Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams will be competing in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge this weekend during the 43rd running of the Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 7 – 9. Entries from AMG-Team Riley Motorsports, WeatherTech Racing and SunEnergy1 Racing will race in the GT Daytona (GTD) class in Saturday’s 100-minute IMSA WeatherTech Championship race, while CRP Racing, Champ1 and Black Swan Racing will compete in Sunday’s 50-minute Pirelli World Challenge race in the GT and GTA classes.
The Grand Prix of Long Beach race weekend hosts the third race on both the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech Championship and Pirelli World Challenge schedules. All competing series at Long Beach use the same 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit.
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
The No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports AMG GT3 team and drivers earned the first IMSA win for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the 12 Hours of Sebring after a successful podium finish in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. Mercedes-AMG currently leads the Manufacturer Championship standings, the No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 leads the Team Championship standings and co- drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen lead Driver Championship standings in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD class.
The No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 also saw success at Sebring, qualifying on the pole in the GTD class and ultimately achieving a podium third place finish. Tristan Vautier will co-drive the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Boris Said this weekend at Long Beach.
The third Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing IMSA GTD team competing at Long Beach is the No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette. MacNeil and Jeannette are looking to contend for the win at Long Beach where both drivers have scored multiple podium finishes in the past.
Pirelli World Challenge
The 2017 Pirelli World Challenge season began with a doubleheader race weekend in St. Petersburg where three Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams combined to give the Mercedes-AMG GT3 a positive series debut.
Ryan Dalziel drives the No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the top-tier GT class. Following an incident-filled Round 1 race in St. Petersburg, he and his team finished in a strong sixth-place in Round 2 and will be looking for an even better result in Long Beach.
The Pirelli World Challenge GTA class is reserved for sportsman drivers and includes Pablo Perez Companc, who drives the No. 69 Champ1 Mercedes-AMG GT3, and Tim Pappas, who competes in the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. Both drivers scored top-five GTA finishes at St. Petersburg.
Starting at the back of the field after a tough Round 1 race in St. Petersberg, Perez Companc charged to a fourth-place finish in the second St. Petersburg race. He and Champ1 make their Long Beach debuts this weekend.
Pappas finished as high as fifth in the GTA class in St. Petersburg and returns to Long Beach after a successful run last year where he finished second in the GTA class.
Grand Prix of Long Beach Race Weekend
The Grand Prix of Long Beach race weekend kicks off this Friday, April 7, with Pirelli World Challenge and the IMSA WeatherTech Championship practice followed by a 15- minute IMSA GTD qualifying session at 5:20 p.m. PDT.
Saturday, April 8, begins with final Pirelli World Challenge practice followed by qualifying from 9:20 – 9:45 a.m. PDT. The 100-minute IMSA WeatherTech Championship race is scheduled to start that afternoon at 1:05 p.m. PDT.
Sunday’s 50-minute Pirelli World Challenge sprint race is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. PDT.
The IMSA WeatherTech Championship race from Long Beach can be seen in live coverage on FOX this Saturday, April 8, from 4 – 6 p.m. EDT.
Ben Keating, Driver – No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3:
“It is obviously a very good feeling to be in the championship lead at this point in the season. Our relationship with Mercedes-AMG has been key to our success. Everything feels good with the team. This is a brand new car for our team; literally everything is new and different. Luckily, Mercedes-AMG has been running this car in 2016 and has a wealth of knowledge on how to make the car work best for endurance racing. Our team has had two flawless races in a row, and everything has fallen our way. It is tough to expect everything to continue to go flawlessly but that is how championships are won.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Driver – No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3:
“Our season start has been awesome. We have really maximized our races and can only be really happy so far. Of course, having the support of Mercedes-AMG and using their great car gives us a good chance to fight at the sharp end of the field. We will continue to work hard and stay on top of the championship. I always love street races and can’t wait to go back to Long Beach. I have taken pole positions and wins before there and always enjoy running at this cool place.”
Cooper MacNeil, Driver – No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3:
“I am looking forward to returning to Long Beach to race this year. I have finished on the podium there before and have some good memories from the area. It is a fun and challenging circuit, especially with all of the bumps and concrete. I love competing on street courses because of the close and tight racing and the great show we put on for all of the enthusiastic fans. Passing is tough on street courses, so qualifying will be important. Also, it will be a one pit stop race so the driver and tire changes are extremely important. Most of the passing could be done on pit lane, so it’s important to make sure we perform perfectly.”
Gunnar Jeannette, Driver – No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3:
“I’ve raced at Long Beach three times in the American Le Mans Series and won two out of those three races. I really enjoy driving street courses and Long Beach is by far the most historic in the U.S. It’s the first time the GTD cars will be racing there, so I think everyone is both excited and a little bit unsure of how they’ll fare. We don’t get much track time this weekend sharing with IndyCar, so I’m hoping we roll off the trailer in a good spot. It’s going to be an exciting race.”
Boris Said, Driver – No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3:
“I’m looking forward to Long Beach. Being a Southern California resident, Long Beach is my home race. I have had some ups and downs there in the past. I had a great battle with Scott Pruett to earn a Trans-Am win there but the last time I ended up on fire for 18 seconds! It’s going to be a tough race and track position is going to be key. We need to qualify well then have a perfect pit stop in our SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG. If we can do that I think we will have a great finish. Let’s go. I`m ready!”
Tristan Vautier, Driver – No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3:
“Sebring was very important for our team. It was great for all the guys who have pushed through since the start and for Kenny who allows us to be here. It was good to show we can do it, but in racing you are only as good as your last race, so now our focus is on the next one at Long Beach. A good result always boosts confidence but I think the key is just to keep the approach we had for the 12 Hours of Sebring– not have too many expectations and just execute our race weekend. Then, once the checkered waves, we will see where we’re at.”
Ryan Dalziel, Driver – No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3:
We learned a lot at St Petersburg, but one thing that is key in Pirelli World Challenge racing is qualifying up front. I was too conservative at St Pete, so we started mid-pack in race one, got involved in carnage at the start and it was a tough recovery from there. I was happy with our race two pace and I’m confident in the CRP/ DeVilbiss crew that we have made our Mercedes-AMG GT3 much faster since then. We have the best GT3 car in the world, so it’s up to us to deliver a good result. Long Beach has always been a great track for me, between open wheel and sports car racing, so I know how to win there. I will do my best to get that first ‘W’ of this season.”
Tim Pappas, Driver – No. 54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3:
“Returning to Long Beach is something we look forward to every year. It’s a venue unlike any other, and with a history and iconic status that you can’t help but get excited about. The circuit itself always provides an interesting blend of technical and challenging corners, and with our new Mercedes-AMG GT3, it will be interesting to see how we fair. Our race at St. Petersburg was a really good learning experience for all of us, as there’s so many elements to consider with track conditions, tire management, and beyond.”