DETROIT – Bryce Ward and Daniel Morad secured their first IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) race win with a convincing victory in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 in Saturday’s featured IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race at the Detroit Grand Prix. Winward’s victory anchored a double-podium finish in the 100-minute race that also saw three Mercedes-AMG GT4 entries finish in the top five. The debuting and Detroit-based No. 78 Thaze Competition by MC Squared Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Marc Miller and Daniel Di Meo finished third while the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss secured its best finish of the season in fifth place.
Winward’s victory followed a then season-best finish of third last month at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and was the first for Bryce Ward in five years of Michelin Pilot Challenge competition. Ward started the race 11th in the No. 57 and quickly moved up to battle in the top 10 throughout a clean and fast-paced opening stint before handing off to Morad just past the race’s 33-minute mark.
A well-executed pit stop by the Winward team put Morad back on track in fifth place as the field circulated behind the safety car for a lengthy 10 laps following the only yellow flag caution period of the race.
Morad quickly took control when the race was restarted with just under 40 minutes to go, passing a pair of competitors to gain two positions on the first green flag lap to move into third. He passed Miller for second place on the following lap before making what proved to be the race-winning pass on the leader with 33 minutes remaining.
From there, Morad maintained a steady pace up front and gradually built a cushion on the field resulting in a comfortable 2.405 second margin of victory.
Morad’s largely unchallenged run to the win was aided by his closest competitors aggressively battling behind him for the final podium and top five finishing positions.
Miller, a Michigan native and resident, pressured for second place throughout his race-ending stint before crossing the finish line a close third for Thaze, which proudly raced as “Detroit’s Hometown Team” in its debut. Thaze’s solid weekend also included a fifth-place qualifying result for Di Meo that allowed the team to battle in the lead pack from the drop of the green flag in Saturday’s race.
The hard-earned fifth-place finish for the No. 56 Murillo entry came after Mosing started 14th in the 22-car field. Aided by a quick pit stop by the Murillo Racing team, both Mosing and closing driver Foss steadily improved throughout the race. The top five was not only the best finish of the year for the No. 56 but also gave the team and drivers some needed championship points after being knocked out of the race early at Laguna Seca.
The Laguna Seca race was won by the sister No. 72 Murillo Racing entry of Kenny Murillo and Christian Szymczak that managed to build its early-season championship lead despite a largely frustrating race Saturday in Detroit.
Murillo was the highest starting Mercedes-AMG GT4 in third place and he held that position in formation with the first and second place competitors throughout his race opening stint.
A shot at a repeat victory went away, however, when the No. 72 team’s pit stop strategy didn’t work with the timing of the yellow flag caution period. Pitting after the other contenders, Szymczak returned to the race out of the top five and eventually crossed the finish line in seventh. Despite the frustrating day, the No. 72 team and drivers provisionally extended their championship lead by 100 points over the nearest competitor, 1000 – 900.
Bolstered by its second victory in a row in the year’s first four races, Mercedes-AMG has provisionally added to its GS manufacturer championship lead leaving Detroit. The current tally of 1300 points is 60 clear of the nearest competitor.
Next up for Mercedes-AMG GT4 competitors in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series is round five of the 2023 championship at Watkins Glen International in New York, June 22 – 24.
Bryce Ward, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “This was the most enjoyable race I have had even though it’s a tight circuit that really requires precision. First of all, I have to thank the team because they did an incredible job on our pit stop and calling our strategy. I also have to thank Detroit because, man, they put on a great show. I am so, so excited to be here and hopefully we can come back again. We are dedicated to the Mercedes-AMG brand, we love the brand and have been with them for five years now. At the end of the day, they put a great product on the road.”
Daniel Morad, Driver – No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “When you work hard and put in the preparation, like the Winward team has done, things start looking easy. But it is not easy just by nature, it’s because of all the hard work that everyone has put in, including Bryce and all on the team. The car was just perfect in the race, and everything went our way because of the decision making beforehand, the planning and the strategy. I took advantage of everyone being tentative on the restart, but I knew where the grip was and had that plan going into the restart. If you make any hesitation on a street circuit, it’s over. It was absolute decisiveness and it paid off.”
Marc Miller, Driver – No. 78 Thaze Competition by MC Squared Mercedes-AMG GT4: “When it comes down to it, it’s a hometown team with a Michigan driver at the Detroit Grand Prix, and in our first race out the blocks we are fighting for wins. It says a lot about the team, and it was a flawless pit stop. We thought we had a car that could run with Daniel, but I just couldn’t clear second place. I had a run a couple of times, made some moves and moved him a couple of times, but with 10 minutes to go I started to cruise because every time I fought him the pack would start to close. I thought ‘let’s chill out,’ gap him again and maybe have another go, but he just never made a mistake. Not a big enough mistake for me to take it to him. Overall, to be standing on the podium at the Detroit Grand Prix, I am going to savor every moment of it.”
Daniel Di Meo, Driver – No. 78 Thaze Competition by MC Squared Mercedes-AMG GT4: “I stayed patient, kept the car underneath me and tried to keep my lap times as low as possible because I didn’t want the leaders to just take off. That paid off, because when Marc jumped in the car, he came out in second. All around, it was an unreal weekend, and we couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Kenny Murillo, Driver – No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “The result really doesn’t reflect the work that was put into this weekend, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. It was an unfortunate yellow that really killed our strategy. We took somewhat of a risk, but we were just extremely unlucky. All in all, we are leaving with a bigger points lead than we had. We went from 90 points ahead to 100 and we are looking forward to the next race at Watkins Glen. We have a strong team, and everyone is firing on all cylinders right now.”