The long-awaited and expected news that Mercedes-AMG will run in next year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship became official on Wednesday, with at least two teams and three cars set to run next year.
Riley Motorsports, which had campaigned the Dodge Viper program through its GTS-R (American Le Mans Series GT and IMSA GT Le Mans) and GT3-R (IMSA GT Daytona) days, will run a two-car effort in GTD.
The longtime pairing of Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen are in the No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, and the WeatherTech Racing-backed pairing of Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette in the team’s No. 50 Mercedes. These two have tested at Daytona International Speedway this weekend.
“It’s really an honor to be aligned with AMG,” said AMG-Team Riley Motorsports Team Owner and Director Bill Riley. “The car looks so fast even standing still, and I can’t wait to start running it in anger. I was thinking the other day how many times a Mercedes-Benz has raced at Daytona and I can’t remember once. When I look at it that way, it’s pretty significant to be involved. There’s a lot of new teams in IMSA for 2017 but we are very anxious for the challenges.”
A third program, Kenny Habul’s SunEnergy1 Racing, has also been announced with a third car for IMSA. Additional customer programs would figure to run in the Pirelli World Challenge series.
Mercedes-AMG will be on-site at each race throughout the 2017 race calendar to provide comprehensive technical assistance for all Mercedes-AMG GT3 Customer Sports Teams, which run the naturally-aspirated, 6.3-liter V8 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in 2017.
The debut of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 race car for the US market is accompanied by further development of the AMG Customer Sports Program. The focal point of this program is a specifically established technology and logistics center in Mooresville, North Carolina, which ensures a fast and reliable supply of parts and service for all teams in racing in North America. For direct assistance on-site, Mercedes-AMG will send its own service and parts transporter to all IMSA and PWC races.
“Our aspiration for expanding the AMG Customer Sports Program in the US is to provide the same level of comprehensive support that we have provided to teams in Europe for several years. This requires a close collaboration with the teams in terms of know-how and race track expertise, which we are now ideally positioned for. We are very excited for a thrilling and hopefully successful season,” Jochen Bitzer, Director of AMG Customer Sports Program, said in a release.
The focus of the Detroit Monster Energy Supercross round was on the mid-pack battle while Aaron Plessinger pulled away from the field, but when he crashed after hooking his foot in the dirt, the results once more looked like we’ve come to expect, with Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac sharing the podium for the fifth time in 10 rounds.
For Sexton, Plessinger’s late-race crash was a vindication of sorts. Several times already this season, Sexton has crashed while battling for the lead and the points that has cost him keeps him sporting the red plate. He lost points in Detroit for a different reason, however.
Sexton was allowed to keep the win, but was penalized seven points for jumping in a red cross section of the course. As a result, he dropped four points to Webb and two to Tomac. Sexton is now 17 points behind Webb in the championship hunt.
One week after snatching the red plate from Tomac for the first time in 2023, Webb stretched his advantage by two. With his second-place finish, Webb holds a three-point lead over Tomac, which essentially means both riders control their fate in the coming weeks. Webb continues to have a sweep of the top five this season with his sixth consecutive podium.
Coming off his worst finish of the season, Tomac rebounded to finish third. His eighth-place result last week was partially attributed to a stiff neck that hindered him in traffic and he still suffered some of those same effects in Detroit. Before Plessinger’s crash, he was destined to be the only rider in the three-man title scrum to finish off the podium in Detroit.
It is surprising what one position can do for one’s confidence.
Justin Barcia scored his fourth top-five of the season. He was part of the exciting four-man battle that dominated the middle stages of the race before Sexton and Webb gained a little separation. Finishing less than three seconds behind Tomac, he kept that rider honest for the entire race.
Coming off his first win of the season, Ken Roczen finished fifth. It was his seventh top-five of the season and it elevated him to fifth in the standings.
Hunter Lawrence tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 wins each after another dominating ride in the Detroit Supercross race and the results in the points continue to widen. With his fifth win in six rounds and a worst finish of third, Lawrence now has a 35-point advantage over Nate Thrasher with four rounds remaining. Finishes of 14th or better in the final four mains will give him his first 250 championship.
Jett will have an opportunity to retake his wins’ lead as Supercross heads west for the next two rounds in Seattle and Glendale, Arizona.
Nate Thrasher earned his third second-place finish of the season with a gap of 7.6 seconds to Lawrence. He won the overall in Arlington earlier this season, but a 15th-place finish in the opening round in Houston and 10th in Daytona hurts his championship chances.
Haiden Deegan scored his second podium and fourth top-five in six rounds of his young career. On his way to that finish, he rode aggressively against his teammate Jordon Smith in the heat race. Fans are getting a glimpse of what his on-track personality might be.
Jeremy Martin continues to be the model of consistency. He has not finished worse than sixth or better than fourth in six rounds now and that has allowed him to close to within two points of third in the 250 East championship standings.
Max Anstie entered the race weekend second in the points, but a hard crash in heavy traffic early in the main forced him to retire after two laps. Earning only one point for the round, he plummeted to fifth in the standings.
The news was worse for Smith, who was dropped out of the top nine in his heat after the altercation with Deegan and failed to advance through the LCQ. In the last chance race, he stalled his engine and had to mount a determined charge. He got only as high as seventh in that race after crashing while attempting to make a pass on fourth-place Jack Chambers.