Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams quickly shifted to race preparation and strategy for next weekend's 62nd Rolex 24 At Daytona following a productive three-day Roar Before the Rolex 24 test this past weekend at Daytona International Speedway (DIS). Four Mercedes-AMG GT3 entries compete in this weekend's twice-around-the-clock race on the 3.56-mile DIS road course with live coverage on the flagship NBC network starting at 1:30 p.m. EST this Saturday, January 27. From there, all 24 hours of the season opening IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race can be viewed live across the NBC family of networks and its online offering Peacock before returning to NBC for the Rolex 24's conclusion from noon through 2 p.m. EST on Sunday, January 28.
The lineup of four Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams competing in the Rolex 24 includes the GT Daytona (GTD) Pro-class SunEnergy1 Racing entry and a trio of GTD-class competitors anchored by full-season competitors Winward Racing and Korthoff Preston Motorsports, and debuting Rolex 24 team Lone Star Racing.
Reigning GTD Pro Rolex 24 winning drivers Jules Gounon and Maro Engel co-drive the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Luca Stolz and team owner and driver Kenny Habul. SunEnergy1 Racing's best Rolex 24 finish was second to race winners Winward in the 2021 Rolex 24, while Gounon and Engel were part of last year's win with WeatherTech Racing.
Winward and Korthoff Preston kick-off their respective full-season campaigns with familiar driver lineups. Last year's Rolex 24 team of Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, Indy Dontje and Daniel Morad once again wheel the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 this weekend as the team looks for another GTD-class victory to go along with 2021's win. Ward, Ellis and Dontje joined Engel in securing the '21 victory in the team's Rolex 24 debut.
Korthoff Preston also returns its 2023 Rolex 24 lineup of Mike Skeen, Mikael Grenier, Kenton Koch and Maximilian Götz in the No. 32 Korthoff Preston Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3. The team and drivers led the most GTD laps in last year's Rolex 24 only to be knocked from winning contention by a Sunday morning mechanical issue.
The strong Rolex 24 showing, however, set the foundation for a championship campaign in the 2023 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup (IMEC) that saw the Korthoff Preston team, Mercedes-AMG and Skeen, Grenier and Koch sweep all IMEC GTD honors.
Race-winning and experienced Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing team Lone Star Racing makes its Rolex 24 debut with returning team driver Scott Andrews, Adam Christodoulou, Salih Yoluç and Rui Andrade.
The three-day Roar schedule concluded Sunday with Rolex 24 qualifying. The SunEnergy1 No. 75 with Engel was the fastest Mercedes-AMG GT3 and starts on the outside of GTD Pro row five after a top-10 qualifying run.
The three GTD teams also qualified for the Rolex 24 with Winward's Ellis and Korthoff Preston's Grenier side-by-side in row nine on the starting grid after posting nearly identical lap times. Christodoulou qualified the Lone Star No. 80 that will line up just one row behind the No. 75 and the No. 32.
Three Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams were also in action at the Roar across a pair of IMSA racing series. The lineup included former Mercedes-AMG GT4 IMSA race winner Marc Miller who once again shined in a substitute driver role in Saturday's VP Racing SportsCar Challenge race in the No. 37 Thaze Competition Mercedes-AMG GT4.
Filling in for full-season driver Eddie Killeen, Miller battled in the lead pack throughout the 45-minute sprint and took the checkered flag in third, just over a second behind the race winner. Miller's podium came in Thaze's debut VP Challenge race and followed similar strong showings last year with the team in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge competition with a fourth place run at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and a third place showing at the Detroit Grand Prix.
A pair of familiar and race-winning Michelin Pilot Challenge Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams in turn took part in five Grand Sport (GS) practice sessions during the three-day Roar test. Two-time 2023 GS race winners Bryce Ward and Morad reunite this year in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 while Pirelli GT4 America standouts Michai Stephens and Jesse Webb enter Pilot Challenge GS this year in the No. 34 JMF Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4.
The 62nd Rolex 24 At Daytona official schedule begins this Wednesday, January 24, with a one-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge practice session at 3:05 p.m. EST. Four WeatherTech Championship practice sessions are scheduled over Thursday and Friday, including Thursday night practice from 6:35 – 8:05 p.m. EST in addition to GS qualifying Thursday and the four-hour season-opening Pilot Challenge race Friday at 1:45 p.m. EST.
The 62nd Rolex 24 At Daytona starts at 1:40 p.m. EST on Saturday, January 27, with live coverage beginning at 1:30 p.m. EST on the flagship NBC network.
International viewers can watch all of the races and more from the Rolex 24 weekend live at www.IMSA.tv.
Maro Engel, Driver – No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: "We worked really well throughout the Roar. We made some good setup improvements, got some laps for all of the drivers and ran through procedures. A good part of the crew is from last year's WeatherTech Racing team, some are new, so getting everyone together for the first time was really positive and everybody has been doing a good job. The pace situation has been tough from the beginning of the weekend, so we will try and focus on what we have within our hands. We'll work on improving the car, making it a good race car, it handled well in qualifying, and it was a decent lap."
Adam Christodoulou, Driver – No. 80 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: "I was super excited to get the last-minute call up from the Lone Star Racing guys. It has all been late putting everything together, but it's great to be here even though we have a little bit of mixed emotions after qualifying. We will work on what we got and see what we can squeeze out of it. There's a little bit of setup we can do just to work on the balance, and we can use the final practice sessions later this week to make sure that we have a solid car for the race. It's 24 hours so anything can happen."
Mike Skeen, Driver – No. 32 Korthoff Preston Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: "We got a lot done this week. We also ran here in the December test, learned the new Michelin tire there and worked on that some more this week. We have the car in a place where it is really handling great, and we are very happy with that. The time sheets didn't look too good at the Roar, but I am pretty confident going into the Rolex 24 that we will have a competitive car and we have a great lineup and great crew, so hopefully we can fight for it in the 24."
Russell Ward, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: "It's not really the qualifying result we wanted. We spent the last two years on the pole here but now the car is not really where it could be. We are just going to have to leave it in IMSA's hands to see where we end up, but it feels good, and I have a lot of faith in the guys and hopefully we can find something. We have a good understanding of the new Michelin tire and where we want to be setup wise, so I think we are in good shape. I am really looking forward to this race. It is my favorite event of the year. Such a cool atmosphere and such a cool racetrack."
Bryce Ward, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: "I'm really happy with the car and look forward to starting the year with getting some points in the four-hour race. I always want a clean race to the end, let's go see what we can do. Once we get halfway through a stint, we may be on pace with everybody else. The first half will be a little difficult but in the second half I think we can match the cars in front of us. If we can be fairly close up there at the end, we have a chance with Daniel in there."
Marc Miller, Driver – No. 37 Thaze Competition Mercedes-AMG GT4: "It's a great way to start out the season. This is the first race, legitimately, of the season and we were on the podium. I was a little upset we didn't pull off some sort of miracle win so it took me a minute to realize we were on the podium, so I was really excited about that. The management of the Thaze team and how they approach everything is just rock solid. They are a wonderful team to race with, but I really wasn't even planning on being in this race. I want to thank Eddie Killeen for letting me race his car and I know he is going to do great behind the wheel for the rest of the season."
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