LAS VEGAS, Nevada - A full schedule of on-track competition and a grand celebration wrapped up the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge America and Pirelli GT4 America racing seasons this past weekend. Four days of season-ending competition at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS), October 17 – 20, set the stage for the international SRO Awards Celebration Sunday night at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino where Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams and drivers from around the globe were presented with numerous year-end and season championship awards.
The Blancpain GT World Challenge America season concluded with a day-night doubleheader on the 2.5-mile LVMS road course on Saturday. George Kurtz and Colin Braun scored a top-five Pro-Am class finish in Saturday’s opening race in the No. 04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Saturday night’s second race saw the No. 04 team endure a pair of penalties and fading brakes in the late stages of the 90-minute battle on the demanding “roval” circuit, but Kurtz and Braun left Las Vegas pleased with their overall performance this season in their first year together in GT3 competition.
At Sunday’s awards celebration, Kurtz represented America and his DXDT teammates on stage for the presentation of the global Blancpain GT World Challenge Manufacturer Championship awards to Mercedes-AMG. The first-year international championship, which included the Blancpain World Challenge series in America, Europe and Asia, saw Mercedes-AMG edge past Ferrari to become the inaugural winners of this prestigious title.
Kurtz and Braun, and their DXDT Racing teammates David Askew and Ryan Dalziel, were the designated American drivers to earn points for Mercedes-AMG in the successful championship campaign.
Joined by Stefan Wendl, Head of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing, Kurtz was part of an accomplished group of fellow Mercedes-AMG GT3 competitors from both the European and Asian championships accepting the honor.
In addition to numerous honors for the European and Asian competitors, other championship awards went to Murillo Racing and team co-drivers Matt Fassnacht and Christian Szymczak for winning the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX East Am title, piloting the No. 34 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4. Their championship season was highlighted by three overall SprintX GT4 victories at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) in May, Watkins Glen International on Labor Day Weekend and the East Am season-ending event weekend last month at Road America.
A pair of Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams competed in the LVMS Pirelli GT4 America finale and combined to secure a perfect four-for-four sweep of class podium finishes in the twin Saturday and Sunday races.
Co-drivers Patrick Byrne and Guy Cosmo not only podiumed both days in the Pro-Am class but took a third-place overall SprintX top-three Sunday in the No. 89 RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4.
After finishing fourth overall and third in Pro-Am on Saturday, Cosmo took the green flag from the pole on Sunday. Cosmo led every lap in a dominating race opening stint, but he and the No. 89 team lost a few critical seconds during the pit stop to hand the car off to Byrne. A steady wind at LVMS on Sunday blew over the pit speed limit sign and Cosmo, playing it safe to avoid a speeding penalty, slowed just a tick too much entering the pits. Byrne took over and kept up the fight, taking the checkered flag second in Pro-Am and third overall.
The No. 64 Rearden Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 made its Pirelli GT4 series debut and walked away with a second place SprintX Am class finish Saturday and third in class on Sunday. Anthony Lazzaro shared the No. 64 in the SprintX races with car owner and driver Dmitri Novikov, who also contested the weekend’s pair of single driver GT4 Sprint races.
Improving several positions in both races, Novikov finished fourth in the Sprint Am class on Saturday and fifth on Sunday.
With the full-season North American championships in both IMSA and SRO Americas complete, Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams close out 2019 with a pair of one-off races in November.
Riley Motorsports is running both its Mercedes-AMG GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT4 entries in the non-points IMSA Michelin SportsCar Encore at Sebring International Raceway, November 9 – 10.
The following weekend, a strong lineup of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams return for the third running of the 24H Series Continents race at Circuit of The Americas (COTA), November 16 – 17. The current 40-plus overall entry list for COTA shows four Mercedes-AMG GT3 teams and three Mercedes-AMG GT4 entries.
Mercedes-AMG GT3 competitors filled three of the top four overall finishing positions in last year’s COTA 24H, including the outright victory by the No. 3 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 team of Yelmer Buurman, Mike Skeen, Scott Heckert and Bret Curtis.
Stefan Wendl, Head of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing: “My sincere appreciation goes out to our Customer Racing teams and drivers for having enabled us to win this title with numerous achievements in the SRO series. This reflects the strength of our worldwide Customer Racing Program with the Mercedes-AMG GT3. Therefore, winning the Blancpain GT World Challenge manufacturer title really means a lot to us. We are looking forward to taking on the challenge again next year, and we will do our utmost to defend our title.”'
George Kurtz, Driver – No. 04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a building season. It was great to be in the Mercedes-AMG GT3 with DXDT Racing and CrowdStrike. We learned a lot. I was able to use the downforce of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 pretty well. I've spent a lot of time in high-downforce cars, so I think that was a positive, but I need to probably manage the weight of the car a little better, just to help the car turn. The nuance of the brake release and pedal is going to be important. I would say we made a lot of strides from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. We'll look forward to a great 2020 and I think we'll continue to build in the off season. The team and the drivers can all put it together, and I think we'll have something to show for it in 2020.”
Colin Braun, Driver – No. 04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I'm certainly proud of all the guys at DXDT Racing and George. Stepping up to a GT3 car, he did an excellent job this year. Our goal at the start of 2019 was to get as much experience as possible and make all the laps as we could. We really had no issues or incidents that cut short our opportunity to learn. From that standpoint, it's a job really well done. The DXDT guys have done a great job on the team and George has learned the car. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is a great car, a great cornering car, and we have to keep working on it within the current Balance of Performance (BoP). Certainly, there's areas that we can improve and work on this off season in total, just like any team, but overall I'm really happy with the whole season and the job everyone did.”
Ryan Dalziel, Driver – No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “This was my second full season with the Mercedes-AMG GT3. It's such a good car. It's a confidence-inspiring car. The way the BoP (Balance of Performance) works these days, there are good weekends and there are bad weekends, but we were always in the fight. We're excited about getting the new car, figuring out what's different, and hopefully we can improve on an already great machine.”
Patrick Byrne, Driver – No. 89 RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “Hopping into any new car has a learning curve, but the boys at RENNtech really, really know how to make this car work. Our engineer is doing a really good job. He's listened to a lot of our feedback, and he's changing the car constantly. The combination of the two really make this Mercedes-AMG GT4 go fast. Anywhere you show up and you do really well, and you're on the podium out of nowhere against guys that have been there all season, really helps. On Sunday, we were really strong under brakes and we utilized the big braking capability to maximize our advantages in that area. We had a good run. The learning curve is steep, but the Mercedes-AMG GT4 was comfortable from the get-go. It's easy to drive.”
Guy Cosmo, Driver – No. 89 RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “We really worked hard in these final races. I think it's a testament to this team. RENNtech is new to this arena, but they have good people and a good process. We worked really hard to continually make changes to the Mercedes-AMG GT3, and Patrick's feedback on the car is valuable and the same as mine, every time. The combination of the two of us working together to constantly improve the car is really, really a strong point for us. The guys did great job all weekend. I was in the zone in Sunday’s race and was able to keep pounding out laps. I had clear sailing in front of me, but when I came into the pits and the pit speed sign board had blown over from the wind. It just caught me off guard. I really didn't want to speed in pit lane, so I slowed early and botched our pit entrance. It was a case of better safe than sorry, and I'm glad we didn't have to serve a penalty, but we gave away that big lead that I had worked so hard to get.”
Dimitri Novikov, Driver – No. 64 Rearden Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “I actually like the car when it's set up properly. I like that the weight is in front, which allows me to rotate it easier in comparison to other cars I have tried like the Porsche. I love the traction control, which I believe is better than others that I tried, and I like the way it looks. I bought another Mercedes-AMG GT4, a new one, so this car in Las Vegas was a used one. The plan is to race in a full season of Pirelli GT4 America SprintX next season, but I need to find a driver who knows the car and who can set it up, because that's very important.”
Anthony Lazzaro, Driver – No. 64 Rearden Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “I've been watching GT4 competition for a few years now. I was really happy when they came out with a common platform. The class is huge, super competitive and affordable. To do my first race in a Mercedes-AMG GT4 is pretty cool. I'm glad it’ silver, as it should be, a nice, simple, beautiful car. I had a lot of fun with it. The racing obviously is very close, and the Mercedes GT4 is a fantastic car. It's just a lot of fun to drive. I just met Dmitri a week ago and I am grateful for this opportunity.”