Mercedes-AMG Takes IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Manufacturer Championship Lead with Repeat TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4 Win at Lime Rock
A repeat IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race win by reigning series champions Owen Trinkler, Hugh Plumb and the No. 46 Team TGM Mercedes-AMG GT4 team highlighted a competitive weekend of IMSA competition for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams Friday and Saturday at Lime Rock Park. Trinkler and Plumb won their second straight Grand Sport (GS) class race at Lime Rock Park from the pole and led a Mercedes-AMG GT4 double-podium showing that included Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss co-driving to a third-place Michelin Pilot Challenge finish in the No. 56 Murillo Racing entry.
The No. 46 team’s victory was the second in the last three races for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 and gave Mercedes-AMG its first IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Manufacturer Championship points lead since entering the series last year. Mercedes-AMG leaves Lime Rock Park two points ahead of the second-place manufacturer, 181 – 179.
Last year at Lime Rock, Trinkler and Plumb co-drove the TeamTGM No. 46 to a milestone victory in the top-tier Grand Sport (GS) class. The win was the first for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in North America and the springboard to victories in two of the next three races and the 2018 GS championships for the No. 46 team and drivers.
After winning the pole on Friday, Trinkler led every lap of his race opening driving shift before handing off to Plumb with less than hour to go.
Plumb rejoined the race in third but moved his way up to second early in his stint. He took a lead the team wouldn’t lose when the leader pit less than 45 minutes from the finish and later held off the competition in a restart with just under 30 minutes remaining.
The win was the best result of the 2019 season for TeamTGM that shared the Lime Rock podium with another Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing team for the second straight year.
Co-drivers Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss turned in a season-best finish of their own with a third place showing in the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The Mercedes-AMG GT4 is the only manufacturer in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge GS class to score a repeat win in the year’s first six races. The first victory was earned at Watkins Glen International in late June by the No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 of co-drivers Jim Cox, Dylan Murry and Jeroen Bleekemolen.
Cox and 18-year-old co-driver Murry co-drove the No. 35 to an eighth-place finish Saturday to make it three Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams in the overall top eight Lime Rock finishers.
The two-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race was the first round of a Saturday doubleheader at Lime Rock that concluded with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Northeast Grand Prix.
Ben Keating, Bleekemolen and the Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports team battled in the GT Daytona (GTD) top three in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the majority of the two-hour and 40-minute race.
Starting from the outside front row, Keating ran in second place throughout his race opening stint. He handed off to Bleekemolen 50 minutes into the race and the No. 33 continued in second after a quick pit stop by the Mercedes-AMG Team Riley crew.
Bleekemolen took the lead just eight minutes after the pit stop and stayed locked in the top-three battle through the final round of pit stops just a little over and hour to go.
With the No 33’s tires fading late in the race, Bleekemolen spun and had slight contact with another competitor less than seven minutes from the finish. He quickly gathered the No. 33 up and got back on track only to be forced to the pits in the closing minutes to change a tire damaged in the incident. Bleekemolen returned to the race and took the checkered flag in ninth place.
Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in IMSA competition is the WeatherTech Championship and Michelin Pilot Challenge weekend at Road America, August 2 – 4.
Owen Trinkler – No. 46 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It's the strength of this team. We've had some low spots coming off of the championship year but that makes us stronger. We're definitely going to enjoy this win today. It will probably give us a jump start like it did in the second half of the year last year and build some momentum. That's just what we have needed. We got off to a kind of rocky start this year, but there was no finger pointing, we all support each other and push each other to do better. Now a win and three poles for our Mercedes-AMG GT4 this year. Let's see if we can go get some more poles and more wins this year.”
Hugh Plumb – No. 46 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4: “I cannot say enough about the Mercedes-AMG GT4. We have had some hiccups along the way this year after winning the 2018 championship, but between Mercedes-AMG, the guys that we have on TeamTGM, this is the best program in the paddock. We are back where we belong. I almost think this win is as special, if not more special, than last year's victory. Last year was awesome, the first win for the Mercedes-AMG GT4, but this year kind of puts us back where we belong as opposed to a lot of firsts. This is more of a team thing. Everyone did their job. We needed this. Owen did an amazing job, starts on the pole and gives the car to me in the lead and in great shape.”
Jeff Mosing, Driver – No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It feels good. This is the first podium we've had in two years in the series since the start of 2017. That's going to pump the guys up, and they really needed that. They've been working so hard for this for the last two years. The Mercedes-AMG GT has been a great car, the tires have been good, it's just that everything finally came together this weekend. We were really worried about the heat today. It was going to be a factor on tire degradation. I was feeling the left rear starting to give up. We were in the window and went ahead and pitted because I was falling off the mark. We got Eric in there and the strategy, with a little luck, worked out really well. Ken Murillo and Murillo Racing always do a fine job of getting the car prepped. I think one more lap and we probably would have got second.”
Jim Cox, Driver – No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “Generally, I feel pretty good. I brought the car in clean, it wasn't used up, and that was of course goal number one. I'm really surprised at how physical a full stint is at this racetrack. It's far more than I thought it was going to be. That's obviously one of the challenges at this historic ‘bull ring,’ as they say. I'm looking forward to coming back next year.”
Dylan Murry, Driver – No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It was my first time here, so it's really cool to be able to learn the ‘bull ring.’ It definitely is all about maneuvering through traffic, and whoever could maneuver through traffic the best just seems to excel at this track. I'm glad to see a Mercedes-AMG GT4 came home with a win. We didn't, but two weeks from now we'll be at Road America and looking for another victory.”