Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams scored a 1-2 finish in the 100-minute IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach on Saturday, America’s premier street race. Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette co-drove the No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to victory, their first in the 2017 IMSA season. The championship-leading No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Mercedes-AMG GT3, co-driven by Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen, finished the race in second position.
WeatherTech Racing’s fuel-stretching victory came after starting from the back of the IMSA GT Daytona (GTD) field following a post-qualifying tire change. The No. 50 team’s tire change was the first of several key strategy moves that contributed to the come-from-behind victory.
Starting driver MacNeil immediately picked up several positions in the race’s opening laps before dashing into the pits under a full-course caution. Jeannette took over and continued the charge to the front, taking the lead at the race’s 46-minute mark. Jeannette led the final 34 laps of the race.
The race was slowed by five full-course caution periods, which played right into the No. 50 team’s fuel-conservation strategy. Jeannette and the team stretched a single tank of fuel — which usually lasts for about 55 minutes under green-flag conditions — over the final one hour and 17 minutes of the race.
““We knew the circumstances that were likely to happen for this race,” Jeanette said. “We knew that pitting early would be a gamble, but if everything worked out for us caution-wise, we knew it would be the right gamble to make. With us starting at the back, it was going to be hard to win today without taking risks so we just decided to do it. I got in the car and I was in fuel-save mode.”
The second-place finish for Keating, Bleekemolen and Mercedes-AMG Team Riley continued their unmatched streak of 2017 podium finishes in the IMSA GTD class. After finishing third in the Rolex 24 At Daytona opener and giving Mercedes-AMG its first IMSA victory one race ago in the 12 Hours of Sebring, today’s runner-up result completed a top-three podium cycle for the No. 33 team in the year’s first three races.
“Every race so far has fallen our way, no one has made a single mistake anywhere and our Mercedes-AMG GT3 has been great,” Keating said. “So far so good. We will just keep doing what we have been doing and hope everything works out like it has been.”
The second-place finish extends the championship lead to 21 points for the No. 33 team and for drivers Keating and Bleekemolen in the provisional 2017 IMSA GTD championship standings. Mercedes-AMG leads the GTD manufacturer provisional championship standings with 100 points, nine ahead of Porsche.
The No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Boris Said and Tristan Vautier also raced competitively in the early stages of today’s race. The team was one of several in the GTD class that got caught out by entering a closed pit lane during the race’s second caution period. The team ultimately crossed the line in 15th place.