Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Team Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports Breaks Through for First IMSA Podium Finish, Taking Third Place in GTD at the 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona in No. 32 Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing team Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports, and team drivers Stevan McAleer, Mike Skeen, Scott Andrews and James Davison, made their debut Rolex 24 At Daytona a memorable one this weekend with a third place IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship GTD finish in the No. 32 Gilbert Korthoff (GK) Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3. The break-through podium showing came in just the GK team’s fifth WeatherTech Championship GTD start, second major endurance race and first-ever 24-hour race. The GK Rolex 24 podium capped a successful week for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer teams across two racing series in IMSA’s season-opening weekend of competition at Daytona International Speedway, including three podium finishes, an IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge victory in the new bronze class and a top five in the debuting IMSA WeatherTech GTD Pro class.
Out of the record six Mercedes-AMG GT3 entries in the Rolex 24, the GK team stepped up to join its fellow Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer teams in a strong showing in both the GTD and GTD Pro classes throughout the twice-around-the-clock race. Each of the six entries led at least one race lap in the Rolex 24, with GK taking the lead three times at the front of the GTD field for 21 total laps led.
The GK No. 32 remained a fixture in the top five, and frequently broke into the top three, for 20 hours, remaining competitive throughout the race with each of its four drivers behind the wheel. Andrews drove the final stint and raced into third place after another lead competitor was assessed a penalty following the final restart of the race. The No. 32 crossed the finish line just over six seconds behind the second-place finisher and less than 20 seconds shy of the GTD class winner.
It was the second-consecutive year a Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer team reached the podium in its Rolex 24 debut. In 2021 Winward Racing drove a Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the GTD victory in its first Rolex 24, with a repeat win looking likely for the majority of this past weekend’s race.
Returning 2021 winning drivers Russell Ward and Philip Ellis were joined by Mikael Grenier and Lucas Auer in the pole-winning No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 and stepped up as the GTD team to beat early in the race. From Saturday afternoon through early Sunday morning, Winward led the GTD field 13 times for a total of 151 laps, but a second-straight Rolex 24 race win was not in the cards.
A contact incident in the race’s second hour created a vibration that ultimately led to a costly front-end and hood repair early Sunday morning that put Winward nine laps down from the GTD leaders. Undeterred, Winward returned to the race and steadily picked up a few positions in the final five hours to finish sixth.
In the debuting GTD Pro division, Proton USA fielded a pair Mercedes-AMG GT3 entries for an international group of all-star drivers. The trio of Patrick Assenheimer, Dirk Müller and Austin Cindric co-drove the No. 15 Proton USA Mercedes-AMG GT3 to a fifth-place class finish, persevering in a solo run to the finish after the team’s sister car retired at daybreak on Sunday.
Cooper MacNeil, Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella combined to lead 77 race laps in the No. 97 Proton USA Mercedes-AMG GT3. Gounon was at the wheel and leading GTD Pro Sunday morning as the race entered its final quarter, but the No. 97 was in the pits 20 minutes later with a race-ending technical issue. A cooling system water hose worked its way loose and the No. 97 was retired due to overheating.
Two other Mercedes-AMG GT3 entries competing in GTD also saw promising and race-leading runs end far too soon. The No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Kenny Habul, Raffaele Marciello, Luca Stolz and Fabian Schiller led 25 laps early on, only to sustain heavy damage in a multi-car incident on track just before the race’s four-hour mark. Habul was uninjured in the incident.
Alegra Motorsports was competitive from the drop of the green flag with Michael de Quesada, Daniel Morad, Maximilian Götz and Linus Lundqvist co-driving the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3. The No. 28 led three different times for 19 laps at the front of the GTD field in the race’s opening hours, but a technical issue forced the team to the garage and eventual retirement early Saturday evening.
A total of 10 Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer teams competed at Daytona, including four Mercedes-AMG GT4 entries in Friday’s season-opening IMSA Pilot Challenge four-hour race.
Three Mercedes-AMG GT4 entries from Murillo Racing, and the No. 11 Capstone Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Gary Ferrera and Kris Wilson, all finished within the overall top-14 in the four-hour race’s 31-car Grand Sport (GS) class field.
Ferrera and Wilson crossed the finish line 11th overall and first in the Bronze Cup class, a new championship within the overall 10-race GS schedule for Bronze-rated drivers, which most commonly designates sportsman or “Am” competitors.
Second in Bronze Cup, after a solid run to 14th overall, went to veteran teammates Brent Mosing and Tim Probert in the No. 65 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4.
Murillo’s other entries combined for a pair of GS and overall top-10 finishes. Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss finished eighth in the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 while Christian Szymczak and Kenny Murillo co-drove the No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 to a 10th place finish.
Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing competitors in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge is round two of each series during the 12 Hours of Sebring weekend a Sebring International Raceway, March 16 – 19.
Mike Skeen, Driver – No. 32 Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I’m just extremely proud of all these guys. It’s our first time together, but there’s a lot of guys who have been here before and done this race. It’s a very promising start for the program, and I am really excited to see what we can do for the rest of the year. I am ecstatic to be on the podium. We obviously came here for a win, but this feels like a win at the moment. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 was really consistent throughout, even in really difficult temperatures all night and most of the day. We are starting off with some good points, and that puts us in a really strong position for the championship.”
Stevan McAleer, Driver – No. 32 Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “This is a spectacular result for us. Moving up to the GTD class this year, this is my first big event with the new guys and taking on the talent level in this field is no small task. There were 22-plus cars in this field, and we have been running at the front all weekend. It is pretty special, and we are ecstatic for Mercedes-AMG as the highest finishing Mercedes-AMG GT3. I can’t thank the team enough. The car was solid, and it is very easy to drive on old tires, which is important in endurance racing.”
Russell Ward, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a pretty tough Rolex 24 for us. We had a lot of issues throughout the race, but the team really worked hard to bring us back to the front several times. Just like everyone always says, this was a race about just trying to stay alive, and I think there was teams out there that did a better job at that than we did. It’s on to the next one, we have proven we can win here, and now I am looking forward to competing in a full WeatherTech Championship GTD season. I think we will be equally fast at Sebring.”
Mikael Grenier, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I think we should be proud. We were the team to beat, led many laps and from the start of the race we were always in the top three. Philip, Russell and Lucas did an amazing job, and I think the four of us were one of the strongest lineups in the GTD field. The little bit of damage was unfortunate, it was very, very light contact, but enough to create some issues that we paid the price for early Sunday morning. With 61 cars on track, these things can happen, so we just have to keep working hard and come back at Sebring.”
Philip Ellis, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “A bit unlucky and a very tough race for us. We had a little bit of contact at the very beginning of the race, which led to the hood letting go on the oval. That dropped us from contention for the win, and even a podium position. Up to that point, everybody had done a really good job, driving wise, the crew on pits stops, great strategy and we had a lot of laps as the leading car in GTD. It was looking strong for the second win in a row, but it wasn’t meant to be this time. We will just have to come back and try again next year.”
Dirk Müller, Driver – No. 15 Proton USA Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We just had to get the car to the finish line. We were in a position to take it if something happened there at the end. We needed some action in front of us to get on the podium, and it didn’t happen. Thanks to everyone on the team, Mercedes-AMG and to Patrick and Austin for being great teammates and strong drivers. It was an awesome experience. Fifth for us was a good result.”
Maro Engel, Driver – No. 97 Proton USA Mercedes-AMG GT3: “First of all, a big thank you to Cooper and everyone on his team and Proton for all welcoming us in a great way. Our Mercedes-AMG GT3 was handling very well, and we were always in contention. We were leading and unfortunately had an issue in the early morning hours after which we had to retire. It’s a tough race here in Daytona. Last year I was one of the smiling winners, but we will take this one on the chin and come back next year and get the win again. A big thank you to everyone involved and to my three awesome teammates.”
Daniel Juncadella, Driver – No. 97 Proton USA Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a great experience to be a part of this team, our first race with them and Cooper, and we were in a very competitive position. Racing can sometimes be bittersweet, and only one can win, and it wasn’t meant to be this time. We really showed we were in the fight for it, and that is a good sign for the year and our confidence. We will keep going and keep fighting for good results.”
Jules Gounon, Driver – No. 97 Proton USA Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It’s disappointing for us. Our Mercedes-AMG GT3 was perfect from the start of the race, but we had to retire the car when we were P1, which is a difficult pill to swallow. The team did a great job in their first race with the Mercedes-AMG GT3, and the car was great as always. It was amazing to have Cooper on the car, and Dani and Maro did an amazing job as they always do. We will try again for a Rolex next year.”
Gary Ferrera, Driver – No. 11 Capstone Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “This is a new team and a new car to me. I only drove the Mercedes-AMG GT4 a few times last year – it’s a proper race car and very strong – so I am super excited we can do this well. I desperately want top-10 overall finishes, and we were just outside of that due to one mistake on a pit stop, but other than that, things are fantastic. I am fairly new to the car, but Kris and I have been doing this for a while. We are kind of like an old couple!”
Kris Wilson, Driver – No. 11 Capstone Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “This is our first win together in GS and we couldn’t have done it without Gary. The car worked well. The Mercedes-AMG GT4 is always great. The handling is great, and the braking is great. We will keep moving forward, hopefully do some testing and build on this solid result.”
Brent Mosing, Driver – No. 65 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “The Murillo Racing team was great. They are like one big family for us. Jeff and I are close. He is the youngest and I am the oldest of five in our family. We grew up together really close and loving cars. I have done 100 races through last year’s finale at Road Atlanta, and they have all been with Murillo Racing. That has been great and starting off with the four-hour race at Daytona is always great, and this is the first time Tim and I have done it by ourselves. We are both excited to finish the season off after this great start.”
Tim Probert, Driver – No. 65 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “This is so cool. Daytona is the birthplace of it all, the ‘World Center of Racing,’ so it means an awful lot to get our first bronze podium in the first bronze race at Daytona. The Murillo team gave us a great car, flawless, and the team did a perfect job. It was an awesome debut to the season for the Mercedes-AMG GT4.”
Eric Foss, Driver – No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It was awesome to come back here to Daytona, especially with three cars. Kenny Murillo and Christian Szymczak in the No. 72 Mercedes-AMG GT4 is a huge addition to the team, adding additional good drivers to share the data and spread the load on setup stuff. It has really helped us work on the Mercedes-AMG GT4s.”
Kenny Murillo, Driver – No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It was a really big challenge coming into Daytona with two new cars and three total. Everybody was up for the task, decided to give it our best shot, and I think we did that at Daytona. There are always things you need to improve as a team, but overall, I think everyone is happy with how the team performed and how our Mercedes-AMG GT4 performed. We wouldn’t have any other car.”