An active effort is underway to attract new and existing North American GT3 customers to race the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the U.S. next year, according to Head of Mercedes-AMG customer racing Stefan Wendl.
The German manufacturer saw only two full-season GT3 programs this year with the Riley Motorsports AMG Performance team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and CRP Racing in Pirelli World Challenge, although bolstered by part-time efforts from Lone Star Racing, DXDT Racing, SunEnergy1 Racing and P1 Motorsports.
Sportscar365 understands Mercedes-AMG inquired with at least one German-based team on the prospects of fielding entries in the newly named Blancpain GT World Challenge America, although it appears unlikely for 2019.
Instead, Wendl said he’s hopeful of additional U.S.-based full-season entries in both IMSA and SRO America competition.
“We have quite a few cars, more than 20 cars, in the States, but they are not [all] racing,” Wendl told Sportscar365.
“We would really like to attract them more to racing, not only track days or to be in collectors’ hands.
“Those cars are there to race and we would love to see them racing.”
At least two Mercedes GT Daytona class entries are expected next year, with Riley set to return to the WeatherTech Championship with Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating and P1 Motorsports closing in on a full-season program.
DXDT, meanwhile, has already confirmed a two-car Blancpain GT America operation, featuring Ryan Dalziel and David Askew in a Pro-Am class entry.
Wendl said he’s optimistic of a rebound in GT3 racing in North America, particularly with SRO Motorsports Group’s new majority ownership of WC Vision.
“Stephane [Ratel] is doing quite a lot to build up the [Blancpain GT America] and build a better ground for the series, and IMSA is doing the same,” he said.
“They do it slightly [different], but all the changes that are in place for Silver drivers are exactly the topics they need to fix.
“I think all the teams and the stakeholders, their feedback and the manufacturers’ feedback, are the same. I think we are on the way to see more GT3 racing in the American market.”
IMSA GS Championship Won on “Strategy Calls”
Wendl said he was proud of Mercedes-AMG’s success in Michelin Pilot Challenge competition this year, which saw Team TGM score both the drivers’ and teams’ championships with Mercedes’ new-for-2018 GT4 contender.
Owen Trinkler and Hugh Plumb combined for three victories in the highly competitive GS class, which routinely featured more than 25 GT4-spec cars.
It marked the first championship titles for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in North America.
“We won a lot on strategy calls,” Wendl said. “This is also something I really like with IMSA and with the GS class.
“This regulation allows teams which maybe are not in favor of the best-performing car or the best-performing drivers, and gives them alternatives to win races due to strategy.
“[Whether it’s] fuel save mode, being clever with yellow procedures, using tires that way like in Virginia where half of the race was wet and went into the dry.
“[Team TGM] pitted in 40 minutes before the finish and I was at home [watching] the live streaming, I saw the race and was like, ‘Hey, now they have to pit again for wet tires!
“Of course they would avoid the pit time regulations. It’s crazy!
“It was high risk, but they made it. This makes the team and drivers [titles] even more rewarding.”