Nine Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Teams Compete at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) this Weekend in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge
A successful summer of IMSA racing competition for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams continues this weekend at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR), August 23 – 25. Two Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams compete in Sunday’s weekend-highlight Michelin GT Challenge IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race. On Saturday, seven Mercedes-AMG GT4 entries compete in the featured IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race.
The two-hour and 40-minute Michelin GT Challenge IMSA WeatherTech Championship race can be seen live on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. EDT. International viewers can watch the race live on IMSA.tv. Saturday’s two-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race will start at 2:15 p.m. EDT and is viewable live on IMSA.tv.
The Michelin GT Challenge is the second of two races on the IMSA WeatherTech Championship schedule featuring only GT-class racecars. As they did last month at Lime Rock Park, Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams and other GT Daytona (GTD) class entries share the track only with the more powerful GT Le Mans (GTLM) class cars at VIR.
Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing teams head to VIR after a competitive performance at the Road America IMSA race three weeks ago. Driver Ben Keating won the first Mercedes-AMG GT3 IMSA WeatherTech Championship GTD class pole of the season, while co-drivers Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss gave the Mercedes-AMG GT4 its fifth podium result of the summer with a third place showing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race.
Keating co-drives the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 with longtime teammate Jeroen Bleekemolen. The Road America pole followed an outside front-row qualifying run by Keating one race earlier at Lime Rock. The No. 33 led a large number of laps in both races only to be kept from contention by a double dose of bad luck at both Lime Rock and Road America.
Keating and Bleekemolen are optimistic for a change of fortune at VIR where the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 was on the lead pace all weekend last year and finished third in 2017.
A second Mercedes-AMG GT3 entry at VIR comes from Lone Star Racing and team co-drivers Gar Robinson and Lawson Aschenbach. This weekend marks the final scheduled round of a select run of five races for Robinson and Aschenbach in the No. 74 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The seven Mercedes-AMG GT4 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) entries at VIR come from four different teams. They have accumulated a string of Mercedes-AMG GT4 podium finishes in a successful stretch of five summer races to date, which began at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in May.
First-year Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing competitors Jim Cox and Dylan Murry co-drove the No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 to a second-place finish at Mid-Ohio.
The No. 35 team’s Mid-Ohio podium set the stage for the first Mercedes-AMG GT4 victory of the IMSA season one race later at Watkins Glen International. With Bleekemolen added to the driver lineup for The Glen’s four-hour race, Cox, Murry and the No. 35 Riley Motorsports team won their first IMSA Pilot Challenge race.
The third Mercedes-AMG GT4 podium of the year was another victory two races later at Lime Rock by reigning GS champions TeamTGM, and co-drivers Owen Trinkler and Hugh Plumb. Starting from the pole, Trinkler and Plumb won their second-straight race at Lime Rock in the No. 46 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4.
Trinkler and Plumb are also the defending GS race winners at VIR. They look for their second repeat race win of the season on Saturday competing alongside the sister No. 4 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4 entry of team owner Ted Giovanis and Guy Cosmo.
Mosing and Foss joined the winning No. 46 team on the Lime Rock podium with their first top-three finish in the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4. The longtime co-drivers carried the podium momentum straight to Road America two weeks later where they scored a second-straight third place showing. That podium finish marks the fifth trip to victory lane this summer for the Mercedes-AMG GT4.
Murillo Racing’s No. 65 Mercedes-AMG GT4 returns to action at VIR following an accident during a Friday morning practice at Road America. Driver Justin Piscitell was uninjured in the incident. Piscitell will co-drive the No. 65 at VIR this weekend with Tim Probert.
Another two-car Mercedes-AMG GT4 team back to full strength for VIR is Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport. At Road America, Bryce Ward co-drove the No. 57 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4 with his son, Russell Ward, who returns to his own No. 33 entry this weekend. Bryce Ward co-drives at VIR with Christian Hohenadel, while Russell Ward returns to teaming with his regular co-driver Indy Dontje in the No. 33 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4.
Keating’s Road America GTD pole was the fifth of the year for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in IMSA competition. In addition to Lime Rock, Trinkler won the GS pole at Sebring and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in the No. 46 Mercedes-AMG GT4. Dontje put the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT4 on the GS pole at Watkins Glen to lead a Winward/HTP front-row sweep with Hohenadel on the outside front row in the No. 57.
A three-day weekend event, the VIR schedule gets underway with practice sessions for both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship and IMSA Pilot Challenge on Friday. Pilot Challenge GS qualifying is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. Friday evening.
A final one-hour practice Saturday morning at 8:35 a.m. EDT sets the stage for GTD qualifying early that afternoon at 12:25 p.m. EDT. The two-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race is scheduled to go green at 2:15 p.m. EDT.
Sunday’s schedule begins with a 20-minute final warm-up practice session at 9:05 a.m. EDT, with the featured Michelin GT Challenge IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race scheduled to start at 1:35 p.m. EDT.
Ben Keating, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “VIRginia International Raceway is another track where the Mercedes-AMG GT3 typically performs really well. It will be close with some of the other competitors, but I would expect us to be up there. We’ve got all the pieces of the puzzle to win, but we have had terrible luck so far this year. It has to turn at some point. I feel really good about VIR. I love the GT-only races partly because, with only two classes in the race, GTD gets so much better coverage on the television broadcast, and my friends and family can easily follow along. I also love the fact that we have so much less traffic situations without the faster Prototypes being there. It puts us in a better position of being able to control our own destiny a little bit more.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “VIRginia International Raceway is one of our favorite tracks in the season. Last year, we had a great race going at VIR, and the pace was really good in this year’s last race at Road America. Ben, the whole Riley Motorsports team and I all love this track. I can’t wait to go out there and fight for the win. Things are more spread out at VIR, and it makes for a great GT-only race. You can really focus on your own racing and don’t have to watch the mirrors all of the time.”
Lawson Aschenbach, Driver – No. 74 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Not only is VIR a favorite of teams and drivers, it is one of the top spots on the IMSA schedule. The VIR facility and the fans make the GT-only event a huge success every year. The circuit has incredible cornering speeds, lots of transitions, and some heavy brake zones that demand precision and showcase great passing zones. Overall, I’ve been very pleased with our season. It’s not easy being a part time program, but we’ve shown good speed with our Mercedes-AMG GT3 and been competitive. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing our push for a podium at VIR.”
Dylan Murry, Driver – No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “The final bits of the season are always really fun for me. You really get to know your competitors and can begin to trust them and know exactly what they’re going to do. It makes for close racing. Combine that with a track like VIR, and you will get some of the best racing on the planet. The Mercedes-AMG GT4 will be really strong at this track. They proved it last year with a win, and I think we’ll be strong everywhere at VIR. You can use a lot of curbs, and that’s what a Mercedes-AMG GT4 does really well. So far this season, we have had some wild races. Raining on half the track, raining off and on, and racing in pouring rain with Michelin slicks. It really has been a crazy season, and I can’t wait to see what VIR brings.”
Owen Trinkler, Driver – No. 46 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4: "I'm looking forward to getting back to VIR with the team. We have shown to have good pace during qualifying. It just hasn't translated into the race, but VIR is a great track that the Mercedes-AMG GT4 performs well at, so I'm feeling confident heading into the weekend."
Guy Cosmo, Driver – No. 4 TeamTGM Mercedes-AMG GT4: “VIR is a track I think everyone at TeamTGM really enjoys. It has a raw, grass-roots nature, it’s absolutely beautiful, and it has everything that makes a driver salivate behind the wheel. Our Mercedes-AMG GT4 will definitely be strong. We’re hoping for a strong showing, but most importantly just a solid finish. This season has been quite tough on this team and we are ready for some solid results for the remaining races.”