Ben Keating said he wasn’t able to fully come to grips with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo as quickly as it had expected, with changes to the new-for-2020 GT3 model as well as IMSA’s revised Balance of Performance in the GT Daytona class requiring a different approach.
Keating and Riley Motorsports co-drivers Lawson Aschenbach, Gar Robinson and Felipe Fraga finished 11th in class in last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona after battling electrical gremlins from the 13th hour, including stopping on track with a master relay failure.
The car lost a further 20 laps in the garage in the 19th hour undergoing repairs.
“We did the best we could with what we had,” Keating told Sportscar365. “The fact is, the AMG looks the same but it’s quite different.
“We are surprised by how much all our old stuff doesn’t work the same as it used to.
“Bill [Riley] did a great job with the car. I think we had the car optimized for Daytona but we’ve got some learning to do and I hope we can get it all figured out before Sebring.”
Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Stefan Wendl admitted they “can’t be satisfied” with the performance of the Evo in Daytona.
“The preparation stage for the race was very brief and we weren’t able to fully keep up with the pace of the top-three in the GTD class,” he said.
“Thanks to a consistent drive and a clever strategy, Riley Motorsports and its driver quartet in the new configuration temporarily moved up as high as fifth place and showed the potential of the new Mercedes-AMG GT3.
“When we can also get to the point where we were last year with the balancing of the new Mercedes-AMG GT3, the results will follow as well.”
Wendl told Sportscar365 that teams have to manage their expectation with the Evo, particularly due to the lack of BoP data from the sanctioning bodies so far.
“Everybody needs to get used to it and get experience, and also the [sanctioning] bodies in collecting data, and on the other hand also the team, trying to explore new ways, new options,” he said.
“We went into the race with Riley with nearly the same setup we used last year. We tried to reduce the drag more with lower downforce as much as we can, which makes the car not easy to drive.
“But this is the way with IMSA’s power reduction it has put into place for all manufacturers.”
Alongside several new components, Keating explained the car’s revised BoP was one of the team’s biggest hurdles to overcome.
“The ABS system is completely new,” he said. “That’s one of our biggest challenges: figuring out how to dial it in.
“It takes into account more lateral slip instead of just longitudinal slip, and it’s very different. We’ve got to figure that out.
“And there’s something about breaking in a brand new differential, but apparently it takes some breaking in time and we struggled with that.
“We struggled with getting the car completely set up completely right.
“We were able to run 5 mm lower this year than we did last year which makes a difference on the ride height, and I can’t believe how big of a difference it makes in the handling.
“We’re a 34.5 mm restrictor, so we have less power than we did last year, we have more downforce than we had last year because we’re lower, and all our setups are just different.
“I don’t have any other way to say it.
“We came here thinking ‘we’ve got this’ and we chased our tail for a big portion of it.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report