Following last month’s announcement by Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) and Mercedes-AMG that it will enter North America’s premier endurance racing series for the first time, additional Mercedes-AMG Customer Sports Program teams are now confirmed for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Pirelli World Challenge series in 2017. Previously announced Mercedes-AMG GT3 IMSA entries AMG-Team Riley Motorsports, WeatherTech Racing and SunEnergy1 Racing will be joined by Lone Star Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship in 2017. In Pirelli World Challenge, CRP Racing was the first of several teams to announce its program with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 for 2017.
Lone Star Racing took delivery of its new Mercedes-AMG GT3 Monday and has confirmed the return of team principal and driver Dan Knox and his teammate Mike Skeen. The team will announce its IMSA racing schedule for Knox and Skeen in the No. 80 ACS Manufacturing/Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the coming days.
The recent CRP Racing announcement for Pirelli World Challenge named driver Ryan Dalziel to the team in an all-out bid for the GT class championship in the No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
In related Mercedes-AMG Customer Sports news, both AMG-Team Riley Motorsports and WeatherTech Racing announced their expanded driver lineups for the season-opening IMSA WeatherTech Championship Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 28 – 29.
The No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 will be co-driven by full-season teammates Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen, joined by Adam Christodoulou and Mario Farnbacher for the Daytona opener.
Full-season No. 50 WeatherTech Racing teammates Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette will be joined by Shane van Gisbergen and Thomas Jaeger at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 team has tested with team principal and driver Kenny Habul, Tristan Vautier and Boris Said. All three are expected to drive in the Rolex 24 along with a fourth team driver to be announced in the near future.
All AMG Customer Sports teams in the US will race the latest version of the naturally-aspirated, 6.3-liter V8 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in 2017.
Based on the Mercedes-AMG GT S road car, Mercedes-AMG GT3 race cars are competing in the IMSA GT Daytona (GTD) class, which features vehicles built in accordance with international GT3 regulations. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 races to similar regulations in Pirelli World Challenge where it is eligible in the top-tier GT and GTA classes in both the season-long championships and the SprintX Series races. The 2017 Pirelli World Challenge season begins at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, March 10 – 12.
The AMG-Team Riley Motorsports, WeatherTech Racing and SunEnergy1 Racing teams participated in last week’s two-day IMSA WeatherTech test at Daytona International Raceway, December 13 – 14.
Ben Keating – Driver, No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It’s really exciting to be representing AMG and Mercedes-Benz USA. It’s a different program from what I have run before and it’s a lot of fun. We have a lot of support here at the track from AMG, from Mercedes-Benz and from the fans, from Mercedes owners, which is a big deal. This will be our first big endurance race for Mercedes-Benz and AMG in the United States. This is the biggest stage for sports car racing in the U.S., to run in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and we hope to put on a really good show and represent the brand, represent the dealers, and represent the customers and fans as best we can, all season long, but especially at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. It’s a special place for me, it’s my favorite race of the year, and I am really excited to be running an AMG.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen – Driver, No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I’m really looking forward to racing at the Rolex 24. The season can’t start soon enough. We have a proven team and a proven car, the combination makes it perfect, and I’m really happy to be part of this campaign. It’s great to be back in the Mercedes-AMG GT, the car is developed very well and, of course, being back with the Riley team is great. We know each other well after all these years.”
Adam Christodoulou – Driver, No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “To be part of such a brand like AMG just made it even more special. Their commitment, dedication and passion for the sport is just incredible, they want to be the best. You saw it this year in the Nurburgring 24 Hours, there were five AMG Performance cars, and we finished first, second, third and fourth. The Nurburgring result speaks for itself, I know I’m extremely fortunate to be a part of AMG, and It’s an honor to represent such a brand, especially one which supports so many of its Performance and Customer Sport teams.”
Gunnar Jeannette – Driver, No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It’s a new car for Cooper and myself and all of the WeatherTech guys, and it is quite a bit different than driving a rear-engine car. From the first time that we got in the car over in Germany at Hockenheim you could honestly tell on the out lap that all of the AMG engineers had done a very good job and done all of their homework with this car. It is a great car to drive and I think it is going to be very good over 24 hours and all season.”
Shane van Gisbergen – Driver, No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It’s my fourth year with the WeatherTech guys at Daytona, I get along with them all, and big changes for this year with a new team and different car with the Mercedes. The driving style is very different with a front-engine car, so it is more relative for me, and I think we have settled in pretty good. We found a nice base setup, we are all pretty comfortable, we just need to chase the track when we are back here in January.”
Tristan Vautier – Driver, No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is the best GT3 I have driven, and AMG’s relationship to its customer teams is very close. The level of involvement and at-track support is higher than what I have experienced on other programs, and it is good because teams feel more like partners than customers. We feel great about the car, but not a big surprise considering how well it has done everywhere. There are few things here and there to adjust to make it as good as possible with the Continental tires, but it was really good straight off the trailer. The team has figured the car out very quickly, and Kenny was super impressive at the test after completing just a couple of runs.”
Mike Skeen – Driver, No. 80 ACS Manufacturing/Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “The Mercedes-AMG GT3 has proven to be a competitive car worldwide in 2016 and I am confident it will continue its winning ways in the U.S. We made good progress with the Viper this season and getting everyone to work together as a team, so hopefully that momentum will continue. Part of the decision to go with the AMG GT3 was to find a car that would be similar in driving style and just a generally confidence inspiring car to drive.”