Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams secured a pair of fourth place IMSA race finishes this weekend in WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Michelin Pilot Challenge series competition at Sebring International Raceway.
The No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, co-driven by Gar Robinson and Lawson Aschenbach, closed in on the third-place competitor when the checkered flag flew in Saturday’s WeatherTech Championship race. In Friday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge race, a thunderstorm ended the race 15 minutes early and took away a likely charge to a podium finish by Russell Ward and Indy Dontje in the No. 4 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4.
Saturday’s fourth-place result in the two-hour, 40-minute WeatherTech race was the best of the season for the No. 74 team and began with Robinson’s strong opening stint. Starting sixth on the grid, Robinson moved to fifth at the race start and then joined the rest of the GTD field in an early pit stop under caution.
Quick work by the Riley Motorsports crew put Robinson back in the race in third and he battled in the lead pack throughout his more than one-hour stint. After briefly dropping to fourth, Robinson regained third by the time he pitted to hand over to Aschenbach 67 minutes into the race.
Another top stop by the Riley team kept Aschenbach in the top four and in close formation with the other race leaders. Pitting for the final time with little under an hour remaining, Aschenbach was steadily gaining on the third-place competitor in the race’s final 30 minutes but ultimately ran out of time to make a move before the checkered flag.
Friday’s two-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race also saw a late podium charge cut short when a rainstorm interrupted the event for the second and final time. After a lengthy delay for rain and lightening just 11 minutes into the race, the second thunderstorm 15 minutes from the finish forced race officials to throw the checkered flag early.
Indy Dontje was at the wheel of the No. 4 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 and rapidly closing on the top-three competitors when the race was called.
Dontje’s run to the front came after he and starting co-driver Russell Ward spent the majority of the race recovering from a lap one incident.
Starting the race fourth, Ward battled with the No. 35 Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Jim Cox, who rolled off from the fifth
starting spot, from the drop of the green flag. Cox edged by Ward as the field charged into turn one only to see the two competitors come together two corners later.
Both Ward and Cox were able to continue but not before the majority of the field passed while their cars were momentarily stopped at turn three.
From there, both teams focused on rebounding from the incident for the rest of the race.
Ward picked up several positions on the track while a fast pit stop by the Winward crew for the driver change to Dontje at the halfway point put the No. 4 back in the race in the top five. Dontje continued the charge back to the front in the final stages of the race but settled for fourth when the race ended early.
After falling to 23rd place, Cox picked up several positions before handing the No. 35 over to co-driver Dylan Murry for the run to the finish. Murry began a charge of his own through the field, setting the fastest Grand Sports (GS) class race lap while climbing back into the top-10 for a ninth-place finish.
The No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss made it three Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams in the top-10. After running as high as third during Mosing’s race-opening stint, Foss was in sixth place and ready to make a move of his own when the race was stopped. The sixth place Sebring result made up for a Daytona opener that saw the No. 56 battle in the lead pack throughout the race, only to drop from contention near the end.
Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge is the Road America race weekend in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, July 31 – August 2.
Lawson Aschenbach, Driver – No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I think Gar absolutely had his best drive in a GT3 car Saturday. He was right there with everybody, didn’t lose a position and even gained a couple in the beginning. He was fast, consistent and kept the car clean. That’s the number one priority at the beginning of the race, and he knocked it out of the park. He started sixth and pitted for our driver change from third. I am really proud of him and he just keeps getting better and better.
The track conditions were actually quite different for the race than we had all weekend. We had a much better long-run car than short run, and at the end there with a couple more laps I think we could have got on the podium. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is very consistent, particularly at a track like Sebring that is very difficult on a car and the driver. I was really pleased with the performance of the car, and hopefully we can make it three finishing positions more in the next race at Road America.”