Mercedes-AMG to Debut in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship

Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) and Mercedes-AMG today confirmed a multiple-car, customer racing program that will bring the manufacturer into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for the first time beginning with the 2017 season. Mercedes-AMG GT3 race cars will be powered by naturally aspirated, 6.3-liter V8 engines and will compete in the GT Daytona (GTD) class.“We are thrilled to see the three-pointed star compete in North America’s premier endurance racing series in 2017,” said MBUSA president Dietmar Exler. “Our Mercedes-AMG race car has already proven itself in worldwide competition, and should quickly become a fan favorite. We are very excited about our prospects for the 2017 racing season.”Mercedes-AMG becomes the eighth manufacturer in the WeatherTech Championship GTD class, which uses FIA GT3 technical regulations. Mercedes-AMG joins Acura and Lexus as GTD programs that will debut in 2017, while Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari and BMW are expected to continue their participation in the class. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 race car is based on the Mercedes-AMG GT S road car.“The WeatherTech Championship – and especially the GTD class – is where manufacturers have the opportunity to race what they sell,” said IMSA president Scott Atherton. “The addition of Mercedes-AMG to our highly competitive lineup is extremely significant, as it brings another iconic, premium brand into IMSA. It is the most recent validation of the relevance of this motorsports platform and truly an honor to welcome Mercedes-AMG to IMSA as an Official Automotive Partner and competitor in the WeatherTech Championship for the first time in 2017.”The manufacturer – which will provide team support via its Mercedes-AMG Customer Sports Program – confirmed at least three race cars for the 2017 season. A pair of entries will come from Riley Motorsports under the watchful eye of team owner/director, Bill Riley.“It’s really an honor to be aligned with AMG,” Riley said. “The car looks so fast even standing still, and I can’t wait to start running it in anger. I was thinking the other day how many times a Mercedes-Benz has raced at Daytona and I can’t remember once. When I look at it that way, it’s pretty significant to be involved.”The No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports entry will be co-driven by Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen, and the No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 will be shared by co-drivers Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette. MacNeil and Jeannette got their first seat time in the car in a late September test at Germany’s famed Hockenheim circuit.“When I first drove the Mercedes at Hockenheim in Germany, I was blown away,” MacNeil said. “I could tell within the first three corners that the car was so well balanced and was an absolute dream to drive.“I'm really looking forward to bringing the new car to IMSA and seeing how it matches up against the other cars. I think we should fare well. Riley has been a proven team for many years and it will be great to team up with them. They know how to manage their program very well and have done a great job with the Viper program over the past couple of years.”“This appears to me to be the perfect combination of one of the best GT3 cars in the world, one of the best endurance racing teams in the world and a great group of drivers,” Keating added. “This should be a very strong package for 2017. How could I not be excited?”A third team, SunEnergy1 Racing, led by owner/driver Kenny Habul, also was confirmed to campaign a Mercedes AMG GT3 in the 2017 WeatherTech Championship. Additional teams are expected prior to the Rolex 24 At Daytona, which opens the season on Jan. 28-29, 2017.While the 2017 season marks the first in the WeatherTech Championship for the Mercedes-AMG GT3, the car already has achieved considerable success in other major events and championships around the world, including a sweep of the top four positions in the prestigious Nürburgring 24 in Germany last May.“North America is traditionally a very important market for Mercedes-AMG and the enthusiasm for our performance vehicles is tremendous,” said Tobias Moers, Chairman of the Board of Management for Mercedes-AMG. “The high demand for the Mercedes-AMG GT3, particularly after the legendary 1-2-3-4 finish at this year’s 24-hour race at the Nürburgring, has inspired us to establish a Customer Sports Program in the U.S. I’m very much looking forward to cooperating with all of the teams and wish them success in the upcoming season.”