in Season’s Shortest and Only GTD-Class Street Race This Weekend
Two Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams will compete in this weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at the Detroit Grand Prix, a 100-minute sprint that is the shortest race of the season and the only street-course event of the year for the WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class.
Round 4 of the 11 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD races on the 2018 schedule, the Detroit race can be seen live on FOX Sports 2 (FS2) this Saturday, June 2, at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen co-drive the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Mercedes-AMG GT3 while Kenny Habul will share the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with sports car racing veteran and official Mercedes-AMG driver Bernd Schneider.
Both the No. 33 and No. 75 teams raced their Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the first time last year at Detroit on the 2.35-mile circuit on Belle Isle Park. Separate contact incidents on the tricky, concrete-lined street course knocked both Keating and Habul out of last year’s race, but both Mercedes-AMG Team Riley and SunEnergy1 Racing return to Detroit cautiously optimistic for better results.
After struggling to match the pace of the majority of the other manufacturers in the ultra-competitive GTD division one race ago at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, IMSA adjusted its Balance of Performance (BoP) competition rules for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 heading into the Detroit race. Still the heaviest car in GTD, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is now allowed to compete 10 kilograms (just over 22 lbs.) lighter at Detroit.
Despite not being able to challenge for the win at Mid-Ohio, Keating, Bleekemolen and the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports team arrive in Motown third in the respective GTD driver and team championship standings thanks to early-season performances that saw the team place fourth and third at Daytona and Sebring, respectively.
With 80 points in each championship, the No. 33 drivers and team trail the leaders by 15 points and are within seven points of the second-place competitors.
SunEnergy1 Racing’s best showing in the year’s first three races was eighth in the Daytona opener in January.
A two-day event, IMSA WeatherTech Championship official competition in Detroit begins Friday with a pair of practice sessions that will be followed by GTD qualifying from 5:20 – 5:35 p.m. EDT.
Race-day Saturday starts with a 20-minute warmup session at 8 a.m. EDT before the 100-minute IMSA WeatherTech Championship race goes green at 12:40 p.m. EDT.
In addition to the live race broadcast on FS2 Saturday at 12:30 p.m. EDT, a re-air of the Detroit race will be available on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) on Sunday, June 3, at 8:30 a.m. EDT.
Ben Keating, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It feels like other cars have a distinct advantage right now with the current BoP, and the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is still the heaviest car in the field. Before Mid-Ohio, I would have said that the Mercedes-AMG GT3 loves Detroit, however we really struggled in that race. Normally, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 would be great in Detroit but the current rules will make it difficult for us. Detroit is a single pit stop race and a timed fuel stop is mandatory, but time in the pit is still very critical. It will take some creative strategy to win this race.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Detroit is a great place to race. I really love racing at street circuits. The challenge is always a bit bigger than normal tracks, with the walls being so close. The track should suit our Mercedes-AMG GT3 pretty well. It’s a bit bumpy, which will help us; our Mercedes-AMG GT3 takes bumps really well. Having 10kg less weight than before is not a big change but everything helps. Only having one pit stop definitely changes the strategy a bit. Overtaking is really hard at a street track, so track position means a lot. You are very likely to finish where you come out after the pit stops are done. So, everything has to be executed perfectly. We have done that before at Detroit.”