Mercedes-AMG GT3 Teams Qualify in IMSA WeatherTech Championship Top-10 and Pace Pirelli World Challenge Practice at Long Beach ​

April 8th, 2017 by

IMSA WeatherTech Championship

Long Beach Grand Prix, Long Beach, CA, April 2017. (Photo by Brian Cleary/bcpix.com)

Long Beach. Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams had strong performances in practice and qualifying on Friday at the 43rd Grand Prix of Long Beach. Ben Keating and Boris Said qualified in the top-10 for today’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race, while Ryan Dalziel was fastest overall in Pirelli World Challenge practice. This weekend’s Grand Prix of Long Beach includes the third race on both the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge schedules.

Entries from Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports, WeatherTech Racing and SunEnergy1 Racing are racing in the GT Daytona (GTD) class in today’s 100-minute IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar 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. All competing series at Long Beach run the same 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit.

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship

Keating, co-driving this weekend with fourth-year teammate Jeroen Bleekemolen, qualified the championship-leading No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 sixth fastest in a competitive GTD field. Keating’s time of 1:19.876 was turned on his final flying lap in the final 90 seconds of the 15-minute qualifying session. He will start the No. 33 car in the race, joining Bleekemolen and Mercedes-AMG Team Riley in looking for a second IMSA race win in a row after winning the 12 Hours of Sebring last month, the first IMSA win for Mercedes-AMG.

Driving the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, Said turned his fastest lap late in the qualifying run, clocking in a time of 1:20.173. This lap time was good for the 10th-place starting spot in Saturday’s race, where Said will co-drive with Tristan Vautier.

No. 75

Long Beach Grand Prix, Long Beach, CA, April 2017. (Photo by Brian Cleary/bcpix.com)

The top-12 GTD qualifiers were within a second of the class pole-winner’s lap time, with Keating a scant 6/10ths out of first and Said just 9/10ths off of the top time.

Cooper MacNeil also qualified for tomorrow’s IMSA WeatherTech race, turning the 13th fastest lap of the session with a time of 1:20.363 in the No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. MacNeil co-drives with Gunnar Jeannette.

Pirelli World Challenge

Racing the No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 for only the third time this season, Dalziel ran at the top end of the Pirelli World Challenge GT field throughout Friday’s one-hour practice session. Dalziel held the top time for most of the session and withstood some late challenges from the competition with his own final flying lap just minutes from the finish. Dalziel improved to a top time of 1:18.994 on his 31st of 32 laps to finish the session in first place.

Pirelli World Challenge GTA class drivers Pablo Perez Companc, in the No. 69 Champ1 Mercedes-AMG GT3, and Tim Pappas, who competes in the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, also participated in the one-hour practice.

Companc was fifth fastest in GTA with a top lap time of 1:21.229, and Pappas was seventh quickest in the class with a lap time of 1:21.554.

Racing Mercedes

Long Beach Grand Prix, Long Beach, CA, April 2017. (Photo by Brian Cleary/bcpix.com)

Grand Prix of Long Beach Race Weekend

The 100-minute IMSA WeatherTech Championship race is scheduled to start this afternoon at 1:05 p.m. PDT. The race can be seen in live coverage on FOX from 4 – 6 p.m. EDT.

Sunday’s 50-minute Pirelli World Challenge sprint race is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. PDT. That race can be seen in same-day coverage on the CBS Sports Network tomorrow, Sunday, April 9, from 2:30 – 4 p.m. EDT.

Ben Keating, Driver – No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a really good qualifying session. We made some minor setup changes to the car, it was really comfortable to drive, and I was pretty happy with my early pace. Then Bill Riley got on the radio, said I was seventh, everyone else was starting to go faster, and he asked me for 2/10ths of a second more. I only had time left for about one more lap, I took a little more risk in places, came across the line with a 1:19.8 and I was pumped! It was an unbelievably good lap, just kind of the way you want qualifying. The times Friday afternoon were much faster than they were this morning. With all the different types of cars here, lots of rubber is going down on the track. It made it much faster.”

Boris Said, Driver – No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is awesome around here. It is one the best cars I have ever raced around Long Beach. It was so close, the field is tight, and I wish I could have had 80 lbs. off of me. I am probably 80 lbs. heavier than most of the other guys! That hurts me a little bit but I think we have a great car for the race. The GTD field is so tight, it is going to be a great race, and I can’t wait to get going in the morning.”

WeatherTech Car

Long Beach Grand Prix, Long Beach, CA, April 2017. (Photo by Brian Cleary/bcpix.com)

Cooper MacNeil, Driver – No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I’m happy with how the Mercedes-AMG GT3 performed in qualifying today. It handled really well and drove smoothly. It did everything I wanted it to do. It’s such a good car and is adaptable to anything. I didn’t have much practice Friday morning, I’ve had about 20 minutes total before I went qualifying, and I’m still learning how this car reacts to this track. So, I did the best I could with that learning curve in mind. I just kept pushing it more with each lap – methodically – because I didn’t want to push too hard in one corner, lose the car and crash, and then create unnecessary work for the guys.”

Ryan Dalziel, Driver – No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a great first practice. We didn’t have a good race at St. Petersburg but we realized there was great potential in the Mercedes-AMG GT3. Thanks to a lot of communication and help from Mercedes-AMG we definitely turned things around and ended up the session in P1. We are not perfect, we made some good changes throughout the session, but I think we have a little more time in the car. We were consistently near the top throughout practice and hopefully we can stay there all weekend.”

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