Tales from the paddock: Title hat-trick for the Mercedes-AMG GT3
Riley Motorsports win a third IMSA endurance championship in succession. Team principal Bill Riley reveals their formula for success
- This is what happened: Results and facts
- News from the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport teams
- Three questions for Bill Riley
- Social media news: What’s new online?
This is what happened: Results and facts
- Formula 1: Lewis Hamilton wins the Mexican Grand Prix and is joined on the podium by Valtteri Bottas
- VLN: Patrick Assenheimer and Maro Engel chalk up the sixth successive win of the season for the Mercedes-AMG GT3
- Australian GT Championship: Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver Peter Hackett makes two podium appearances
- GT4 South European Series: Podium lockout for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the first race at Portimao and a one-two in the second
Facts & figures from Mexico: The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez has presented the team with a few challenges over the past two years, and this season was no exception, with the race weekend in Mexico City getting off to an unsteady start. Ultimately, though, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both made it onto the podium: it was win number 83 for Lewis in the highest echelon of the sport, his tenth of the current season and his second in Mexico. In terms of podium finishes, it was the one hundredth for the five-time World Champion since he joined the Mercedes works team at the beginning of the 2013 season. And while we are on the topic of the Mercedes works team, the win in Mexico is also the 100th for the three-pointed star in Formula 1. Nine of these are attributable to the original factory outfit (1954/1955), and the remaining 91 to its current iteration since the comeback in 2010.
Austin, here we come: From Mexico, the team are heading directly to Austin in Texas, where the third-to-last race of the season will be contested this coming weekend. Formula 1 is making its 41st visit to the USA and its eighth to the Circuit of the Americas. For the team, and for Lewis in particular, the track in Texas has so far been an exceptionally happy hunting ground: between 2014 and 2017, Lewis achieved four victories in a row there. Last year, Lewis added podium number 15 in the USA for a Mercedes-powered car. The Silver Arrows also boast an impressive record in qualifying: since the beginning of the hybrid era in the 2014 season, there has always been a Mercedes car on pole position (twice Nico Rosberg, three times Lewis). In 2015, Lewis wrapped up his third world championship title in Austin in an exciting tussle with team-mate Nico Rosberg. Lewis has a clear chance of winning the drivers’ championship for the sixth time this weekend with two races to spare.
Mercedes-AMG ends title season in the VLN with sixth overall victory in a row: Pole position, win number six in the general classification, four titles and suspense right up until the final lap - that just about sums up a spectacular VLN season finale on the Nürburgring Nordschleife for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport. The weekend got off to the best of starts with first place in qualifying for the Mercedes-AMG team BLACK FALCON (#16) trio of Adam Christodoulou (GBR), Hubert Haupt and Dirk Müller (both GER), the ideal grid position going into the much-anticipated closing fixture of the season. There was, however, an early setback for the pole-sitters and for the number 6 BLACK FALCON Team AutoArena Motorsport sister car which started from fifth. Leaves blew into air vents on both vehicles in the first stint, forcing Christodoulou and Patrick Assenheimer (GER) to take unscheduled pit stops, which cost them valuable time and dropped them down the field. However, both drivers then mounted a sensational comeback which their team-mates then saw through to a successful conclusion: while the number 16 car advanced to fifth place, Maro Engel (GER) in the number 6 progressed all the way up the running order to finish first and seal the sixth VLN win in a row for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport. BLACK FALCON Team AutoArena Motorsport won the ROWE-Speed-Trophäe by VLN, and Patrick Assenheimer ended his season as champion in the SP9 Pro class. Mustafa Mehmet Kaya (TUR), Nico Bastian and Mike Stursberg (both GER) in the number 152 BLACK FALCON Team KNUFFI Mercedes-AMG GT4 won the SP8T category, a victory that made sure of the class title for Kaya. Meanwhile, Tobias Müller, Tim Scheerbarth (both GER) and Tristan Viidas (EST) were securing another title: the win for the BLACK FALCON Team IDENTICA (#162) trio in the SP10 classification at the end of the four-hour contest on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife was enough for them to nail the championship.
Early title win and podium lockout in Portugal: With one race still to be run in the GT4 South European Series, the identity of the 2019 Pro-Am champions is already known: Francisco Abreu and Miguel Cristóvão (both POR) of Veloso Motorsport (#88) took first place in both races at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, clocking the fastest race lap and earning the points needed to clinch the title in the inaugural season of this GT4 series. Over and above the strong performance from Abreu and Cristóvão, the Mercedes-AMG GT4 car acquitted itself brilliantly: Andrew Meyrick and Stephen Pattrick (both GBR) of Bullitt Racing (#33) were runners-up, while their team-mates Ian Loggie and Callum MacLeod (both GBR) took third place in the number 66 sister car, thereby monopolising the podium. The following day produced an AMG one-two, with Abreu and Cristóvão (#88) in P1 and Meyrick and Pattrick (#33) in P2.
Portimao was also hosting the season finale of the Michelin Le Mans Cup, which ended with a podium for Mercedes-AMG. Yannick Mettler and Dexter Müller (both SUI) of SPS automotive-performance (#54) finished the two-hour race third in their class, a result that was enough for them to come fifth in the GT3 overall standings.
Podiums and various class wins in Australia and the UK: Peter Hackett (AUS) put in a strong performance at Surfers Paradise Street Circuit in the penultimate event of the Australian GT Championship to keep alive his title aspirations race in the overall standings of the series. The Australian, driving the number 63 Mercedes-AMG GT3 fielded by Eggleston Motorsport, finished second in the first race of the weekend and third on Sunday. Hackett as current second in the championship thus narrowed the gap to the leader and now goes into the final at the Sandown Motor Raceway in a very promising position.
Meanwhile, Mercedes-AMG ended the 2019 GT Cup Championship with four class victories from four races. The Fox Motorsport pairing of Mark Murfitt and Michael Broadhurst (both GBR), who were driving the number 777 Mercedes-AMG GT4 as guest starters in the Norfolk season finale, topped the GTH podium in all four races.
Three questions for Bill Riley
As team principal of Riley Motorsports, Bill Riley can look back on a very impressive run of results in the prestigious IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Having secured this year’s GTD Michelin Endurance Cup title as early as mid-October, the American veteran racer and his team have now claimed the endurance title three years in a row with the Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Bill, congratulations on winning the GTD Michelin Endurance Cup. What were the decisive factors contributing to this year’s success?
Bill Riley: The main thing is to be consistent and to concentrate on the sections of a race where there are points to be scored. You have to make a commitment to winning the Endurance Cup championship early in the season, and follow through on that commitment all the way to Petit Le Mans.
For Riley Motorsports, this is already the third IMSA endurance title in succession. What is the secret behind this impressive consistency?
Bill Riley: In any kind of endurance racing, you have to have everything right. We have been very fortunate with Ben Keating to have had a very consistent programme for the last few years. With the opportunity he gave us, we have been able to make everything work, keep it working and make it better and better. It was obviously also very helpful to be able to build on the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and Jeroen Bleekemolen as central elements of our programme. I’m not saying that it made it all easier, but with this very good overall package compared to the opposition, we had the perfect basis for winning the championship again this year.
Let’s look to the future. In only a few months, Riley Motorsports will be lining up on the opening weekend of the new 2020 IMSA season. Have you already set yourself specific objectives?
Bill Riley: The big goal in IMSA is always to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona. I have been lucky enough to have had several wins in the past, but my focus now is on doing that with Mercedes-AMG. Hopefully, if that goal is achieved, we can take a look at what we need to do next. But for now, we are looking forward to getting our new car in time for Daytona and having another strong run with the Mercedes-AMG GT3. In addition, we have another Mercedes-AMG GT3 for 2020, which belongs to Ben Keating, and which we will use as a reserve car for the new season.
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