From 10-13 October, the 21st running of the ‘Petit Le Mans’ race will be held in Braselton, Georgia. The famous ten-hour race at the Road Atlanta circuit is the traditional conclusion of the hard-fought North American IMSA series. In the GTD class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, two Mercedes-AMG GT3 will be competing in the finale. The car with starting number 33 run by Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports will have Ben Keating (USA), Jeroen Bleekemolen (NED) and Luca Stolz (GER) as its drivers. Prior to the final race, the trio is leading the separate endurance standings, the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, and has excellent chances of defending the title and scoring the ‘triple’ with drivers’, teams’ and manufacturers’ championship wins.
In the overall GTD standings, Keating and Bleekemolen are currently third and therefore also rank among the extended circle of title candidates. In all the ten IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season rounds held so far, the team managed to make its Mercedes-AMG GT3 finish in the top ten and in July, it won the race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The second Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the field is run by Customer Racing Team P1 Motorsports: JC Perez (COL), Felipe Fraga (BRA) and Maximilian Buhk (GER) will be alternating behind the wheel of the #71 entry. In the finale at Road Atlanta, a total of 14 cars will be competing in the GTD class, the entire field includes 37 participants.
On the support package of the ‘Petit Le Mans’ race, the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge will also conclude its season. The two-hour race will have a total of seven Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the field. Customer Racing Team TGM is running two cars with the main focus on starting number 46, the car with which Owen Trinkler and Hugh Plumb (both USA) are in contention for the title in the maiden season of the GT4 race car from Affalterbach already. With a streak of success including three race wins and a third place from the last four races, the duo and the TGM team are nearly beyond reach, 31 points ahead in the drivers’ and teams’ standings. Currently still only ten points down, Mercedes-AMG also has justified hopes to win the manufacturers’ title as well. Winning the title would crown the debut season of the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in North America. The teams Murillo Racing and Winward Racing / HTP Motorsport will be running two further Mercedes-AMG GT4 each. Another GT4 car from Affalterbach has been entered by Ramsey International Racing.
Ben Keating, Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33: “Starting Petit Le Mans as the leaders in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup is great. I just love this endurance racing format and I am delighted that we are in contention for the title again this year. The specific TPNAEC points’ system is the reason that our race strategy is totally different from most of the other cars in the race. We are not so much aiming at victory after ten hours. Instead, we want to score a sufficient number of points after four and eight hours already to secure the title early. To do so, we will adopt a special strategy for pit stops, tyres and fuel. However, at Petit Le Mans, you never really know what to expect. Whatever happens, we will be doing our utmost.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33: “Our Mercedes-AMG GT3 is running really well again this season. Our opponents were very powerful and it was always very close. At some tracks, we were able to make better use of our performance than at others, but I reckon that Road Atlanta and Petit Le Mans should suit us and our car. I expect us to be particularly strong in turn 1 and the corner combinations. The Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup points’ lead is no reason to relax. But we have a strong car and a great team, so that the title is within reach and we can also aim at a top three position in the overall standings.”
Hugh Plumb, Team TGM #46: „I could not think of a better team than TGM, the personnel within Mercedes-AMG and my co-driver Owen Trinkler. Of course, the manufacturer and car that has brought us total success this year is the Mercedes-AMG GT4. Everyone is highly-motivated to win this Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Championship. Any championship at a high-level is very hard to achieve. In our sport, I think it is a direct result of so many pieces of the puzzle: team personnel, ownership, leadership. The dedication of Ted Giovanis and his family to this really big effort, mixed with a new manufacturer in the series with Mercedes-AMG, makes it all that much more rewarding to me as a driver. I’m confident that going to Road Atlanta Team TGM, will give us a great race car. The Mercedes-AMG GT4 does a lot of things really well and has been one of the most consistent race car platforms I have ever driven. Four podiums and three wins speaks for itself, and I’m hoping to add to this car’s success this weekend.”
Owen Trinkler, Team TGM #46: „It’s been so good all year that we keep the same attitude heading into each race. We are riding this high that we have been on the last few races. Our mood hasn’t even changed since we first went out at Daytona. We just continued to focus on sticking to our plan all year long. Now, heading into Road Atlanta we will do just the same. The Mercedes-AMG GT4 definitely excels over the long run, and I think we have taken that strength and really capitalized on it this year. We have focused a lot during practice sessions to make sure we have a good car in the long run, and it’s done us well. The long run capabilities have really allowed us to be consistent and have a solid balance of the car. At the halfway point of the season we really got a good hold on the car, and we knew what we needed to do to have a strong race.”