Winward Racing and RENNtech Motorsports Secure Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Team Podium Sweep at Road America and a Class Victory at Nashville
Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing competitors secured a team podium sweep and a class victory in dual IMSA and SRO America events Saturday and Sunday, at the IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America in Wisconsin and the SRO GT America powered by AWS doubleheader on the streets of Nashville. Mercedes- AMG GT4 team Winward Racing secured both second and third place IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge finishes on Saturday at Road America, while RENNtech Motorsports stepped up for the victory with the Mercedes-AMG GT4 on Sunday in Nashville.
A combined entry of 13 Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer teams across three racing series competed during the IMSA SportsCar Weekend and the Music City Grand Prix. At the same time eight IMSA Mercedes-AMG customer teams were competing in Wisconsin, five other Mercedes-AMG customer entries were racing in Nashville.
Winward, with its pair of Mercedes-AMG GT4 entries, was the first Mercedes-AMG customer team to deliver results this weekend in Saturday's wet and wild two-hour race at Road America.
Russell Ward and co-driver Indy Dontje co-drove the No. 4 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 while Ward's father, Bryce Ward, shared the sister No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 with Alec Udell.
Russell Ward, who was the top starting Mercedes-AMG GT4 competitor at fourth on the grid, battled in the lead pack throughout his race opening stint. Charging from the drop of the green flag, his quick pace produced the fastest Grand Sport (GS) class lap of the race.
Bryce Ward started in the No. 57 and was making a move of his own to the front in the race's first hour. He was a race-high fourth place when he pitted at mid-race to hand off to Udell.
Russell Ward pitted the No. 4 at the same time the No. 57 was brought in, and some quick work by the Winward crew put co-driver Indy Dontje back in the race in the lead.
Winward made a strategy call to not switch tires on either of its cars--the gamble proved to be a smart one as a consistent rain started to fall in the race's final hour.
The team also went into fuel conservation mode in the second hour in what turned out to be a successful attempt at avoiding a late "splash and go" pit stop for fuel. Udell and Dontje were fourth and fifth with less than 15 minutes to go, but soon moved into the top three as competitors in front were forced to pit for fuel.
Along with the eventual race winner, Udell and Dontje saved fuel to the finish while keeping up just enough pace to maintain their positions to the finish. Udell crossed the line in second and was followed less than five seconds later by Dontje in third.
Winward's dual podiums anchored a solid result of four Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams in the top-10. Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss recovered from a spin to finish seventh in the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 while their teammates Brent Mosing and Kenny Murillo finished 10th in the No. 65 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4.
Winward's victory lane visit was the second of the IMSA GS season for the team following a third-place finish by Bryce Ward and Udell in the No. 57 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in May.
It was also the second time Winward secured dual podium finishes in the same race. In 2020’s season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, Bryce Ward and Philip Ellis finished second in the No. 57 and Russell Ward and Dontje were third in the No. 4. Those results were part of that race’s record top-three Mercedes-AMG GT4 sweep that included the race-winning No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4.
A Mercedes-AMG GT4 competitor also secured the best Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer team result of the Nashville weekend on Sunday, when first-year SRO GT America driver Chris Cagnazzi won the GT4 class race in his No. 39 RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4. The victory was the first for Cagnazzi in a Mercedes-AMG GT4 in just his third weekend of SRO America series competition.
Mercedes-AMG GT3 competitors endured more challenges at Road America and Nashville than the Mercedes-AMG GT4 contingent. A top- four overall and third-place SRO3-class finish by George Kurtz in the No. 04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Sunday in Nashville was the best result of the weekend.
Kurtz drove one of three Mercedes-AMG GT3 DXDT entries at Nashville while the new Gilbert Korthoff team carried Mercedes-AMG GT3 honors at Road America in just the team's second race. After a race-opening double stint by starting driver Shane Lewis, co-driver Guy Cosmo was at the wheel of the No. 32 Gilbert Korthoff Mercedes-AMG GT3 late in the race when the entry was retired with a minor suspension issue.
Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in IMSA competition is the Monterey Grand Prix at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, September 10 – 12.
The next race for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer teams in SRO America competition is a full weekend event at Road America, August 27 – 29.
Bryce Ward, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “That was one of the most fun races of my life. I really had a great time. I started ninth and turned it over in fourth. I’m just so excited and want to give it up to the team and the other drivers for doing a fantastic job. I’m really proud of the whole team. Russell, Alec, the whole team. They did a great job. The pit stops were amazing and got us out there. They were just awesome.”
Alec Udell, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “We had a great strategy. A couple of times the calls in the races have not gone our way, but this one did. It was a great call from the pits. We did the entire race on one set of tires, which was great. A bunch of other cars took tires, but we were able to do it all the way to the end on one set. We had a good battle with Indy and then we were able to sort it out and get moving forward. We just kept picking cars off, one by one, and it was a matter of not making mistakes, which a lot of people did. Bryce had a great first stint, kept making up spots and forcing mistakes on other people just because he was there, filling their mirrors and putting pressure on. He made some great passes as well. It was a really fun race, and it is super exciting to be a part of the Winward Racing team.”
Indy Dontje, Driver – No. 4 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: "In the four years or so I have been racing with Winward this is definitely the hardest race I have had. It was pretty tense, particularly at the end when we had to push so hard in the heaviest rain of the race without knowing if we had fuel to make it to the end. Going up the big hill on the front straight before the finish line was really stressful. On the last lap when I made it, I just screamed on the radio to the guys "I am up the hill!" Then on the cool-down lap I was going up the hill in the pits and that was it. The car was empty, and we couldn't have gone another lap!"
Kenny Murillo, Driver – No. 65 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: "I've driven in damp conditions, but this was a first for me driving in the rain. The Mercedes-AMG GT4 is definitely the car to have in conditions like this, with the long wheel-base and the top German engineering that's gone into the car. It made it really easy for me to find the grip and use it, and you can tell that the Mercedes-AMG GT4 is definitely one of the strongest cars in the rain, especially coming off the corner. It is just an absolute dream. This was also my first-time driving Road America. I just took it as an opportunity to learn as much as we can. When you get these opportunities from Brent and Tim Probert to drive this Mercedes-AMG GT4, you just have to take it all in and make sure you walk away with a lot of experience. I'm really happy with the weekend. Murillo Racing did an amazing job. I can't thank those guys enough. We were fastest in the second practice session of the weekend and that was a big highlight for everybody. Of course, there might have been some game playing by everybody else during that session, but we’ll take it. I’m incredibly happy about the whole weekend and looking forward to the next one.”
Chris Cagnazzi, Driver – No. 39 RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes- AMG GT4: "It was a great ending to an amazing weekend. It feels great to know that the effort the team and I are putting in is paying off. And to win at an inaugural event like the Music City Grand Prix on a street course that had never been raced on – you couldn't even practice on – for me was really the pinnacle of the weekend. I set the fastest race lap on Saturday, so I started from the pole on Sunday. It was a good pace and a good clean race to the finish. Saturday was a bit of a disappointment. I was second nearly the entire time and for some reason the field was stopped under caution in a really tight section just over the bridge where we had gone through at speed at least five or six laps before. I got a little jammed up in the wall avoiding hitting the race leader, but what really threw me off was getting the car restarted. After I got going again, I was picking up about a half-a-second a lap, but it was too late to get back on the podium. So, getting pole and a first-place finish Sunday was a great way to turn around the weekend. The Mercedes-AMG GT4 was amazing on all three of the surfaces on the track. From the old asphalt to the new asphalt to the grooved concrete over the bridge. The car felt very, very comfortable, it adapted really well to the track and the RENNtech team did a great job setting it up. It was compliant but not soft enough to hop and bounce like some of the other cars were doing."
Guy Cosmo, Driver – No. 32 Gilbert Korthoff Mercedes-AMG GT3: "With any team in the early stages like we are, there are so many things that we are learning about. It's not just about how we run our Mercedes- AMG GT3 and what we learn about making it fast, it's what we learn about how we function as a team and what needs to be improved. There's so much that just being at these events is teaching us. There's only one place to go from here and that's to improve and move forward. We had a lot of setbacks this week that were unexpected, but just like anyone learning anything, you're not going to learn unless you have a couple of failures. We had a few of them this weekend and we know what we need to come back better and stronger."
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