Mercedes-Benz USA and Mercedes-AMG have confirmed a multiple-car, customer racing program that will bring the manufacturer into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for the first time beginning with the 2017 season.
This announcement confirms the largest manufacturer participation in Sebring history with 14 manufacturer teams expected to compete March 15-18 at America's greatest endurance racing tradition.
Mercedes-AMG GT3 race cars will be powered by naturally aspirated, 6.3-liter V8 engines and will compete in the GTD class.
Mercedes-AMG becomes the eighth manufacturer in the WeatherTech Championship GTD class, which uses FIA GT3 technical regulations. Mercedes-AMG joins Acura and Lexus as GTD programs that will debut in 2017, while Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari and BMW are expected to continue their participation in the class. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 race car is based on the Mercedes-AMG GT S road car.
"The WeatherTech Championship - and especially the GTD class - is where manufacturers have the opportunity to race what they sell," said IMSA president Scott Atherton. "The addition of Mercedes-AMG to our highly competitive lineup is extremely significant, as it brings another iconic, premium brand into IMSA. It is the most recent validation of the relevance of this motorsports platform and truly an honor to welcome Mercedes-AMG to IMSA as an Official Automotive Partner and competitor in the WeatherTech Championship for the first time in 2017."
The manufacturer - which will provide team support via its Mercedes-AMG Customer Sports Program - confirmed at least three race cars for the 2017 season. A pair of entries will come from Riley Motorsports under the watchful eye of team owner/director, Bill Riley.
"It's really an honor to be aligned with AMG," Riley said. "The car looks so fast even standing still, and I can't wait to start running it in anger. I was thinking the other day how many times a Mercedes-Benz has raced at Daytona and I can't remember once. When I look at it that way, it's pretty significant to be involved."
The No. 33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports entry will be co-driven by Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen, and the No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 will be shared by co-drivers Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette. MacNeil and Jeannette got their first seat time in the car in a late September test at Germany's famed Hockenheim circuit.
A third team, SunEnergy1 Racing, led by owner/driver Kenny Habul, also was confirmed to campaign a Mercedes AMG GT3 in the 2017 WeatherTech Championship. Additional teams are expected by Sebring.