Above: This Week’s Car Review – 2020 Toyota Landcruiser Sahara
Motorsport Customer Racing teams across four different racing series will compete in a busy schedule of three- consecutive events in the first weekends of July, as North American sports car racing returns to competition following an industry-wide pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The schedule begins this Fourth of July Saturday night with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Daytona International Speedway. The SRO GT World Challenge America Presented by AWS and Pirelli GT4 America series return to competition next weekend, July 9 – 12, at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) while the IMSA WeatherTech Championship joins the returning IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series, July 16 – 18, at Sebring International Raceway.
All three race weekends are new or rescheduled events following a series of race cancellations or postponements since the second week of March. The IMSA races Saturday night at Daytona and in two weeks at Sebring are new events replacing cancelled races. The SRO VIR weekend was rescheduled from its original date of June 5 – 7.
More GayCarBoys Stories
- Mercedes Benz Online Concours
- All New 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
- New Mercedes Benz AMG CLA 35 4Matic Coupe
- Mercedes Benz E400 Video Road test and review
- Mercedes Benz E400 Cabriolet 2018 HOW TO videos here
- 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet Review
The No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 of co-drivers Gar Robinson and Lawson Aschenbach will be the first team to carry the Mercedes-AMG flag back into U.S. competition in Saturday night’s WeatherTech 240 At Daytona.
The two-hour, 40-minute race on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course restarts the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech Championship, following a five-month hiatus due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Live coverage of the evening race begins this Saturday, July 4, at 6 p.m. EDT on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN).
The WeatherTech 240 is just the second race of the 2020 IMSA season and brings the series back to where it started at the “World Center of Racing” with the Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 25 – 26.
The Rolex 24 marked the IMSA WeatherTech debut of champion drivers Robinson and Aschenbach with Riley Motorsports. The team moved into top-five contention in the 24-hour race early Sunday morning when a minor electrical malfunction dropped them to an eventual 11th place finish in a competitive GT Daytona (GTD) field.
The SRO Motorsports Group America race weekend at VIR marks the return of both the GT World Challenge America Presented by AWS and the Pirelli GT4 America series to competition for the first time in more than four months. The only previous race weekend in the series for 2020 was the March 6 – 8 events at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Texas.
Three Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams will compete at VIR in the weekend’s featured GT World Challenge America Saturday and Sunday doubleheader.
The two-car DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 team seeks repeat double- podium weekends this season and at VIR.
In March’s COTA opener, George Kurtz and Colin Braun co-drove the No. 04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to a pair of third place overall and second-place Pro-Am class finishes in each of the weekend’s 90-minute races.
The strong results have Kurtz and Braun second in the GT Pro-Am driver championship standings as the series returns to action with live coverage of both races on the CBS Sports Network (CBSSN). Round one coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, July 11, with the weekend’s second and final 90-minute race live on CBSSN at 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 12.
Last year’s DXDT double podium at VIR started with a third-place Pro-Am finish in Saturday’s first race by David Askew and Ryan Dalziel co-driving the No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. The next day, Kurtz and Braun brought the No. 04 across the finish line second in Pro-Am.
The third Mercedes-AMG GT3 entry set for VIR is from Winward Racing, which debuted in the top-tier GT World Challenge division at COTA. Full- season driver Russell Ward shares the No. 33 Winward Racing Mercedes- AMG GT3 at VIR with Kris Wilson, a one-race substitute for Bryce Ward, the regular full-season co-driver and Russell Ward’s father.
The Mercedes-AMG GT4 competes in Pirelli GT4 America and features both the single-driver Sprint championship and two-driver SprintX division. Each category will run the standard doubleheader format at VIR in addition to a third Sunday sprint for each division to make up for races cancelled in the last few months.
Wilson is set for double duty at VIR as his Mercedes-AMG GT3 ride with Winward will be in addition to his full-season SprintX debut with co-driver John Allen in the No. 16 Rearden Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4. Pro-Am GT4 championship contenders last year, Allen and Wilson have made the switch to both the Mercedes-AMG GT4 and Rearden for 2020.
Another Mercedes-AMG GT4 debut in the Pirelli series comes from Chris Gumprecht driving his own No. 79 CG Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the weekend’s Sprint races.
The third and final weekend of competition in July’s return to racing is the IMSA event at Sebring, July 16 – 18, which will see Mercedes-AMG GT4 competitors in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge restart their series alongside the featured IMSA WeatherTech Championship race.
Robinson and Aschenbach return that weekend as the most recent GTD race winners on the legendary Sebring circuit. In their first race with Riley Motorsports, the No. 74 Mercedes-AMG GT3 co-drivers led a team and Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer racing win sweep of last November’s Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore four-hour race at Sebring.
No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 co-drivers Jim Cox and Dylan Murry secured a dominant victory in the GT4 class, and joined Robinson and Aschenbach on the winner’s podium at the Encore.
Cox and Murry return to Sebring as the most recent GT4 race winners at the track and in the 2020 Michelin Pilot Challenge series. Along with endurance race teammate Jeroen Bleekemolen, Cox, Murry and the No. 35 team won January’s season-opening four-hour at Daytona, the only Michelin Pilot Challenge race run thus far in 2020.
The No. 35 team’s Daytona victory anchored the first 1-2-3 finish for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in worldwide competition. The winners were followed across the finish line by the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of co-drivers Bryce Ward and Philip Ellis and the team’s sister No. 4 entry of Russell Ward and Indy Dontje.
The Winward team and drivers look for more success at Sebring, as does the two-car Mercedes-AMG GT4 effort from Murillo Racing.
The No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss ran in tight formation up front with the Riley and Winward cars at Daytona, only to drop from contention late in the race.
Mosing and Foss look to rebound at Sebring where they will compete alongside the sister No. 65 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 entry of Brent Mosing and Tim Probert.
Sebring’s featured IMSA WeatherTech Championship race airs live on NBCSN Saturday, July 18 at 5:30 p.m. EDT.
Driver – No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes- AMG GT3: “I can’t tell you how excited I am to get back racing, but the sadness and losses people were dealt over the last few months are not lost on me. My thoughts are with anyone affected by the virus and I’m wishing everyone the best during these tough times. I hope that people will find excitement and happiness watching our race and feel the entire motorsports community is ready to hear the engines fire again. Let’s go racing! I applaud IMSA and NASCAR on their dedication to making sure our return to racing is safe. Gar and I are always pushing to get the maximum out of ourselves and the Mercedes-AMG GT3, and we know Riley Motorsports is always at the top of their game. We have some unfinished business from the Rolex 24 and will be pushing hard to step onto the podium. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is hands down one of the best handling GT3 cars on the market. It has the perfect balance of downforce, power and handling. Downforce is a very important aspect of Daytona due to the heavy braking zones and the high-speed bus-stop corner. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 has plenty of stability which gives you the confidence to attack these sections of the track.”
Driver – No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “DXDT is ready to go racing at VIR next week! It’s been a long time since our last race at COTA in March, and it’s been difficult for many of our crew and their families. It’s the nature of our sport that many personnel split their time across different series. They are not full-time with any one team, and as such need to be at the track to make a living. For them it’s been tough, although we’ve tried to stay busy with testing and mechanical work. So far, our team has weathered the storm. We’ve been working hard on the equipment and with the crew and we are ready. George Kurtz and Colin Brawn had a great weekend at COTA and DXDT looks to continue where we left off. Yes, VIR has been strong for the Mercedes- AMG GT3, but the last couple years we’ve had glitches that have taken us out and cost us podiums. We had a great test at VIR less than a month ago and we were pleased with the pace.”
Driver – No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “To say it has been a difficult few months for everyone globally would be an understatement. So, first and foremost, I am hoping that everyone continues to be safe and take this pandemic seriously and listen to guidelines and follow other precautions. My hope is that getting back to racing can give many people something to smile about and enjoy some live competition again. From my side, I can’t wait to get back into the DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 and restart the season. Seems like forever since COTA. Thankfully, we managed to get some practice in over the last few weeks and shake off the cobwebs before heading to VIR. It’s a great track for the Mercedes-AMG GT3, I have managed to score a couple of wins there in the past, so hopefully David and I can repeat that success in 2020.”
Driver – No. 04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I am extremely excited to get back to the racetrack, as I know all of us in the racing world are. We are certainly hoping to provide some entertainment and excitement for all in this extremely tough time. George and I had a great result at COTA, we took away a lot of positives with the updated Mercedes-AMG GT3, and we certainly have used this off time to do some homework on our end and continue to push on improving. We had a good result as a team last year in VIR, and I am hoping the momentum from COTA will continue to build for VIR and the rest of the year. The entire DXDT Racing team has been working during this time and I know we are ready to go for one of my favorite tracks in the U.S.!”
Driver – No. 33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 and No. 16 Rearden Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “I know everyone is going through tough times right now so I’m looking forward to getting back to some sort of normalcy by returning to the racetrack. I’m really excited to be going to the SRO Motorsports Group America event at VIR next weekend. It’s going to be a busy weekend with two new teams for me this year. I’m back with my teammate John Allen from last year in his new Mercedes-AMG GT4 but with a new team for us with Rearden Racing. We have been doing some testing with the team to understand how everyone communicates and works together and it’s going great. I’m also back to Winward Racing for the VIR weekend, a team that I raced with a couple of years ago. They are stepping up to GT3 competition this year with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 machine. This will be my first-time teaming with Russell Ward, so I’m stoked to see how this new relationship will develop. It will be a busy few days running five races between the two cars on one weekend!”
Driver – No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It has been a rough ride for all of us the last few months, and for some, worse than others. My thoughts truly rest with those who have lost family and friends. It makes me feel so much luckier to be able to race cars for a living. This break was a long one but allowed me to reconnect with my inner-self and realize how much racing means to me. Excited doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings for getting back in the car. I’m really looking forward to getting back to the track to race again. We have our confidence up. Last year at Riley Motorsports we were a team. This year, we are much more. We are a family that just happens to be working together. Everyone works fluidly and to optimal performance. We had a total of zero mistakes at Daytona across the board. We’ve had a long winning streak going, and I don’t plan to stop it at Sebring. The Mercedes-AMG GT4 has already shown great strength at Sebring, so it’ll be very confidence boosting to unloading our car at Sebring.”