Six Mercedes-AMG GT3 entries will defend last year’s historic Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the 60th running of North America’s premier 24-hour race, January 26 – 30, at Daytona International Speedway (DIS). The six Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams compete in next weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 three-day test and qualifying event, January 21 – 23, before returning to DIS a week later for the season-opening IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race, which begins Saturday, January 29, at 1:40 p.m. EST and ends 24 hours later on Sunday, January 30, at 1:40 p.m. EST.
In last year’s Daytona opener, debuting team Winward Racing secured the first Rolex 24 victory for the Mercedes-AMG GT3, crossing the finish line just ahead of the SunEnergy1 Racing entry for a one-two Mercedes-AMG GT3 IMSA WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class finish.
Both Winward and SunEnergy1 return to Daytona this year along with four additional Mercedes-AMG GT3 competitors. The six-strong GTD entry comprises the largest field of Mercedes-AMG GT3 competitors in an IMSA WeatherTech race since the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing program made its North American debut in 2017.
The half dozen Mercedes-AMG competitors are part of a blockbuster race that will see IMSA make some history of its own this year at Daytona. In addition to marking the 60th running of the Rolex 24 with a full field of 60 cars, IMSA also introduces the new GTD Pro class at the Daytona opener.
While the traditional Pro-Am format of the original GTD division that debuted in 2014 continues, GTD Pro showcases top-ranked professional sports car drivers from around the world competing in machinery similar to the cars used in GTD.
Four Mercedes-AMG GT3 entries, including Winward and SunEnergy1, are set to compete in GTD. Two additional Mercedes-AMG GT3 entries will be part of the new GTD Pro division’s inaugural race.
Winward defends its 2021 Rolex 24 GTD victory with two of last year’s winning drivers and a pair of familiar teammates joining this year’s Daytona lineup in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Russell Ward and Philip Ellis co-drove the No. 57 to their first Rolex 24 victories last year and will defend the title with teammates Mikael Grenier and Lucas Auer.
Grenier was part of SunEnergy1’s runner-up result in last year’s Rolex 24 but later in 2021 joined the Winward Mercedes-AMG GT3 team for races in both Europe and the U.S. In addition to success in GT World Challenge Europe, Ward and Grenier co-drove to a breakout GT World Challenge America victory at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) last June.
Auer is another familiar Winward driver in Europe that brings a pair of wins with the team in last year’s DTM championship and Formula 1 test driver experience to his Rolex 24 At Daytona debut.
SunEnergy1 returns three of the four drivers that carried the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to second place in GTD last year at Daytona. Kenny Habul, Raffaele Marciello and Luca Stolz will be joined by Fabian Schiller, who makes his first Rolex 24 start in a Mercedes-AMG GT3 since 2019.
The GTD Pro contenders include a pair of Mercedes-AMG GT3 cars entered and prepared by winning European team Proton Competition.
Cooper MacNeil, Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella co-drive the No. 97 Proton Competition Mercedes-AMG GT3 while Patrick Assenheimer, Austin Cindric and Dirk Müller drive as a trio in the No. 15 Proton Competition Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Engel was part of Winward’s winning 2021 Rolex 24 lineup, Assenheimer is a successful European driver making his Rolex 24 debut and Cindric is an emerging NASCAR star who brings vast road racing skills back to the Rolex 24. Cindric’s fulltime ride in 2022 will be a rookie campaign in Roger Penske’s famous No. 2 “Blue Deuce” NASCAR Cup Series car.
Alegra Motorsports returns for a second season of competition with Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing and is committed to at least the 2022 Michelin Endurance Cup in the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3. The Endurance Cup is a four-race battle within the overall WeatherTech Championship that rewards the year’s top performers in the long-distance races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Michael de Quesada and Daniel Morad return as Alegra’s lead drivers and will be joined at Daytona by reigning Mercedes-AMG DTM Champion Maximilian Götz and emerging young talent Linus Lundqvist.
Götz, who sealed the 2021 DTM title for Mercedes-AMG with three victories, makes his Rolex 24 debut. Lundqvist, a multiple champion in international open-wheel development series competition, has one previous career GTD start at the Rolex 24 in 2019.
Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports builds on an encouraging partial season debut with Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing in 2021 with the team’s first full-season GTD campaign in the No. 32 Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The No. 32 team’s Rolex 24 debut will see full-season co-drivers Mike Skeen and Stevan McAleer co-drive with 2022 Endurance Cup teammate Guy Cosmo and Daytona addition Scott Andrews.
In addition to the strong entry of Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams for the Rolex 24, four Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams compete at Daytona in the traditional season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge four-hour race that sets the stage for the Rolex 24 on Friday. News on competing Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams entered in the top-tier Grand Sport (GS) class for the Daytona opener will be announced in the coming days.
Team preparations for the 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona officially begin at Daytona International Speedway, January 21 -23, with the traditional Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona for both WeatherTech Championship and Pilot Challenge teams. The three-day weekend test also includes a 100-minute qualifying race to set the Rolex 24 field that closes out the Roar on Sunday.
The 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona official schedule begins Wednesday, January 26, with a one-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge practice session. Four WeatherTech Championship practice sessions are scheduled over Thursday and Friday in addition to GS qualifying Thursday and the four-hour season-opening Pilot Challenge race Friday at 1:35 p.m. EST.
The 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona starts at 1:40 p.m. EST on Saturday, January 29, with live coverage beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Russell Ward, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It’s the 60th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona with a 60-car field and it is going to be awesome. We are really looking forward to getting back to Daytona. We are coming off a great win there, we were really strong in last year’s finale at Road Atlanta, and that gives us a lot of motivation. We definitely have the lineup, the car and the crew to do it again at Daytona. It is my favorite event of the year, and also the biggest event, so really looking forward to coming back, seeing the fans and getting back on the track. It is great to be back with Philip from last year’s winning effort, and we had our eye on Mikael when we raced against him at Daytona. You could see right away he had the potential, and late last year we did some racing together overseas and here in America in SRO World Challenge. We are really excited to have him joining us for the full Michelin Endurance Cup this year. It is really about the whole package you put together, and I think Mik and Lucas are fast, take care of the car and are really, really hungry to come in. Lucas is a DTM winner and Formula 1 test driver, and he will be tough to beat for anybody out there, even in his first start at Daytona. I’m very excited and it is going to be good!”
Maro Engel, Driver – No. 97 Proton Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I am really excited about returning to Daytona. It’s obviously a fantastic memory for me. Winning last year was definitely a bucket-list victory, both for me and for Mercedes-AMG, and to get that one-two finish last year was very special as well. Obviously, the aim is to repeat again this year, running in a new class, and it will be great to see the debut of GTD Pro. We are excited to have a really strong car with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in this class. It is really exciting what Cooper is doing, and Dani, Jules and myself will be trying to support him the best we can to try and win that Rolex. From a team side and the driver side, we have everything we need, so we are definitely feeling confident going into the event. It will be about being there at the end when the spoils are up for grabs. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 has proven to be an incredibly strong, fast and reliable race car, not only for success in sprint races but big endurance victories like our win last year in the Rolex 24. Daytona is certainly a track that puts the car to a huge test with long straights, a lot of flat-out periods and hard and tough curbs on the turns. We hope to be as competitive as we were last year, even though the level will be extremely high in GTD Pro and we will be battling against some new manufacturers for the first time.”
Mikael Grenier, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I am happy to be back in Daytona. The Rolex 24 is a race that everybody wants to win. It hurt a bit last year to finish second, so close to Winward after 24 hours of racing, but now I am very happy to be racing for them in this year’s Rolex24. We started our relationship last year in GT World Europe, straight away did well together, and then Russell and I won together in GT World Challenge America in Virginia. It’s a great team that wants to win every race they compete in, and I think that’s why I really love about working with them. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is a very reliable car, which is the most important aspect over a long-distance race. We will try to keep this victory right at home at Winward Racing.”
Daniel Morad, Driver – No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Daytona has always been a great place for me, but you are only as good as the team around you and your teammates, so this year I am just really happy to see that our Alegra Motorsports lineup is very strong. We have talent through and through, and Michael, with a season of experience in the Mercedes-AMG GT3, is going to come back a lot stronger. He ended last year very well at Petit Le Mans. Overall, we just can’t have a much better lineup than what we have heading into the Rolex 24. Linus has run Daytona before while Maxi makes his debut, but he has been on a roll right now as the DTM champion. You can’t get much more decorated than that coming to Daytona. At the end of the day, it will again come down to keeping our Mercedes-AMG GT3 in one piece and fighting at the end.”
Mike Skeen, Driver – No. 32 Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Having some history with the Gilbert Korthoff Mercedes-AMG GT3 team has been good. I got in a couple of races with them last year, and we made good progress working out the kinks in the program. It was very valuable and makes us even stronger going into this year. Still, we have a lot of new guys with the program, so getting everybody to mesh and into a good flow at the Roar will be important. Starting with the Rolex 24 is difficult for everybody, but especially for a team that hasn’t been working together already at Daytona. We will get off to a good start at Daytona, and the bigger picture is getting everything going for the full year and trying to make the most of this great opportunity. We have a lot of great potential and will work hard to make it all come together.”
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