Eight Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in two different IMSA racing series combined to log nearly 3,500 miles on Daytona International Speedway (DIS) this weekend in preparation for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 23 – 26.
The three days of testing on the 3.56-mile DIS road course had Mercedes-AMG customer racing competitors in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge turn their first official laps of the 2020 season.
Riley Motorsports tested a new-for-2020 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo in preparation for its IMSA WeatherTech Championship and Rolex 24 debut with team drivers Gar Robinson, Lawson Aschenbach, Ben Keating and Felipe Fraga.
In the first North American appearance for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, the Riley team’s No. 74 entry completed 158 trouble-free laps in seven practice sessions over the three days of the Roar test. In addition, Keating ended up eighth in the GT Daytona (GTD) class in the No. 74 after Saturday’s pre-race qualifying session.
Robinson and Aschenbach are the full-season co-drivers in the No. 74 and will be joined by Keating in the four-race IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, which begins with the Rolex 24, January 25 – 26. Fraga joins the team as a fourth driver for the Daytona opener.
Seven Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams tested at the Roar in preparation for the four-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race taking place January 24.
The Mercedes-AMG GT4 competes in the top-level Grand Sports (GS) class in which Mercedes-AMG won the GS manufacturer championship last year.
The Roar test was paced early by the No. 33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 that set the fastest lap in the first three of the weekend’s six Michelin Pilot Challenge practice sessions.
Winward’s sister No. 57 Mercedes-AMG GT4 was on equal pace with co-drivers Bryce Ward and Daytona-debuting Philip Ellis, running second fastest to the No. 33 in two of the first three sessions.
Longtime teammates Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss also showed to-three pace throughout the weekend in the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4. The No. 56 was third fastest overall in both the Saturday afternoon and test-ending Sunday afternoon session.
Tim Probert and Justin Piscitell shared the Murillo team’s similar No. 65 Mercedes-AMG GT4 at the Roar test.
The No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Jim Cox and Dylan Murry closed out the Roar test with a weekend best fifth-place overall GS time in Sunday’s final session. Jeroen Bleekemolen co-drives with Cox and Murry in the Daytona opener.
Additional Mercedes-AMG customer racing teams testing in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge at the Roar included the debuting No. 14 Autometrics Bluff City Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Anton Dias Perera, Cory Friedman and Dan Clarke and the No. 90 RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Corey Lewis and Sheena Monk.
Gar Robinson, Driver – No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “When you get most new race cars, typically in the past for me it has been kind of like when you get a brand new really bad puppy. You have to train it. It makes a mess on the floor – that’s the luck I have had in the past with new race cars – but I am pretty impressed with the Mercedes-AMG GT3. We didn’t have to do anything, it is really nice, and I can get used to this.
I have never failed to get on the podium with this team. If everyone does all of their chores and all of the homework we need to do – and I am sure we all will – we stand a pretty good chance, but it’s a really talented field here. It’s IMSA. It’s the only real one. The big one. I am really excited, and we will see what happens in a few weeks.”
Lawson Aschenbach, Driver – No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “First and foremost, I think it’s a testament to Mercedes-AMG to be able to show up with a brand new car that has never turned a lap and get through the test without a single issue. That alone is a feat in itself. We learned a lot, and fortunately for us this Mercedes-AMG GT3 is improved but not that much different from the other.
That gives us a lot of confidence with setup work and knowing the changes that we want to make to get things better, but there is no doubt we have a lot of work to do. The GTD class is by far the most competitive in the series. Anytime you can get on the GTD podium this year is going to be a major accomplishments. I am excited to get back to Daytona and see if we can get this thing going for the Rolex 24 hour.”