Mercedes-AMG confirms IMSA GTD programs for 2017

Photo: Brian Cleary/BCPix.com
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Mercedes-AMG formally confirmed its participation in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on Wednesday, with at least three Mercedes-AMG GT3 cars to be on the grid in the GT Daytona class next year.

The German manufacturer has partnered with Riley Motorsports for a two-car factory-supported effort, with one car running under the “AMG-Team Riley Motorsports” banner and a second entry for WeatherTech Racing.

Australian stock car driver Kenny Habul, meanwhile, has formed his own team, SunEnergy1 Racing, which will also campaign a Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen will pilot the AMG-backed Riley car, with Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette in the WeatherTech entry, although the identity of Habul's co-driver is unclear at the moment.

“North America is traditionally a very important market for Mercedes-AMG and the enthusiasm for our performance vehicles is tremendous,” said Tobias Moers, Chairman of the Board of Management for Mercedes-AMG.

“The high demand for the Mercedes-AMG GT3, particularly after the legendary 1-2-3-4 finish at this year’s 24- hour race at the Nürburgring, has inspired us to establish a Customer Sports Program in the U.S.

“I’m very much looking forward to cooperating with all of the teams and wish them success in the upcoming season.”

According to Mercedes-AMG, additional teams are “scheduled to announce” their intent of racing in North America next year, likely in Pirelli World Challenge.

The German manufacturer will provide at-track support at every event next year, alongside the launch of a technology and logistics center in Mooresville, N.C., which is believed to be operated by Riley.

“Our aspiration for expanding the AMG Customer Sports Program in the U.S. is to provide the same level of comprehensive support that we have provided to teams in Europe for several years,” said Jochen Bitzer, Director of AMG Customer Sports Program.

“This requires a close collaboration with the teams in terms of knowhow and racetrack expertise, which we are now ideally positioned for.

“We are very excited for a thrilling and hopefully successful season.”

Both the Riley and WeatherTech teams are taking part in a two-day private test at Daytona this week, in preparation for the season-opener on Jan. 27-29.