July 7, 2018 —
Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams turned in a trio of season-best performances in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series competition Saturday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
The competitive showing included the first pole and podium finish for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in IMSA Continental Tire series competition and a season-best fourth-place Mercedes-AMG GT3 qualifying effort for Ben Keating and Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class.
Alexandre Premat and the No. 92 Ramsey Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 team set the day’s first milestone Saturday morning by winning the pole in qualifying for that afternoon’s IMSA Continental Tire series two-hour race. Premat then led the majority of the race’s opening hour before handing off to teammate Mark Ramsey at the halfway point. Ramsey ran competitively in only his fifth race start in the IMSA Continental Tire series and brought the No. 92 to the finish in 14th place.
The milestone podium result was a third-place showing by Russell Ward and Damien Faulkner in the No. 33 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4. After starting driver Ward kept the No. 33 in lead-pack contention throughout his race-opening stint, Faulkner took over in a pit stop late in hour one and quickly zeroed in on the front runners.
A strategy call by the Winward/HTP crew brought the No. 33 to the pits under caution for a second time with 50 minutes to go, giving Faulkner a fresh set of Continentals and enough fuel to charge to the finish. He rejoined in fourth and pulled off the pass for third as he crossed under the starter’s stand on the front straight to take the white flag.
“I have been with these guys now for the second full season and with started last year with a bang,’ said Faulkner. “We were fortunate to get third in our Daytona debut in 2017 but haven’t had another podium until today. We have been working really hard, made the switch to the Mercedes-AMG GT4, and Russell and I have just been chipping away.”
Saturday’s Continental Tire series race also saw the debut of Shining Star Motorsport by Atlantic Racing Team, a Canadian team that finished its first race in its No. 6 Mercedes-AMG GT4 with co-drivers Danny Kok and Phil Holtrust.
In the top-level IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Keating, the only driver to qualify the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the 2018 season, relied on a perfect off-the-trailer setup by the Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports crew for his best qualifying result in two seasons of competition in the Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Keating will take the green flag for Sunday’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix IMSA WeatherTech Championship race from the outside of row two while co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen will later take over and bring the No. 33 to the finish.
“I feel very happy about qualifying fourth, the first ‘am’ in qualifying, and the three guys in front of me are all pro drivers,” Keating said. “At some point, their ‘am’ co-drivers will have to get in and they will compete against Jeroen when he is in our car. The Mercedes-AMG Team Riley crew really nailed the setup. We haven’t changed anything. We nailed it better than I ever remember it with this car.
Round 6 of 11 GT Daytona (GTD) races on the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech Championship schedule, Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix is scheduled to start at 2:05 p.m. EDT. The race will be preceded by a 20-minute final warmup session at 9:50 a.m. EDT.
The Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) on a same-day delayed basis beginning at 4 p.m. EDT and will be carried live by IMSA Radio on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio. International viewers can watch live streaming of the race on IMSA.tv.