Winward Racing Secures First Mercedes-AMG GT4 Podium Finish of the IMSA Pilot Challenge Season Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

LEXINGTON, Ohio – The first Mercedes-AMG GT4 podium finish of the IMSA Pilot Challenge season was secured by Bryce Ward and Alec Udell in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 to highlight a competitive run of three Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in the top-10 of Saturday’s Mid-Ohio 120. The No. 57’s third-place finish was backed up by a sixth-place result by the sister No. 4 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Russell Ward and Indy Dontje and a 10th place finish by the debuting No. 11 FCP Euro Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Michael Hurczyn and Nate Vincent.

The podium showing by the No. 57 team and drivers came in the third Michelin Pilot Challenge race of the season and was the second-straight top-three finish at the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio circuit for the Winward team. Russell Ward and Dontje finished third in the No. 4 last year in the first of two Pilot Challenge races held at Mid-Ohio.

This year, Bryce Ward and Udell stepped up to secure the podium honors in what was the first race of the season for both drivers and the No. 57 team after skipping the year’s opening rounds in Daytona and Sebring.

​Bryce Ward qualified the No. 57 Mercedes-AMG GT4 in 11th place on Friday and put in one of the best drives of his career in the opening stint of

Saturday’s two-hour race. He passed for several positions on track before pitting to hand the No. 57 off to Udell at the race’s halfway point.

A great pit stop by the Winward crew put the No. 57 back on track in sixth and Udell took over from there. Keeping the pressure on, Udell took advantage of other competitor’s mistakes and pulled off some key passes of his own to move to third by the checkered flag.

Russell Ward and Dontje overcame more than one on-track scuffle to charge back to sixth at the finish in the No. 4 Mercedes-AMG GT4.

Another hard-earned result was secured by Hurczyn, Vincent and the FCP Euro team that were all making their IMSA debuts, and their first race starts in a Mercedes-AMG GT4.

Saturday’s Pilot Challenge race was followed by the weekend’s featured IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Challenge race on Sunday.

The No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 team and co-drivers Daniel Morad and Michael de Quesada moved off to a fast start with Morad qualifying third Saturday for Sunday’s two-hour and 40-minute race.

Morad held third at the race start and eventually moved up to second before pitting to hand the No. 28 off to de Quesada 47 minutes into the race.

Following quick pit service by the Alegra team, de Quesada cycled back to fourth place after the entire field completed opening stops. De Quesada then held off more than one challenge throughout his nearly 50-minute stint to run in the top five the entire time.

Unfortunately, de Quesada was hit by a competitor that spun off course moments later, but that didn’t stop him from leading three race laps at the end of his driving shift as the field cycled in for final pit stops.

Morad returned to the wheel of the No. 28 and soon realized the contact had crimped the exhaust on the Mercedes-AMG GT3. The damage put the car down on power, and Morad spent his final stint running out the laps before crossing the finish line in 10th place.

Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is a 100-minute sprint at the Detroit Grand Prix, June 11 – 12.

The WeatherTech Championship will then be rejoined by the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge for back-to-back races at Watkins Glen International later in June and into the first two days of July.

The traditional Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen takes place June 24 – 27 and will be followed later that week by a new Thursday and Friday two-day event featuring races for both series July 1 – 2.

Bryce Ward, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “It was really awesome. I think we got everything out of the car. We were just hanging tough, the Mercedes-AMG GT4 brakes really well and it corners pretty good too. So, you could stay ahead of competition. Even if they got to you on the main straightaway, you could out-brake them. I had a lot of fun, I really did. For me, it was probably one of my best races that I’ve driven. The karting that Russell and I have been doing, and the work I’ve been doing with Alec, has been amazing and really paid off. I’m really, really stoked. It was a super race, and I really want to thank Russell, our Team Manager Alberto Pena and the whole crew. They really do put it all together. The race is won at the shop. If you can’t get it done there, you can’t get it done here, and they get it done at the shop. I’m really appreciative of what they make happen.”

Alec Udell, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “Bryce did awesome to start the race off and made some passes in his opening stint. He put us in a perfect position, and I think we jumped a few cars in the pit stop as well, so the crew did an amazing job. I’m super happy with that. For me, I got in the car and just put consistent laps down. We are really good in the twisty bits and we are really good on the brakes. I watched a bit of mayhem in front of me. I had a lesson in that here last year and was able to take advantage of the opportunities as they came up at the end of the race. I just kept a clean car and I think that was the key today. We have virtually no damage on the car and that’s hard to say looking at some of the other cars coming out of this race. I’m happy to be able to come in and contribute to the team points, because that’s important as well. For all of us, it’s our first race back this year, our first race of 2021. I had an awesome time, I’m really appreciative for the call up again. We’d rather be on the top step, but it feels like a win today.”

Nate Vincent, Driver – No. 11 FCP Euro Mercedes-AMG GT4: “We had a top-10 finish, I’m really happy with that, and the car is in one piece. We have just a few things to change on it. We learned a whole lot this weekend. Having that wheel- to-wheel time with all those cars, at a track like Mid-Ohio that’s really technical and really difficult, allowed us to get a feel for the Mercedes-AMG GT4. Not only to get a feel for the car through a stint but to figure out ways overall we can make the car faster. The biggest eye opener is that the level of competition through the field is really solid. Whether you’re battling for first or 10th, everyone is putting the fight in. It makes the racing really good as a driver and it makes the racing really fun to watch as a spectator. Kudos to IMSA for that, we love it. I had some of the best battles I’ve had in a while here, and I’m looking forward to coming back. We’re really excited to go to Watkins Glen next, a track we know really well. I think we will just put our heads down there and do really well.”

Daniel Morad, Driver – No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was looking very promising coming into the race. We started on the second row in P3, had a good opening stint and got up to second when the leader had trouble. Everything was looking great for us. Unfortunately, we had a little bit of contact from one of the other drivers out there when Michael was in the car. There was nothing we could really do. We were just in the wrong position at the wrong time and couldn’t make it back to the pits before they closed. We cycled to the back of the line and then just followed the leader, nursing the car with the left side damage and the exhaust nearly closed up all the way from the hit. That put us down on power, down on track position and basically down and out. We’re going to keep our heads up and head to the next one and get a good result.”

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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