The new SunEnergy1 Racing team is set for a full-season effort in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with Tristan Vautier, Boris Said and team owner Kenny Habul confirmed as drivers for its new Mercedes-AMG GT3.
North Carolina-based Australian Habul, an occasional NASCAR Xfinity Series driver, has assembled an all-new team run by former NASCAR crew chief Matt Chambers, and featuring a multi-national crew.
The program carries the backing of Habul’s company, SunEnergy1, a solar energy developer.
“[It’s been built] from the ground up in pretty much 30 days,” Said told Sportscar365 of the team’s formation. “It was pretty fast.
“I met Kenny doing NASCAR when we were teammates at [Joe] Gibbs [Racing] a few years ago. It kind of gave me the idea, because he asked me, ‘How can I do better at NASCAR?” and I said, ‘You have to drive more. You should do some sports car races, at least Daytona.'”
All three drivers took part in last year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, in a Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS, which helped lead to Habul creating a team of his own for 2017.
“You drive as much as you do in one year in one race,” Said stated. “He kind of got bit by the bug then.
“We looked around at cars, and of course I’m more of a BMW guy just because I’m a dealer and I’ve raced them forever, but this is a great car and it was the right program for him.”
While having completed a shakedown at Carolina Motorsports Park last month, which saw all three AMG GT3s in attendance, Said and Vautier are taking part in this week’s IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona for the car’s first proper run.
Said, who drove selected ADAC GT Masters races with Eric Curran in a Whelen-backed Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R this year, said the AMG GT3 has a similar feel to it.
“It’s pretty similar to be honest with you,” Said stated. “The ten laps I’ve done, everything just works perfect.
“Easy to drive, it’s a lot different driving style then the cars I’m used to driving, but I think I’ll get the hang of it in a little while.”
While the team’s full-season lineup hasn’t been announced, Said indicated that ex-IndyCar driver Vautier is likely to be in the car for the entire year, with Habul and himself set to split driving duties in the 12-round championship.
A yet-to-be-determined AMG factory driver will join the trio for January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“It looks like for the full year it will be Tristan for sure,” Said stated. “And then it will be some combination of me and Kenny probably, depending on how much he wants to run.
“I think he’s going to run as much as he can run, and I’m going to run whatever he doesn’t run. So I don’t know yet if it’s for me just the long races, the whole year, I don’t know.
“This year is going to be incredible. You’ve got [Acura], Lexus, Audi, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari [in GTD], it’s crazy. It’s awesome.”