Mercedes-AMG teams score double wins @ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna

Mercedes-AMG teams score double wins @  WeatherTech Raceway Laguna

Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams WeatherTech Racing and Murillo Racing each capitalized on a pair of calculated and trouble-free races for a double-win IMSA weekend Saturday and Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Co-drivers Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella avoided the mistakes that derailed their GTD Daytona (GTD) Pro competition for their second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship win of the season on Sunday in the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing/Proton Competition Mercedes-AMG GT3. On Saturday, Murillo Racing and co-drivers Kenny Murillo and Christian Szymczak scored a breakout victory in the No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 Saturday in the two-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race.


In Sunday’s featured WeatherTech Championship race, Juncadella took the green flag in the WeatherTech No. 79 after qualifying third and held the position in a hectic run into the first turn that set the tone for an eventful race over the next two hours and 40 minutes. Juncadella continued to stay in contention after a pair of restarts following early caution periods before handing off to Gounon for the race-closing stint.
 

Gounon continued to maintain the team's lead-pack pace while benefitting from well executed pit stops and a race strategy that went to plan. While Gounon, Juncadella and the WeatherTech/Proton team avoided any mistakes, three of their front running GTD Pro competitors received penalties that moved Gounon and the No. 79 into the lead with 40 minutes remaining.

 

From there, Gounon managed his tires and the traffic to keep the competition behind him until the finish, crossing the finish line with three GTD-class teams between him and the second place GTD Pro finisher.
 

The victory was a GTD Pro series-leading second of the season for Gounon, Juncadella and the WeatherTech/Proton team after a win in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in January. The No. 79 team and drivers have also closed on the GTD Pro championship leaders, trailing in second place with 1,374 points, just 41 tallies behind the top team and drivers.


Saturday’s victory was the first for Murillo, Szymczak and Murillo’s No. 72 Mercedes-AMG GT4 entry in IMSA competition and vaulted the team and drivers from sixth to first in the Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) championship with 760 points, 90 points ahead of the nearest competitor.

 

The win led a double-podium finish for Mercedes-AMG customer teams Saturday with the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Bryce Ward and Daniel Morad securing a season-best third-place finish.
 

Murillo’s victory came on a familiar 2.238-mile WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Road course the California based team and drivers consider a home track. Both drivers combined to lead a race-high 35 laps to cap a mistake-free victory by Murillo, Szymczak and the No. 72 team pit crew.

 

Starting driver Murillo moved from third place to first in the span of a single lap 35 minutes into the two-hour race. After moving to second in Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew earlier in the same lap, Murillo pulled off an over-under maneuver for the lead in Turn 11 that proved to be race’s winning pass.
 

Szymczak took over the No. 72 for the race’s final 55 minutes and cycled back to the lead when a competitor on an alternative strategy pitted from the top spot. From there, Szymczak maintained a close but comfortable gap on the field to the finish, crossing the line for the win with a 1.876 second margin of victory over the second-place competitor.
 

Winward’s run to the podium was a little more frantic and came after starting driver Ward masterfully stayed in contention after running his race opening stint on used tires. Ward spun the No. 57 to avoid contact in qualifying but was forced to start the race on most of the same tires that were flat spotted in the incident. Despite the challenge, Ward stayed on the lead lap and out of trouble before handing off to Morad early in the race’s second hour.
 

Morad quickly went to work, cracking the top five in the opening minutes of his closing stint and pulling off the pass for third with 10 minutes remaining. The No. 57 crossed the finish line just 4.5 seconds behind the winning Murillo entry to secure the first Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer team double-podium finish of the season. The result gave Ward, Morad and the No. 57 team some much-needed championship points after enduring a pair of frustrating season-opening races at Daytona and Sebring.

 

Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International, June 22 – 25.
 

Michelin Pilot Challenge Mercedes-AMG GT4 team are in action even sooner at the Detroit Grand Prix, June 2 – 3, where the GS class will be showcased in a single-class feature race on the new downtown Detroit Grand Prix circuit.
 

Jules Gounon, Driver – No. 79 WeatherTech Racing/Proton Competition Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was quite a crazy race. We just stayed out of trouble and focused on what we could control. It was not one fast lap, but the entire race. The WeatherTech and Proton guys did a great job with strategy and car prep. I am proud of the team. We had a tough race at Long Beach and were able to come back and get the win today. I think we just drove clean and consistent and took the mistakes of our competition and were able to get the win. It was unexpected but makes a difference in the championship. There is a long way to go but this was great for us.”
 

Daniel Juncadella, Driver – No. 79 WeatherTech Racing/Proton Competition Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a hectic start. I knew I had to be smart. We were able to play out our strategy. With the yellows the race looked to be a bit crazy. It looked like we were not even going to be on the podium. Then we took the others’ mistakes and our payback and got an unexpected win here at the track that WeatherTech sponsors. Everyone had a perfect race, no mistakes and thanks to the team and my teammate. We will come back even stronger for the next one.”

 

Kenny Murillo, Driver – No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “What an incredible weekend. It’s really more of a mental battle at this event and I am really happy we came out on top. The Murillo Racing team did an incredible job with our Mercedes-AMG GT4, and you really couldn’t ask or a better platform, better tire or better event for our first IMSA win. I’ve been going to IMSA races with my father for probably 15 years, and I’ve always dreamed of winning in IMSA. I’m just really happy. The Murillo Racing crew really deserves this result. It’s been a long time coming, and hopefully we can follow these results. To get that monkey off our back is an incredible feeling. I’m just lost for words. My stint was exciting towards the end, and Christian did a great job to bring it home.”
 

Christian Szymczak, Driver – No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Those were the longest 40 or 50 minutes of my life. I didn’t know this race would pan out the way it did without many yellows, and that helped our car and our Mercedes-AMG GT4 platform and team shine. Once we got out front, we were just kind of able to manage and our tires were really good on wear. We did the best we could, and we just happened to do it right today. I didn’t know we could win, honestly. But now I know and no better place to win – this track is home to me.

Bryce Ward, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “I am so happy to be partners with Daniel. Actually, I have been so fortunate to be with so many great drivers, starting with Indy Dontje, then Christian Hohenadel and Alec Udell and now Daniel Morad. Who else gets the opportunity to race with so many great drivers? They have really helped me out, and Daniel has done a fantastic job working of getting on the simulator with me. This was the hardest race I have ever had to manage. I was a little disappointed with qualifying 10th because I was on a faster lap and got totally blocked on my final qualifying run and ended up spinning the car. We had to change a tire and the other three were flat spotted, so I had no choice but to run on old tires. I had nothing, no grip anywhere on the old tires and that’s the way it was. Even though I was losing a couple of seconds a lap, the team made the call to keep me in the car longer and it was a super call. We got Daniel in pitting under yellow and he started reeling off the laps, got right into it and began moving up. It is a little unfortunate we didn’t get the win, but third place is absolutely amazing, I am so happy, and let’s look forward to Detroit.”
 

Daniel Morad, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “The decision on how we started the race was probably the toughest part of the race. We had to make the call on what to do about the damaged tires from qualifying. We got to replace one and ultimately decide to replace it with an old tire to keep our strategic options open for the race and have two sets of new tires for the second half of the race. We left our options open with Bryce’s huge sacrifice, and ultimately that put us in a spot to be on the podium and even have a chance to win the race. The car was absolutely ‘mega,’ one of the best cars we have had for this race track. Huge thanks to the engineering crew and the mechanics for putting our Mercedes-AMG GT4 together, and the crew did a flawless job. At the end of the day, I am happy with it, it’s a podium, and this is where we start our season.”


Related Motorsport Articles

84,747 articles