George Kurtz and the No. 04 CrowdStrike Racing by Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 Team Clinch 2022 GT America Championships with Weekend Sweep at Sebring International Raceway
Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Teams secured three season championships, a trio of race wins and six total podium finishes in a successful weekend of SRO Motorsports America competition across three racing series at Sebring International Raceway. The highlight was a weekend sweep of both 40-minute GT America powered by AWS races Saturday and Sunday that saw George Kurtz and the No. 04 CrowdStrike Racing by Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 team seal the 2022 GT America driver, team and manufacturer championships after Saturday’s first victory. The weekend’s other race winner was the No. 34 Conquest Racing/JMF Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Michai Stephens and Gavin Sanders which took advantage of a last lap mechanical failure on the race leader’s car to steal the team’s second Pirelli GT4 America victory of the season.
The winning Sebring weekend for Kurtz and the No. 04 team saw them sweep a GT America doubleheader for the third time this season. Kurtz and his Riley Mercedes-AMG GT3 teammates also did the double at Watkins Glen International and VIRginia International Raceway earlier this season.
Along with additional GT America wins in the season-opening event in St. Petersburg and last month at Road America, Kurtz’s eight race wins in the year’s first 14 races were the main factor in clinching the crown before next month’s season-ending race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Kurtz and the No. 04 Riley team nearly single-handedly secured the GT America manufacturer championship for Mercedes-AMG. Following a second-place finish by Scott Smithson in the No. 08 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the first race of the St. Petersburg opener, Kurtz and the No. 04 earned Mercedes-AMG’s manufacturer championship points as the highest finisher in the following 13-straight races.
Stephens and Sanders appeared in line for a second-place finish in Saturday’s Pirelli GT4 race but closing driver Sanders was quick to pounce when the race leader slowed just as the checkered flag was about to be waved. Sanders dashed by for the win and, combined with a second-place Silver-class finish from the back of the field in Sunday’s race, the No. 34 team and drivers maintain a slim but mathematical chance of winning the top championship in the GT4 series at Indianapolis.
Other top-three showings over the two days of racing at Sebring were turned in by Kurtz and his co-driver Colin Braun who added to a strong weekend for the No. 04 team with a second-place Pro-Am class finish in Saturday’s 90-minute GT World Challenge race.
Heading into the double-points GT World Challenge finale at Indy, Kurtz and Braun are locked in a tight battle for the championship in that series. Kurtz, Braun and the No. 04 team trail the championship leader by 14 points and are one point clear of the third-place competitor.
The Sebring weekend’s final podium player was the No. 34’s sister entry, the No. 35 Conquest Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4, that broke through for the team’s best finish of the season. Co-drivers Custodio Toledo and Paulo Carcasci finished second in the Pirelli GT4 Am-class after missing most of Friday’s practice sessions due to a technical issue that required the Conquest team to replace the No. 35’s engine.
Rebounding from the race-weekend repair, Toledo and Carcasci crossed the finish line a solid 14th overall, just over five seconds and one position behind the Am-class race winner.
Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in SRO Motorsports America competition is the season-ending race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, October 6 – 9.
George Kurtz, Driver – No. 04 CrowdStrike Racing by Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It's fantastic for the CrowdStrike Riley team and a great win for Mercedes-AMG. I couldn't be happier with the performance this year. The pressure in GT America is off, so it's a matter of doing the best we can in collecting more podiums, trophies and hopefully some wins at Indianapolis. I couldn't be more excited. It's great to clinch the GT America championship with more races to go. We're going for more wins! Sebring had two great wins from a great team and great car. I had to pass for the lead in both races, but it was clean racing by everyone there. In GT World Challenge, we gave it our all in both tough races. You have to hand it to all the competitors. It's so tough. Unless someone makes a bobble, it's really hard to make a pass. We came in the pits bow to stern in Saturday's race and left that way. It's good points for us at Sebring, and anything can happen until the end of a close championship.”
Colin Braun, Driver – No. 04 CrowdStrike Racing by Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “George did a great job all weekend. We had a great pit stop from the CrowdStrike Riley guys on Saturday. We came in nose-to-tail and left nose-to-tail. It gets down to the point where you're just waiting for someone to make a mistake because of the competitiveness of this class and how tight it is. You're waiting for something to happen and keeping the pressure on. We were closer and closer and finished close. I'm proud of the guys. They did a super-good job. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 was good on tire wear but it wasn't quite enough to make that lunge move I needed to get past. All in all, it's good for the points and gives us some good confidence going to Indy.”
Michai Stephens, Driver – No. 34 Conquest Racing/JMF Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “I was absolutely elated to hear Gavin come on the radio with such joy when we won on Saturday. It's a testament to the team, a testament to the Mercedes-AMG brand itself, and we just try to feed off of one another and the opportunities that we have. We will just keep pressing as the lessons bring it on. There are always little moments along a weekend that either will distract you or motivate you, and this time around it was nice we had the motivation we needed and the hope that the team deserves at Conquest Racing and JMF Motorsports. Sunday's run through the field felt just incredible and, above all, JMF Motorsports, Conquest Racing and the Mercedes-AMG GT4 continue to keep us in the fight through and through. It's a tremendous privilege to learn about who we are through what we love.”
Gavin Sanders, Driver – No. 34 Conquest Racing/JMF Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “When we crossed the line on Saturday, I just asked the crew immediately: ‘did we just win?’ Honestly, I was just as confused as probably everybody else was about what was happening. But we never give up and no matter how high the mountain, we will climb it as a family more or less. At the end of the day, we are going to make the most of all the opportunities that come our way. Sunday was definitely a challenge, but the team helps guide us through the field more than it appears, and at the end of the day that is who we have to give the credit to. It was definitely a very busy first couple of laps, but it wasn't so bad. The goal coming into this season, and this race, is that if we weren't in P1 we wanted to be sure to take it down to the wire at the finale. We are going to take it to them as best we can, and there is no better car, team and group of people to all come together and make it happen.”
Custodio Toledo, Driver – No. 35 Conquest Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: "You never quit. Changing an engine is never an easy thing, the Mercedes-AMG engineers helped us do that with our team, and this is the way you want to finish a weekend. Second place, our first podium and my first season racing any car in anything. I am so happy, and I want to thank my coach and co-driver Paulo Carcasci. This was also my Sebring debut and I love the track! It is a challenging track, but I think it is a driver's track, so that is what you want. Our Mercedes-AMG GT4 was well balanced all weekend."