race taking place January 25.

The pair of races on the 3.56-mile Daytona road course will be the opening events of a year-long celebration of IMSA’s 50th Anniversary season.

After a fourth-place GT Daytona (GTD) class Rolex 24 finish last year and third-place showing in 2017, the Mercedes-AMG Team Riley No. 33 returns for a third-straight year with Mercedes-AMG and full-season co-drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen.

Keating and Bleekemolen will be joined at Daytona by first-time team driver Felipe Fraga and returning teammate Luca Stolz, who co-drove the No. 33 last year at Daytona and in the full IMSA North American Endurance Cup (NAEC). 

The No. 33 team and drivers won the NAEC GTD crown for the second-straight year in 2018 and will be looking for a third-consecutive title in the four-race endurance championship this year under its new name of the Michelin Endurance Cup. Fraga will step in as the co-driver for Keating and Bleekemolen in the three Michelin Endurance Cup races following Daytona after Stolz had his driver ranking elevated to Gold status in the off season.

Second-year Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing team P1 Motorsports is expanding to the full IMSA WeatherTech Championship season in 2019 after a successful NAEC debut last year. Team owner and driver JC Perez will co-drive with Mercedes-AMG driver Maximilian “Maxi” Buhk, who returns to P1 after a strong debut in 2018’s season-ending Petit Le Mans.

Co-drivers for the Rolex 24 At Daytona opener include Fabian Schiller and Dominik Baumann, with the Silver-rated Schiller slated for the full Michelin Endurance Cup in the No. 71.

The seven Mercedes-AMG GT4 entries testing at the Roar were preparing for the first round of the newly rechristened IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, which was previously known as the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. The Mercedes-AMG GT4 remains a contender in the top-level Grand Sports (GS) class after helping TeamTGM win the GS driver and team titles last year.

TeamTGM returns in 2019 with last year’s same championship-winning lineup. The title-winning No. 46 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4 of champion co-drivers Hugh Plumb and Owen Trinkler is back along with the sister No. 4 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4 of team owner/driver Ted Giovanis and his co-driver Guy Cosmo.

Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport and Murrillo Racing are also set for second seasons in the GS class in 2019 with two-car Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams.

Russell Ward and Indy Dontje co-drive the full season in the No. 33 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4 while Ward’s father, Bryce Ward, shares the No. 57 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4 this year with Mercedes-AMG driver Christian Hohenadel.

Longtime teammates Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss are set for another season in Murillo’s No. 56 Mercedes-AMG GT4, and Brent Mosing, Tim Probert and Justin Piscitell shared the team’s similar No. 65 Mercedes-AMG GT4 at the Roar test.

A new Mercedes-AMG GT4 entry in the GS in 2019 class comes from the same Riley Motorsports team that campaigns the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3. The Riley team has added the No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 to its Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing program with co-drivers Dylan Murry and Jim Cox.

Ben Keating, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We were here three weeks ago doing a Michelin tire test and we got a lot of work done then. I mean a lot of work, some stuff we typically would have been halfway through the year before figuring out what the new Michelin tire really likes with our Mercedes-AMG GT3. So, we felt good coming into the Roar with that knowledge and ran hard becomes everybody knows what everybody ran at that Michelin test. This weekend we were P1 in the first two practice sessions and we were kind of scratching our heads on how some of our competitors lost two seconds the last few weeks since the Michelin tire test! So, I wasn’t surprised to see all of the cars pick it up by a second-and-a-half on Saturday. All you want is to know that you are in the hunt, and I think there is less than a tenth-of-a-second between the top four or five spots. I feel really good about that.”

Jeroen Bleekemolen, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I’m really excited to get started again and get going. We had a good Roar test, and we had a good test with Michelin in December already. We know the car in and out now, so we can show up to the race with all we’ve got and maximize the package we have. Whatever that is, we don’t know yet as far as the BOP (Balance of Performance), but we should be in good shape. I expect a lot in the Rolex 24. Going into Daytona, for me, it’s a win that is missing, so I’m really excited to give it another go. It will be my 10th Rolex 24, so it would be a special moment to make my 10th the first win.”

JC Perez – No. 71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Last year was basically me getting my feet wet. This year I feel a lot more comfortable with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and I understand it now. The learning curve seems to be a lot easier now. I’m just very happy with it at the moment. It’s racing, and things happen, but this car has been really good to me lately. It’s just been a rocket. We’re trying. We’re a young team, so we have a lot of stuff to figure out. For the most part, we’re growing and moving forward. That’s a good step for us.”

Maximilian Buhk – No. 71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I think it was a pretty decent start. We’ve gotten more understanding of the Michelin tires to apply to the data we already had. It’s the little details for finding the consistency for the race as well the pace you need for qualifying. We’re working well together, all four drivers, and I’m super happy to be back with P1. It’s amazing to drive an oval. It’s the first time for me, and I didn’t know what to expect. It’s really a fantastic place when you see the facility and how big it is. It’s super fun to drive. 

Fabian Schiller – No. 71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a great first experience at Daytona. The track is completely different than I thought. I expected it to be wider. It’s still big, but the road is narrower than I thought. It was a good two days. We made progress. I think we have a great car. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is a great car through the corners. It has great aerodynamics, great weight distribution front to back. It handles through the corners. It’s the best car in endurance racing, for sure, because it keeps the tires alive the best. We should be strong.”

Hugh Plumb – No. 46 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4: “I’m excited to walk away from the Roar with a lot of new information about the Michelin tires and how they work with the Mercedes-AMG GT4. We learned about what it wants and how we can maximize the performance over the long runs. TeamTGM, as usual, feels comfortable that we are going to come back here in a few weeks with the best effort possible.”

Owen Trinkler – No. 46 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It’s great to be back and kick off the 2019 season, especially coming back as defending champions. I thought the test went really well and we worked a lot on race runs. I feel like the Mercedes-AMG GT4 is going to be really good when we come back in a few weeks.”

Christian Hohenadel – No. 57 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4: “Last year I had a good experience here in the U.S. with Winward and HTP, it was a fantastic time. We weren’t as successful as we expected, but we were really fast, and I am really fortunate to join the team for the full year this season. We know each other already and have a good base to start the season. This was my first time at Daytona. I have seen a lot of race tracks around the world but never the huge grandstands they have here. It’s really impressive, and I liked driving here, especially the banking. It is all brand new, but I got used to it pretty quickly.”

Dylan Murry – No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “The Mercedes-AMG GT3 came excellent from the factory, straight from Mercedes-AMG, and we were running great times right off the bat in testing last month. The team then took it back to the shop and Riley Motorsports really just amped everything up. We were running consistently in the top five in practice this weekend. It’s just a really good car, and I can’t wait to see what we come back with for the race. This was just a really great weekend of learning.”