Aschenbach, Robinson Earn 11th Place Finish at the Prestigious Rolex 24 Hours

Riley Motorsports and Team Drivers Gar Robinson, Lawson Aschenbach, Ben Keating and Felipe Fraga persevered to the checkered flag this weekend in the Rolex 24 At Daytona to secure a hard-earned race finish at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) for the new Mercedes-AMG GT3 in its North American debut.

Robinson drove the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 across the finish line early Sunday afternoon in 11th place in a competitive GT Daytona (GTD) field.

The result followed a solid rebound by the Riley Motorsports team and drivers after a minor electronic failure Sunday morning sent the No. 74 to the garage.

Race starting driver Robinson and Keating handled most of the driving on Saturday while Fraga and Aschenbach stepped in for the majority of the nighttime stints. Aschenbach moved up to eighth in the early Sunday morning hours and handed off to Fraga who continued the overnight charge to sixth and then fifth place.

Fraga took to the pits for a scheduled stop at daybreak and the No. 74 came to a halt on pit lane. Quick work by the experienced Riley crew minimized the down time, and the Mercedes-AMG GT3 was soon back in the race for a trouble-free run to the finish.

Robinson and Aschenbach are the new full-season drivers for Riley Motorsports. They will be joined in the No. 74 Mercedes-AMG GT3 by Keating in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup this year.

The four-race Michelin Endurance Cup is a series within the overall WeatherTech Championship that awards the top performers in the season’s four endurance races, starting with this weekend’s Rolex 24.

In 2019, Riley Motorsports, team co-drivers Keating, Fraga and Jeroen Bleekemolen, as well as Mercedes-AMG, won the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup GT Daytona (GTD) team, driver and manufacturer championships for the third-straight year.

Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway, March 18 – 21. The Sebring race is Round 2 of both the 2020 WeatherTech Championship and the Michelin Endurance Cup.

Stefan Wendl, Head of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing: “For us, the IMSA season opener was a weekend with highs and lows. With the triple victory for our Mercedes-AMG GT4, we had a perfect start of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. However, we can’t be satisfied with the performance of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the 24-hour race. The preparation stage for the race was very brief, and we couldn’t fully keep up with the pace of the top-three in the GTD class. 

Thanks to a consistent drive and a clever strategy, Riley Motorsports and its driver quartet in the new configuration temporarily moved up as high as fifth place and showed the potential of the new Mercedes-AMG GT3. When we can also get to the point where we were last year with the balancing of the new Mercedes-AMG GT3, the results will follow as well. We still have some work ahead of us, but we are optimistically looking forward to the next races. We will be attacking again at Sebring!”

Gar Robinson, Driver – No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Today showed just how much respect this race deserves. A year ago, we came to the Rolex Roar test and wondered ‘how in the world do we get into this paddock, how do we get into this race?’ 

Thinking a year later from that point, it was one of my wildest dreams to have my car in this race. My Dad did it in the past, I grew up at this race and have been raised around some of the best people at this race. This is, in my world, the race, and we raced it to the very end. 

I’m exhausted, but my last stint was one of my favorites. It just felt great. The balance and drivability of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is great. This is still kind of a new car and new class to me. I am still learning, but Lawson, Ben and Felipe all have been teaching me a lot.”

Lawson Aschenbach, Driver – No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I definitely think this is something we can build on. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is really a great car. We had a shot at a top-five, things were kind of falling our way, and we were making up plenty of time. The car has been fantastic all weekend, but it is still very new to us. There’s a lot of unknowns going into a race like this. 

It is kind of a testament to Mercedes-AMG and all of the work they do, because when you come out with a brand new car, just test it once, and then come to Daytona and have the kind of race we did, I am pretty happy with that. Hopefully we can build on this, get to Sebring, make a few adjustments, find a little more speed, and see if we can get a win.”

Ben Keating, Driver – No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “This is an evolution and a brand-new car from Mercedes-AMG, and I think we still have some sorting to do with the new car.

It looks the same but it’s quite different. We can run a 5-millimeter lower ride height this year and have more downforce, but all our setups are just different. We came here thinking ‘we got this’ but we were really chasing our tail for a big portion of it. We have some learning to do and we will get it sorted out before Sebring.”

Felipe Fraga, Driver – No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Up to our technical problem, it had been a very good race for us. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 was good to drive. 

During the night, we were around fifth, sixth place and perhaps could even have been in contention for a podium finish in the end. It really is too bad that we dropped back. It was a tough race. The field was closely together.”

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