The newly formed HTP Winward Motorsport entity is set to contest more than 50 races in Mercedes-AMG machinery worldwide this year, including programs in ADAC GT Masters, GT World Challenge America, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge as well as a return to the Nürburgring 24.
Announced in November and confirmed last month, Bryce and Russel Ward have acquired the legendary German squad, which has resulted in a new team name and chain of management led by joint CEOs Russel Ward and former FIA GT3 champion Christian Hohenadel.
The expansive program will see the Ward’s Texas-based team merged into HTP’s overall operations, with a total of nine Mercedes-AMG GT3 or GT4 cars now in the group’s possession.
While initially having raced CJ Wilson Racing-prepared Porsches in Pilot Challenge, the Ward’s branched out to form their own team in late 2017, running Mercedes-AMG’s then-new GT4 contender as part of a technical partnership with HTP.
“When we switched to Mercedes, we were introduced to HTP and leant on them for some technical support and a little bit of crew support. They were very familiar with the Mercedes,” Russel Ward told Sportscar365.
“Truthfully, it worked out really well. We love working with these guys and if we didn’t, they wouldn’t be here!”
The joint venture will see the Ward’s continue in Pilot Challenge for a third consecutive season, with Philip Ellis teaming up with Bryce Ward in the No. 57 Mercedes GT4 and Russell Ward in the No. 33 car with the returning Indy Dontje.
HTP Winward has also confirmed plans to contest SRO’s GT World Challenge America for the first time, with a full-season Mercedes-AMG GT3 entry for the father-and-son duo, who are expected to compete in the Pro-Am class.
In Europe, the team will field Mercedes in as many as five different championships according to Hohenadel.
A two-car program for GT Masters, as well NLS (formerly VLN) races in the build up to a factory-backed program at the Nürburgring 24 are confirmed, while the team is in the planning stages for a GT World Challenge Europe effort along with selected 24H Series races.
An entry into ADAC GT4 Germany, which launched this year, is also planned with a single Mercedes GT4 car.
“It’s a huge program in the U.S. and we will also have a huge program in Europe,” Hohenadel told Sportscar365.
“We are very lucky to have these guys invest in motorsports.
“The idea behind it is to put all of the synergies from the U.S. to Europe and the other way around. What we want to see some [drivers] from the U.S. traveling to Europe and the other way around.
“It’s easier when you have one partner providing [services] to both continents. It doesn’t matter if you want to do it in the U.S. or Europe.
“At the moment we’re planning more than 50 races, in total. We have opportunities to do it. Our focus will be on the IMSA series, GT World Challenge America, GT Masters and the 24 Hours of Nürburgring.
“If there are other opportunities, like [GTWC Europe] Endurance and Sprint, we’ll do it. But at the moment we focus on that.”
Rolex 24 Program Planned for 2021
Bryce Ward, meanwhile, confirmed the team’s plans to be on the grid for next year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona with a Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
He explained this year’s GTWC America campaign, which will likely be run with a first-gen Mercedes GT3, will serve as a learning experience for the team in the build up to the Florida endurance classic.
“One of the things we really wanted to do was bring the GT3 over here, get some experience in GT3,” he said.
“GT World Challenge America is to get everybody on board, get everything working well, know the car, run Daytona [next year] and then decide what to do after that.”
Hohenadel to Step Back from Driving
In his new role as joint CEO, Hohenadel said he will step back from driving in order fully focus on team management.
The 43-year-old German joined HTP in 2016 and most recently contested GT Masters, VLN races and the Nürburgring 24 for the team in addition to racing with Winward last year in Pilot Challenge.
“On one hand I think you can only do one thing 100 percent,” said Hohenadel. “If I would drive, I think it would affect the work I’m doing here.
“I think we have a lot of work to do in the next couple of years and it’s my future. That’s why I decided quite quickly to stop driving as a professional and put all of my effort in the team.”