Mercedes-AMG Team Riley, Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen Give Mercedes-AMG GT3 First Win of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Season at VIR

Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Teams Cap Competitive Weekend with First IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Season Victory at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR)

– DANVILLE, Virginia

Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports and team co-drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen executed a well-run race to score the first Mercedes-AMG GT3 win of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season on Sunday in the Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR).

Closing driver Bleekemolen took the lead in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the first and only time 47 minutes from the finish of the two-hour and 40-minute race. The move to the front came after a quick, final pit stop by the Mercedes-AMG Team Riley crew two laps before the other race leaders.

Bleekemolen returned to the race in third but, with the No. 33's tires fully up to temperature, caught and passed the second and first place competitors on successive laps, just after each returned to the race on cold tires. The No. 33 led the final 27 laps of the race, and Bleekemolen crossed the finish line .566 of a second ahead of the second-place finisher.

Bleekemolen's charge to the front in the last half of the race followed an equally strong opening stint from starting driver Keating. Rolling off from the seventh starting position, Keating stayed in touch with the lead pack in the opening stages of the race, but far enough back to steer clear of any likely trouble ahead.

Twice in his 52-minute driving stint, competitors came together or spun directly in front of Keating. On both occasions, he not only avoided getting caught up in the incidents but also improved his on-track position.

Keating moved into the top five in the final part of his stint and pitted to hand the No. 33 off to Bleekemolen from third place.

The win was the first for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in IMSA WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) competition since Keating, Bleekemolen and the No. 33 team won last year at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Sunday's victory also ensures that Keating, Bleekemolen and Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports have scored at least one race win a season since debuting with Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing in 2017.

A second Mercedes-AMG GT3 entry joined the No. 33 in leading the Michelin GT Challenge. Gar Robinson, co-driving the No. 74 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Lawson Aschenbach, led his first lap of the season when the GTD field cycled through the first round of pit stops near the end of Robinson's race-opening stint. The duo ultimately finished the race in eight place, the No. 74 team's second-best showing in a select schedule of five IMSA GTD races this season that concluded at VIR.

Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship is the next-to-last race of the 2019 season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, September 13 - 15. The two-hour and 40- minute race will be televised live on the flagship NBC network beginning at 3 p.m. EDT.

Ben Keating, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: "This has been a long time coming. We've have had a great Mercedes-AMG GT3, a great team and everything would go so well from a performance standpoint all season, but then we'd have the worst of luck. Today was almost the complete opposite. It's not an easy place to pass here at VIR, but two times today other competitors got into each other right in front of me, but the waters parted, and I got to drive straight through. Twice! We finally had some good luck today to go along with a great car and a great team."

Jeroen Bleekemolen, Driver – No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: "It's great. This team has been through a lot of bad moments this year. We've been so unlucky, so to finally get this win is great. It was an awesome race. It's about time in a way, and everything went just perfect. The guys executed perfectly. We didn't put a foot wrong the whole race. I pushed really hard on the out lap on cold tires, so we had warmer tires after the final pit stops. That was key in passing for the lead. I think we pitted two laps earlier, and that's what made it work. The leader ran a little bit wide in the Oak Tee turn and I knew it. I got him. The whole weekend was perfect. Finally."

Bill Riley, Team Owner – Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports: "We've had a tough year for sure, but the crew did a great stop. Ben and Jeroen drove perfect. I guess that's what we get. Ben had to drive through quite a few wrecks in front of him and got to the front. He handed the car over to Jeroen and the rest was up to the guys. Everybody did their job and it was a perfect race. We're always going to go for the win for sure. We'll go to Laguna with everything loaded up to win but our goal is the Michelin Endurance Cup title at Road Atlanta."

Gar Robinson, Driver – No. 74 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: "The Mercedes-AMG GT3 was great. It was the best car Lone Star has given me. I felt bad because we had such a great car and we were pretty quick. We had an issue in the pits where the pit limiter came off and we got a drive through. We were hoping we were going to get another yellow, but it didn't work out that way. Big thanks to the Lone Star Guys, they gave me a great car this weekend and showed great work all throughout the year."

Lawson Aschenbach, Driver – No. 74 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: "First and foremost, we had a really fast hot rod out there. I had a great first stint, the tires felt pretty good, and the car was really well balanced out there the whole run. I felt like I could just do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. The second stint, the track just degraded a little bit and I lost some of that speed. All in all, I'm really pleased with the speed of the Mercedes-AMG GT3, and I'm really happy with this team. This is not easy doing a limited schedule in a series like this when you've got teams that have been here for years. Everybody is doing so many things every year and have so much more experience and knowledge, but I think we showed everybody in five races that Lone Star Racing belongs in this series. These guys do a great job."

 

Array ( [domain_id] => 1 [subdomain] => www.mbca.org [sitename] => MBCA [scheme] => https [valid] => 1 [weight] => -66 [is_default] => 1 [machine_name] => benzowners_org [path] => https://www.mbca.org/ [site_grant] => 1 )