Multiple Championships on the Line for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Teams in IMSA Season-Ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta
ATLANTA. Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams and drivers lead a combined total of four championships in two different IMSA racing series heading into this weekend’s Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, October 10 – 12. The exciting weekend schedule features the season-ending races for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series.
Saturday’s highlight Motul Petit Le Mans 10-hour IMSA WeatherTech Championship race airs live on the NBC Network with race-opening coverage beginning at Noon EDT. Live coverage picks up again on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. EDT on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN), which takes Petit Le Mans straight to the 10:05 p.m. EDT checkered flag and through post-race coverage.
In addition to wrapping up the full IMSA WeatherTech Championship 10-race GT Daytona (GTD) season, Petit Le Mans is the final round of the 2019 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup.
A four-race series within the overall IMSA WeatherTech Championship awarding the top performers in the year’s endurance races, the Michelin Endurance Cup includes the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and this weekend’s 10-hour Petit Le Mans.
Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports, drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen and Mercedes-AMG are the two-time defending Michelin Endurance Cup GTD team, and driver and manufacturer champions.
They return to Road Atlanta this weekend with an across the board points lead in all three Endurance Cup GTD championships. The No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 team, Keating, Bleekemolen and endurance-race co-driver Felipe Fraga and Mercedes-AMG have three-point leads in the respective team, driver and manufacturer standings, 29 – 26, heading into Saturday’s season finale.
Endurance Cup points will be awarded at the finish of Petit Le Mans and at the end of the race’s fourth and eighth hours.
In Friday’s Fox Factory 120 finale for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series, Mercedes-AMG has a three-point lead in the top-tier Grand Sport (GS) class manufacturer championship, 274 – 271.
Seven Mercedes-AMG GT4 entries from four different Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams are set to compete in the two-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race.
The lineup includes the No. 33 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4, which moved Mercedes-AMG into the GS manufacturer championship lead with the team’s first victory one race ago at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Russell Ward co-drove to the Laguna Seca victory with Dominik Baumann, a one-race stand-in for Ward’s usual teammate Indy Dontje, who returns to the No. 33 for Friday’s finale. Ward and Dontje compete alongside the team’s sister entry of Ward’s father, Bryce Ward, and Christian Hohenadel in the No. 57 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4.
The Laguna Seca win by Ward and Baumann is a series-high third victory of the season for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the first nine races. The win total gives Mercedes-AMG the critical tiebreaker advantage in the event of a first-place points tie in Friday’s race.
Other 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT4 race winners taking a shot at a repeat victory this weekend include the No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 and the No. 46 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4.
Full-season co-drivers Dylan Murry and Jim Cox co-drove the No. 35 with Bleekemolen to victory in June in the four-hour race at Watkins Glen International.
Reigning GS Champions Owen Trinkler and Hugh Plumb scored the No. 46 TeamTGM entry’s second-straight race win at Lime Rock Park in July. Trinkler and Plumb are joined in the TeamTGM stable by the No. 4 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4 of team owner and driver Ted Giovanis and his co-driver Guy Cosmo.
Murillo Racing is another two-car Mercedes-AMG GT4 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge GS team competing in Friday’s finale. Longtime co-drivers Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss team in the Murillo Racing No. 56 Mercedes-AMG GT4, while Mosing’s brother, Brent Mosing, shares the team’s No. 65 Mercedes-AMG GT4 with Tim Probert.
Official on-track action at Petit Le Mans begins Thursday with practice for all divisions, including a 90-minute night session for IMSA WeatherTech Championship competitors at 7:30 p.m. EDT. Michelin Pilot Challenge GS qualifying takes place Thursday at 4:55 p.m. EDT.
Friday’s IMSA WeatherTech Championship schedule has a lone one-hour practice session at 11:15 a.m. EDT before GTD qualifying that afternoon at 3:55 p.m. EDT.
Friday’s featured race, the two-hour Fox Factory 120 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge finale, goes green at 1:25 p.m. EDT and can be viewed live at www.IMSA.tv.
Motul Petit Le Mans race day begins Saturday with a final IMSA WeatherTech Championship warmup session at 9:30 a.m. EDT before the official start of the 10-hour race at 12:05 p.m. EDT.
Ben Keating, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Traditionally, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 has been very good at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. It’s a great track with lots of various ‘character’ elements, but it is especially tricky with multi-class racing. It can be very tricky when faster prototypes get impatient and attempt a pass in an area where we are already at the limit and cannot react to them. That is the key to making it to the end of a 10-hour race. After all the crazy stuff that has happened to us in racing this year, I will not count our chickens until they hatch. We will just be focused on doing our job well. If we can have a clean race, then the Mercedes-AMG Riley team is usually pretty good with the strategy to get us up front when the points matter.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I’m really looking forward to the weekend. I love Road Atlanta and Petit Le Mans is a great event. There is another championship on the line. I know how good the Mercedes-AMG Riley team usually is with strategies, so we should be in a strong position. We are currently racing a lot, so all the drivers are ready to go for it. The track itself is just amazing. So nice and challenging. I have won this event twice before and, in both cases, it came down to a hard fight right at the end of the race. It is a long sprint race, but you will have to make sure your car is in good shape in the last hours. Having said that, sometimes the pass for the win has been made some hours into the race, even if it was close until the finish. So, we’ll have to push hard for it all the way.”