Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Teams Lead and Contend for Victory

Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Teams Lead and Contend for Victory

18.03.2019: in Competitive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 12 Hours of Sebring Saturday at Sebring International Raceway Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Extend IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup Champ

in Competitive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 12 Hours of Sebring Saturday at Sebring International Raceway
 


Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Extend IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup Championship Leads with Top-Five Finish in Saturday’s 12 Hours of Sebring
 

 
 


Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports extended their championship leads in the 2019 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup with a fifth-place finish in the 67th Running of the 12 Hours of Sebring by Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 at Sebring International Raceway on Saturday.



All three drivers led at various points throughout the race, and Bleekemolen overcame some used-up brakes in the late stages for the hard-fought top-five showing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class.
 


The No. 33 team and drivers and Mercedes-AMG also finished in a first-place tie in the Sebring round of the Michelin Endurance Cup to build on their leads in that championship, which awards the top performers in the year’s four endurance races.
 


With the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring accounting for more than half of the Endurance Cup season, the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 squad and Mercedes-AMG have three point leads in the team, driver and manufacturer standings, 25 – 22. The No. 33 team and drivers came into the race two points clear of the competition while Mercedes-AMG more than doubled its lead after coming to Sebring a single point ahead of the competition.
 
 

 
Starting on the inside of row five after qualifying ninth Friday, Keating steadily picked up positions in his race-opening double stint. He handed the No. 33 off in the top five to Bleekemolen who moved to the lead for the first time halfway through the race’s fourth hour.
 


From there, the No. 33 was in the battle for the lead for the rest of the race. Fraga and Keating each led for several laps during their late afternoon and early evening stints, with the trio combining to lead the race five different times for 41 laps.
 


The team’s usual closer, Bleekemolen was in for the fight to the finish but by then the brakes on the No. 33 were all but used up due to the demands of the grueling Sebring circuit. Bleekemolen moved to fifth in a late-race restart and defended the top-five until the checkered flag.
 


The Sebring result also moved the No. 33 drivers into the top five in the overall IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD standings with 51 points. They are in the thick of a tight group of championship contenders that currently has positions two through five separated by just three points.
 
 

 
The No. 71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 of JC Perez and Mercedes-AMG drivers Maximilian “Maxi” Buhk and Fabian Schiller also ran competitively at Sebring. After Perez started in 13th, Buhk climbed into the GTD top five only to have the No. 71 hampered by back-to-back front tire side punctures in hour four.
 


The ensuing pit stops, and a later pit infraction penalty, dropped the No. 71 several laps off the pace, but the P1 Motorsports team and drivers never gave up and recovered for an 11th place finish.
 


Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is IMSA GTD Round 3 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, May 3 – 5.
 



Ben Keating, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3:




“Because of the current Balance of Performance (BoP) rules in IMSA, I expected to come into this race and be uncompetitive. They have still made us the heaviest and slowest car out there, but the fact is we are competitive. We're within the window, but the Lamborghinis and Ferrari on the podium are too quick.


They are about a second or eight-tenths per lap faster right now. So, it's disappointing for us that we couldn't challenge for a win, but quite frankly I expected to come in and be completely uncompetitive. It was all strategy from the team and great driving. Our car was really good in the low grip conditions, so in the rain or a drying track where it's still low grip, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 was really good there.”
 



Jeroen Bleekemolen, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports




Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I am actually really proud the way we handled the race. The whole team did such a good job. We had the perfect race. I couldn't say it in any other words. It was just the perfect race for us, coming home fifth is frustrating, but coming into this event I could almost predict who was going to win and that we weren't going to be in the mix.



So, coming away with fifth and adding to the Endurance Cup lead is great. But we're racers and we want to win, so hopefully the BoP will have some changes and we'll get back on the top-step soon again. I'm definitely missing it.”
 
 


 
Adam Saal - photos Mercedes

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/mercedes-amg-customer-racing-teams-victory---188005.html

18.03.2019 / MaP

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