March 23, 2017 Comments (0) Views: 2216 Touring Cars

Mercedes-AMG GT3 in first and third place in Sebring 12-hour race in GTD class

Mercedes-AMG Motorsport scores its maiden win in its second outing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship: after third place in the IMSA debut during the 24-hour race at Daytona, Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports now wins the GTD class in the Sebring 12-hour race. Thus, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is on the podium as the winner in the premier North-American sports car series for the first time. Drivers in the winning car from Affalterbach were Mario Farnbacher (GER), Jeroen Bleekemolen (NED) and Ben Keating (USA). Third place in class for Customer Racing team SunEnergy1 with Tristan Vautier (FRA), Boris Said (USA) and Kenny Habul (AUS) rounded out the success.

Three Mercedes-AMG GT3 took part in the 65th running of the classic North-American endurance race. Thus, they also continued the still fresh success story in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. After third place in the season opener at Daytona, Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports also managed to convince at Sebring: in the GTD class, that had the strongest entry in the field with 21 cars, the team from the US was first across the finish line after 325 laps and thus scored the maiden win in the second race already.

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Drivers of the winning Mercedes-AMG GT3 #33 were Mario Farnbacher, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating, who started the race from seventh place on the grid. In ideal weather conditions, they posted consistently fast lap times and quickly worked their way up through the field. After two hours, the team moved up into the lead of the GTD class for the first time. Later on, the trio and the entire crew kept on putting in a faultless performance and often pulled clear from its opponents while in the lead. Only a full-course yellow and the final pit stops with one hour remaining mixed up positions at the front. Final driver Jeroen Bleekemolen kept cool, showed a great overtaking move from second place with 50 minutes remaining, extended his lead and went on to claim the maiden win, 8.667 seconds ahead of the second-placed car. In the overall classification, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 #33 ended up in 16th place from 46 competitors.

Already in qualifying, Customer Racing Team SunEnergy1 with starting number 75 made it clear how well the Mercedes-AMG GT3 did at the 6.019 kilometres long track in Florida. Tristan Vautier (FRA) established a new qualifying record and with his lap time of 1m59.738s, he was the only driver from the GTD class to post a lap time of under two minutes. However, pole position went away due to an unplanned repair in warm-up prior to the race, so that the car had to start from the back of the field. In the race, Tristan Vautier, Boris Said (USA) and Kenny Habul (AUS) then lost more time following contact with rivals. Nevertheless, the three worked their way up over and over again. The trio showed up in the top three for the first time with one hour remaining. The thrilling final lap decided the battle for the podium: final driver Tristan Vautier overtook the opponent in front of him and drove the #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3 across the finish line in third place in class.

The #50 Riley Motorsports – WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 didn’t have any luck in the race: Cooper MacNeil, Gunnar Jeannette (both USA) and Shane van Gisbergen (NZL) started the race from eighth place. Like the #33 sister car, the US-based team initially made up ground and established itself in the front part of the field. A puncture and consequential damage blew any chances of a podium finish and led to the premature retirement.

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