Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Teams Clinch Four IMSA Championships with Michelin Endurance Cup and Michelin Pilot Challenge Titles in Season-Ending IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Weekend at Petit Le Mans
ATLANTA. Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams and drivers secured a combined total of four championships in two different IMSA racing series over a busy and exciting weekend of competition at the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, October 10 – 12. Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports, team co-drivers Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga, as well as Mercedes-AMG, won the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup GT Daytona (GTD) team, driver and manufacturer championships for the third-straight year in Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race. On Friday, a third-place Grand Sport (GS) class finish by TeamTGM co-drivers Owen Trinkler and Hugh Plumb secured the 2019 GS Manufacturer Championship for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season finale.
Saturday’s across-the-board GTD Michelin Endurance Cup sweep keeps Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports, Keating, Bleekemolen and Mercedes-AMG undefeated in IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup competition since the introduction of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing in IMSA in 2017.
The IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup is a four-round competition within the overall IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship awarding the top performers in the year’s endurance races. The schedule includes the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and Petit Le Mans.
Driving the Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3, Keating, Bleekemolen and Fraga wrapped up this year’s Michelin Endurance Cup titles with a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s highlight 10-hour Petit Le Mans.
The No. 33 team battled for the Endurance Cup title from the drop of the green flag and challenged for the overall GTD-class race win from the race’s two-hour mark when Fraga first took the lead.
After equally competitive driving stints throughout the race by Keating and Bleekemolen, Fraga was back in the No. 33 and leading the race’s final hour. Fraga took the white flag for the last lap of the race in first place but the No. 33 agonizingly ran out of gas before the checkered flag, when the team’s gamble on a fuel-stretching strategy came up short.
Despite coming so close to what would have been a second race win of the season, the No. 33 team and drivers met their overall goal of winning the Endurance Cup titles for the third straight time. The fourth-place finish was one spot ahead of the No. 63 WeatherTech Racing team that stayed in a lock-step Endurance Cup battle with the No. 33 throughout the race.
The No. 33 team and drivers outpaced the No. 63 in the final stages of Saturday’s race to take the Endurance Cup crowns by two points, 37 – 35. Mercedes-AMG secured the manufacturer championship by one point, 37 – 36, over the nearest competitor.
In total, Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing teams came into the Petit Le Mans weekend leading the four IMSA championships and successfully earned them all.
The first title came in Friday’s two-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series finale. In the final race of their reign as 2018 GS Driver and Team Champions, Trinkler, Plumb and TeamTGM stepped up to clinch this year’s GS Manufacturer title for Mercedes-AMG.
Starting driver Trinkler moved the No. 46 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4 into the lead early in his driving shift, while Plumb fought through a hectic final hour to secure the podium finish in his race-closing stint.
With manufacturer’s earning points each race with only their highest finishing car, Petit Le Mans was the third time this season the TeamTGM No. 46 earned manufacturer points for Mercedes-AMG. They were also the top performers two races ago with a fourth-place finish at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) along with their race win at Lime Rock Park in July.
The first year Riley Motorsports No. 35 Mercedes-AMG GT4 of co-drivers Jim Cox and Dylan Murry also delivered championship points for Mercedes-AMG at three races. The No. 35 team was the top performing Mercedes-AMG GT4 for three-consecutive races with a fourth place at Sebring, second at Mid-Ohio and a victory at Watkins Glen International, where Bleekemolen joined the team as a third driver in the four-hour race.
The No. 33 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport and No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams were the other points contributors to the Mercedes-AMG title.
Russell Ward and Indy Dontje were the first Mercedes-AMG GT4 to the line in the season-opening race at Daytona in the No. 33. Ward later joined Dominik Baumann one race ago in the No. 33 for the team’s first victory at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, a series-leading third win of the season for the Mercedes-AMG GT4, which gave them a manufacturer championship lead they wouldn’t lose.
Murillo Racing No. 56 co-drivers Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss were the top Mercedes-AMG GT4 finishers at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and also contributed manufacturer championship points with a third-place finish at Road America.
Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams is this evening’s WeatherTech Night of Champions awards celebration at the Chateau Elan Winery and Resort. The celebration includes the presentation of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup Championship Awards to the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley drivers and team along with Mercedes-AMG.
Thomas Jaeger, Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Program Coordinator: “It has been a great race weekend at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport! We are very excited about winning the 2019 manufacturer titles in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, and we are proud to take trophies from two very competitive series to Affalterbach. The 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans was intense until the very end. The race didn’t end the way it should have, but being in lead of manufacturer, team and driver standings in Endurance Cup GTD class for the third-consecutive year proves the reliability and performance of our Mercedes-AMG GT3. Congratulations to Mercedes-AMG Team Riley, Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga for a great performance throughout the entire 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and to TeamTGM, Owen Trinkler and Hugh Plumb on their podium finish in the last race of the season. Thank you to all of our Customer Racing Teams and drivers for their great commitment! We are looking forward to next year!”
Ben Keating, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a really, really fun race. We had huge competition with the No. 63 WeatherTech team, they came into the race second in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, and they fought us hard all day. We were the only two cars that ran to the same strategy, racing only for the Endurance Cup, and that put us in a really bad spot for the end of the race. Because we were racing to the eight-hour mark, we were really short on fuel for the last two hours. We can only go 53 minutes on a tank of fuel, but we decided to risk it and try to make it to the end when a caution came out with 30 minutes to go for the No. 63 that got punted off course. We did make it to 10 hours, but still had to go another lap and a half extra because of how the overall leader caught the timing stand. We didn’t have that much fuel. We had enough fuel to get to Turn 5. We ended up in fourth place in the race, even with running out of fuel on the last lap. So, I am really proud of the team. We made the right call, but the overall leader didn’t hit the timing stand right for us.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was great. We won another championship, three years in a row for the Endurance Cup with the Mercedes-AMG GT3, and we can be really proud of that. It’s a lot of racing, and a lot can go wrong in all of these endurance races. We had a really fast car but were really unlucky on many occasions. We could have won the race but were one liter short on fuel. Even earlier in the race we had small issues that just cost us time and positions. We showed what we can do, it was good, and we just went for it. If the overall leader had passed the finish line 10 seconds earlier, that would have even made a difference. It was really tight.”
Felipe Fraga, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We had the best car this weekend at Road Atlanta for sure. The first part of the race we built a big gap, but we had too many incidents. A drive-through penalty, a problem with changing a wheel on a pit stop that made life harder with having to do two stints on the same tire. We were much faster than anybody else, but we did not win the race. That hurts a little bit, we missed it by one lap, which is a bit hard to believe. At least we won the Endurance Cup championships, which is also really important. I hope we can make all of these races again next year, and we will see what the future brings.”
Owen Trinkler, Driver – No. 46 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It’s great for Mercedes-AMG to get that title that we didn’t get last year when we won the team and driver championships. We contributed a lot of points to their championship, we weren’t the most consistent, but we will be back even stronger next year. We feel like TeamTGM is the best in the paddock, I have a great co-driver in Hugh Plumb, and I can’t thank Ted Giovanis, Joe Varde and everybody on this team enough. The Mercedes-AMG GT4 handles awesome, and to come away with a podium at the end of the year, and a manufacturer title for the Mercedes-AMG GT4, that’s really special for us.
Hugh Plumb, Driver – No. 46 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4: “We always want to win every race. Obviously, it’s hard to do that, but TeamTGM is so capable of that, winning team championships, driver championships and now helping Mercedes-AMG win a manufacturer championship. We had a hard-fought battle for third place today. We take the wins and take the losses as a team, and this podium and the manufacturer title today feels good.”
Dylan Murry, Driver – No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “To be part of the whole GS Manufacturer Championship is just great. I am really happy for Mercedes-AMG. They really earned it, put a lot of engineering into their Mercedes-AMG GT4 cars, and it was really a flawless year for them. Consistently up front, hardly any manufacturer can regularly do that, but Mercedes-AMG did it this year.”