Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Teams Complete Productive Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona Test

along with Inaugural Motul Race for The Pole 100 at Daytona International Speedway

Winward Racing No. 57 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Co-Drivers Russell Ward and Philip Ellis Secure Top-Five Rolex 24 Starting Position with Fifth-Place Qualifying Finish Sunday

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – This weekend, seven Mercedes-AMG Motorsports Customer Racing teams successfully completed three days of testing and qualifying at the annual 2021 Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway (DIS). The teams will compete in two different IMSA sports car racing series at the season opening IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 at Daytona this week.

An annual tune-up for IMSA racing teams prior to each year’s season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, this year’s Roar featured the traditional schedule of day and night practice sessions, along with the first modern-era qualifying race for this weekend’s 59th running of the twice around the clock race.

Sunday’s Motul Race for The Pole 100 saw three Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams lock in starting positions for this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, scheduled to start at 3:40 p.m. EST. Live Rolex 24 coverage on NBC begins this Saturday, January 30th at 3:30 p.m. EST.

The highest finishing Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing team in Sunday’s 100-minute qualifying race was the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, co-driven by Russell Ward and Philip Ellis.

A single pitstop strategy, combined with top driving by Ward and Ellis, secured a top-five qualifying race finish that will see the No. 57 start from fifth on the grid in the GT Daytona (GTD) class at the Rolex 24 next Saturday.

Starting driver Ward didn’t let a steady rain in the opening stages of the qualifying race stop him from turning in one of the best drives of his career. He moved from third to second in GTD during the opening minutes of his rain-soaked run, then took the race lead with one hour remaining.

Ward led three laps but soon gave way to other front-running competitors as he and the Winward team began to conserve fuel as part of the one-stop strategy.

Eventually pitting from fourth place, Ward handed the No. 57 off to Ellis for the final 50-minute run to the finish.

Ellis returned to the race in eighth and steadily began to reel in the competitors ahead. On the final lap, Ellis made a pass for fifth to secure the top-five result and fifth place starting position in what will be Winward’s first Rolex 24 start this weekend.

Ward and Ellis co-drive the No. 57 in the Rolex 24 with Indy Dontje and Maro Engel.

Mercedes-AMG GT3 competitors Alegra Motorsports and SunEnergy1 Racing also completed the qualifying race to secure Rolex 24 starting positions, but both teams were among eight competitors assessed penalties early in the race for improper yellow flag pass-arounds.

Despite losing several laps to the leaders after serving the penalties, both teams picked up positions while persevering to the finish.

Kenny Habul and Raffaele Marciello recovered for an 11th place finish in the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, while Daniel Morad and Michael de Quesada rebounded for 15th in the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Habul and Marciello co-drive the No. 75 in the Rolex 24 with Luca Stolz and Mikael Grenier. Alegra’s full Rolex 24 driver line-up includes Maxi Buhk and Billy Johnson joining de Quesada and Morad in the No. 28.

Four Mercedes-AMG GT4 competitors at the Roar made the most of their three days of testing, preparing thoroughly for Friday’s season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series four-hour race.

The Roar pacesetter was the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of co-drivers Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss, which was fastest in one session and top three in two others, including Sunday morning’s fifth and final test run of the weekend.

Mosing and Foss return for the 2021 season competing alongside Murillo Racing’s sister car, the No. 65 Mercedes-AMG GT4 entry of Brent Mosing and Tim Probert. Kenny Murillo co-drives with the full-season teammates in the four-hour Daytona opener.

In addition to their Rolex 24 debut, Ward and Dontje pull double duty at Daytona, also competing in the No. 4 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4. Ward and Dontje finished third in the entry in last year’s four-hour race at Daytona.

Another three driver Mercedes-AMG GT4 entry testing at the Roar in preparation for next Friday’s race was the No. 10 LAP Motorsports/Bluff City Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4. The No. 10 is co-driven by Anton Dias Perera, Scott Andrews and Colin Braun.

Russell Ward, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 and No. 4 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It’s amazing to be here in the big show. Everyone here is pushing hard to win, and this is where the most professional guys in GT racing in America come to race. I felt quite at home out there. I think the importance of the Roar is just to keep the car in one piece, particularly because it’s such a tight turnaround this year. That was the number one goal. It was good that it rained a little bit and we got to see that. That was the first time in the rain for me at Daytona. It’s quite a fun track in the rain, you’ve got to watch out in a couple of places, but we managed to get a lot done without damaging the car, so it’s really, really good. It’s rest and relaxation for Monday and Tuesday and then we’re right back at it. We’ll come back for the big event and see what we can do.”

Raffaele Marciello, Driver – No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a good three-day test for us. Our Mercedes-AMG GT3 is handling well. I think we’re ready for the big one next weekend, all of the team is settling well, and I am looking forward to my first Rolex 24. We took a penalty in the qualifying race and it was unfortunate, but we don’t care so much about it past today. We’re in a good position and we can do well in the 24-hour race either way. There are not so many corners at Daytona, so that’s not really challenging, but with all the traffic it’s quite challenging! With all the traffic, strategy-wise it’s quite interesting. You need to always be focused and not make any silly mistakes.”

Daniel Morad, Driver – No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “The way we were treating this qualifying race was just to iron out the kinks. We’re just documenting everything, taking the data and putting it toward next week. There are a few new members of the team we’re just trying to learn how to work with, and communication is how you win 24-hour races. Not making mistakes, like today’s, was just a communication error with an improper pass around. It’s a good that it happened now and not in the 24 hours because that’s something that will kill your race. Unfortunately, that penalty just ruined Sunday’s qualifier, otherwise we would have had a good race. It was a hectic race for being a qualifier! A lot of guys were being overly aggressive, and I just didn’t want any part of it and risk damaging the car.”

Eric Foss, Driver – No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “The Murillo Racing guys worked extremely hard in the off season. They went through the car with a fine-toothed comb and refreshed a lot of the components. We’re at the Roar so it is a test session, but I think we have the best Mercedes-AMG GT4 we can have right now for the race weekend. There are a lot of positives from the weekend. Jeff did a phenomenal job driving, as did my teammates in the 65 car. They were all up to speed and really strong, the crew was just flawless in all of their practice stops and we’re ready for the four-hour.”

Kenny Murillo, Driver – No. 65 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It was a really good Roar. I know the Murillo Racing guys really worked hard all off-season long with some solid goals, and they definitely accomplished them. When they’re working that hard, it inspires us as drivers to work just as hard. As a whole, the test went really well for us as a team and drivers. For me, I took huge strides in my driving ability. The Roar offers a good opportunity for us to do that. Brent and Tim did an awesome job showing improvement. Their coachability is amazing. They just got quicker throughout the weekend and Brent set his personal best in the last session, so we’re walking away from this really happy. Eric is a really good mentor, he’s one of the fastest Mercedes-AMG GT4 guys out there right now and a really good benchmark for us to look at. We’re really confident that we’re maximizing the car and maximizing ourselves as a team, and that’s all we can ask for.”

Anton Dias Perera, Driver – No. 10 LAP Motorsports/Bluff City Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “We started the weekend with some problems, but we sorted through that and yesterday afternoon we got caught up with the rest of the pack in terms of pace. We’re still working on making the car faster and some strategy, and Mercedes-AMG has been super supportive. We’re happy with it. We are back at Daytona for the first time with LAP Motorsports, and they have a good pedigree and real legacy in high-level motorsports. They are a motorsports team that is in the high echelon of performance, and it’s been a nice transition with them. The level of engineering and the level of crew is in keeping with a professional motorsports program. Our whole campaign has moved on along with them and with the addition of the two pro drivers we have with Colin and Scott.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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