Mercedes-AMG Storm to GTD Victory in Canada


IMSA 2018 - #33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3, GTD: Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating
Credit: Galstad/LAT Images

Mercedes-AMG returned to victory lane on Sunday in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen co-driving to the win in the GT Daytona (GTD) class in the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Bleekemolen capitalised on a late-race restart to get around the #14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 of Kyle Marcelli for the win. The pass came with 14 minutes remaining, one lap after the restart, with Bleekemolen leading the final 13 laps en route to winning the race by 2.919 seconds.

It was the first win of the season for Keating and Bleekemolen and the #33 Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, and the team’s first since Circuit of The Americas in 2017.

“I’m excited to be back in victory lane,” said Keating. “It’s been over a year since we’ve had a win, so it’s nice to be back. We had an excellent car today. We came out of the truck with this setup. We really hit it well.”

“The Lexus was struggling a little more than I was,” added Bleekemolen. “We were fighting, and I got a little bit of a gap, and then we tried to keep it and just bring it home. Marcelli had a little slide going through Turn 9. I tried for Turn 10, I got inside of him there. He gave me space, so I took it.”

The win also keeps Keating and Bleekemolen alive in the GTD championship hunt. The duo entered the weekend 21 points behind the points-leading #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers, who finished in fourth, and 20 points behind Katherine Legge in the #86 SiriusXM Acura NSX GT3 for Meyer Shank Racing, who finished fifth co-driving with Alvaro Parente.

The runner-up finish for Marcelli and co-driver Dominik Baumann was the pair’s second podium of the season. It also caps off a special weekend for Barrie, Ontario native Marcelli, who won yesterday’s IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race.

“Of course, we’re competitors, and we want to win, and it’s a good thing when you’re upset with second,” said Marcelli. “We had a fast car, but we really struggled at the end of the stint with our rear tyre, and we knew that, so we did not need the yellows. I needed it to stay green.”

A hard-charging Andy Lally rounded out the podium, moving from fifth to third in the final 15 minutes in the #44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 co-driven by John Potter. Lally just missed a second-place finish, falling 0.095 seconds short of Marcelli at the line.

Five races remain in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season for the GTD class. Up next is the GT-only Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park on 21 July 2018.