Affalterbach. For Mercedes-AMG Motorsport and its customer racing teams, the race schedule already has a very special endurance racing highlight in store in January: the long-standing Daytona 24-hour race again serves as the season opener of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and has its 60th running this year (26-30 January). In the classic endurance race in Florida, the performance and sports car brand from Affalterbach will be represented with a total of six Mercedes-AMG GT3s, more than ever before. The record contingent will be driven by a high-class driver line-up with which Mercedes-AMG Motorsport intends to add to the 1-2 achieved last year.
• 60th anniversary of the Daytona 24 Hours
• Record field with six Mercedes-AMG GT3s
• Inaugural race of the new GTD PRO class
Following last year’s historic 1-2 in the GTD class, Mercedes-AMG Motorsport is again aiming for a podium finish in the 60th running of the Daytona 24-hour race. To achieve this, it comes with the largest contingent ever to have competed in the classic at Daytona International Speedway: six Mercedes-AMG GT3s will be out to race at the legendary American oval. The line-up consists of almost the entire elite of the Mercedes-AMG drivers.
With the #57 entry by last year’s winners WINWARD Racing and drivers Lucas Auer (AUT), Philip Ellis (SUI), Mikaël Grenier (CAN) and Russell Ward (USA) as well as the #75 SunEnergy1 Racing car with drivers Kenny Habul (AUS), Raffaele Marciello (SUI), Fabian Schiller and Luca Stolz (both GER), the two successful cars from last year are present again. Moreover, the #28 Alegra Motorsports car will be raced by reigning DTM champion Maximilian Götz (GER), Linus Lundqvist (SWE), Daniel Morad (CAN) and Michael de Quesada (USA). Scott Andrews (AUS), Guy Cosmo (USA), Steven MacAleer (GBR) and Mike Skeen (USA) are the driver quartet in the #32 von Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports entry. They are all racing in the traditional Pro-Am format of the GTD class.
The newly-introduced GTD PRO class will have two Mercedes-AMG GT3s on the grid. In contrast to the GTD class, where a silver- or bronze-rated driver is mandatory in the line-up, there are no requirements as to the driver categorisation in this new category. Patrick Assenheimer (GER), Austin Cindric (USA) and Dirk Müller (GER) are alternating behind the wheel of the #15 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of the Proton USA team. Maro Engel (GER), Jules Gounon (FRA), Daniel Juncadella (ESP) and Cooper MacNeil (USA) will be driving the WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with starting number 97.
Pole position in the GTD class for WINWARD Racing
The starting grid positions for the 24-hour race were determined in a 100-minute qualification race during last weekend’s Roar before the Rolex test event. In the process, the Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Teams showed a strong performance, first and foremost last year’s winning team WINWARD Racing with the #57 car. Having started from second on the grid in the GTD class, Russell Ward soon moved up into the lead and handed the car to Lucas Auer, who went on to secure pole position in a commanding way. With four Mercedes-AMG GT3s in the top 6, the initial situation in this class is highly promising.
The two GTD PRO teams will also be starting the classic endurance race from positions with a good perspective. The #15 Proton Racing car ended up in third place of the newly-introduced category while the #97 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 was classified in fifth position. The 24-hour race at Daytona International Speedway starts on Saturday, 29th January, at 1.40 pm local time (7.40 pm CET).
The support programme also includes the season opener of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with cars from the GS class. A total of four Mercedes-AMG GT4s will be participating in the four-hour race at Daytona on Friday, 28th January at 1.35 pm local time (7.35 pm CET).
Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing: “Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing wants to be successful in every race. That is our own goal for which we are working hard every single day. Last year, we also managed to do that in a very impressive way here at Daytona with the 1-2 by WINWARD Racing and SunEnergy1 Racing. Of course, in the anniversary year of this classic, we want to be in contention for victory again. The Daytona 24 Hours is a very important race, a sort of assessment for the entire endurance racing season. I am highly confident that we have done our homework.”
Maro Engel, driver, #97 Proton USA Mercedes-AMG GT3: “For me, last year’s victory was a childhood dream coming true as Daytona is one of the world’s most famous race tracks. Now, my goal is to be successful in the new GTD PRO class together with my teammates as well. It is a very special race as it is the 60th anniversary. Even though the competition will be very strong, I am very optimistic. We have a fast and reliable car that the other manufacturers have to beat first.”