Riley Motorsports claims first Mercedes-AMG GT4 race win of the 2019 season at Watkins Glen International. Team drivers James Cox, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Dylan Murry secured the race win on Saturday in the four-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. The Riley team and its three co-drivers kept the No. 35 Mercedes-AMG GT4 in contention throughout the race and sealed the win with closing driver, Dylan Murry, 15 minutes from the finish.
The No. 35 Mercedes-AMG GT4 began the four-hour race with Cox behind the wheel, starting from eighth on the grid. Cox persevered to survive narrow escapes and contact incidents to hand the No. 35 off to Bleekemolen in the top 10 and on the lead lap. Bleekemolen, the full-season driver and longtime Mercedes-AMG GT3 teammate of Ben Keating, claimed the lead for the first time past the race’s halfway mark.
Bleekemolen shook off some in-race skirmishes to handover the No. 35 to Murry, who soon had to deal with the rain that set in just before the final hour of the race.
Outstanding pit work by the Riley Motorsports team saw Murry beat the competition out of the pits during the final round of stops with only 40 minutes to go. Murry cycled back into the lead as the field completed its last pit stops. However, what proved to be the winning strategy call of the race was the Riley team’s decision to keep the No. 35 on dry weather tires on the partially wet track.
Murry led the field to the green flag for a final restart with 15 minutes to go, but was soon passed by two competitors on rain tires. The 18-year-old driver never faltered, however, and slowly reeled the front runners back in during the closing laps. Murry retook the lead only five minutes from the finish and went on to secure a win that was a first for him in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge competition, along with his co-drivers and the Riley Motorsports team.
Watkins Glen was the third consecutive Michelin Pilot Challenge race in which the No. 35 was the top performing Mercedes-AMG GT4. Cox and Murry co-drove to a second-place finish at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in May and finished fourth at Sebring International Raceway in March.
The Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 win capped a strong Michelin Pilot Challenge weekend for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams at Watkins Glen.
Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4 teammates Indy Dontje and Christian Hohenadel swept the front row of the Grand Sports (GS) class starting grid in qualifying on Friday. Dontje won the pole in the No. 33 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4 while Hohenadel clocked in only .171 of a second back to qualify second.
With Hohenadel close behind, Dontje stayed up front in the race’s first hour. He joined Bleekemolen, Murry, Guy Cosmo, in the No. 4 TeamTGM entry, and the Murillo Racing No. 56 of Eric Foss, as the Mercedes-AMG GT4 competitors to lead Saturday’s race.
The Watkins Glen weekend concludes with the featured IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen tomorrow on the 3.4-mile road course.
Ben Keating qualified the Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 seventh for the Sahlen’s Six Hours on Saturday morning. Co-driving with Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga, Keating starts the No. 33 from the inside of row four in tomorrow’s six-hour race, which goes green at 9:45 a.m. EDT.
The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen can be seen in same-day coverage on NBCSN tomorrow, Sunday, June 30, at 7 p.m. EDT, with live streaming of the race in its entirety on the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com beginning at 9:30 a.m. EDT.
Sunday’s schedule begins with a 20-minute WeatherTech Championship warmup session at 8 a.m. EDT.
Jim Cox, Driver – No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “I qualified P8, which is my highest starting position in IMSA so far, and we knew we had a quick Mercedes-AMG GT4. It was good in what we thought was all conditions and hats off to Mercedes-AMG for building a fantastic race car and Riley Motorsports for preparing a fabulous race car. Most importantly, over the course of the race, the way Riley dealt with every problem we had is just incredible. We never fell off the lead lap and we were always in the fight right up until the end. Obviously, great drives from Jeroen and ultimately Dylan in sketchy conditions. The kid is 18 years old. It’s unbelievable the maturity he showed in those closing laps.”
Dylan Murry, Driver – No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It was really stressful at the beginning of my stint. In that first pit stop I made when I was driving, we put on two new left side Michelin Tires. I thought ‘OK, maybe that's the right choice and maybe it's not.’ We still had a little over a half hour to go, but it turns out there was a caution and the rain. We didn't put on rain tires in that stop and it turns out it was the right choice. I'm blown away by Riley Motorsports, the Mercedes-AMG GT4 and Jeroen and Jim and everybody. This is very special for me. To be racing in my dad's footsteps is even more special.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3; No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It's great racing. There's a lot of cars this year in the Michelin Pilot Challenge series so it's big competition. That's usually how it gets exciting. Maybe it was a bit too exciting at the end to watch, at least for us. Jim and I were really struggling to watch it! Dylan did an amazing drive at the end. You just know how hard it is as a driver to stay out of trouble knowing that the people on wets are going to be quicker for a few laps, and it might come your way, but it might not. There's a lot uncertainty there. You just don't know what's going to happen. You've got to stay on track and pick the moment when to pass. He did an amazing drive.”
Felipe Fraga, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “The track is really nice. I have had a lot of fun driving here for the first time. I got up to speed right away so I am comfortable and confident in my driving. Ben did a really good job in qualifying against many silver ranked drivers. I think we are really good with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the race pace. We may need something extra for the win, but we always have good strategies and also have a good driver lineup.”