DANVILLE, Virginia – A first-time Mercedes-AMG GT3 Pro-Am class winner in Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS competition, along with the first overall Pirelli GT4 America victory of the season for the Mercedes-AMG GT4, highlighted a successful day of SRO America Championships competition on Saturday for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams at VIRginia International Raceway. Erin Vogel became the first female driver to secure a North American race win in a Mercedes-AMG GT3, co-driving with Michael Cooper to the duo’s first World Challenge victory in the #19 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. Saturday’s other race winners were Christian Szymczak and Kenny Murillo, who co-drove the No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 to the overall Pirelli GT4 America win and their third Silver-class victory of 2021.
Exceptional driving, flawless pit stops and strong team execution were at the foundation of both victories, which anchored a solid six podium showings on the day for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer teams across three SRO America series.
The breakout win for Vogel and Cooper came in only their fifth race start together in their first year with both the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and DXDT Racing.
Starting driver Vogel stayed in touch with the Pro-Am field throughout her race-opening stint and skilfully avoided the contact and off-course incidents that knocked more than one competitor from contention.
Cooper took over from Vogel in a well-executed and masterfully timed pit stop before the 90-minute race’s halfway mark. Cooper returned to the race with a comfortable lead on the Pro-Am field and stayed up front to the finish by maintaining a fast pace straight to the checkered flag.
The No. 19 crossed the finish line nearly eight seconds ahead of the nearest Pro-Am competitor and third overall, sharing the top three with the Pro-class first and second place finishers.
Four other entries secured podium finishes Saturday, including the #33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Russell Ward and Mikael Grenier.
Ward moved into race-winning contention in his race-starting stint and pitted from second place to hand the No. 33 off to Grenier. The stop was going to plan only to see the team hit with a penalty after a bizarre incident.
A wheel that had been removed from the No. 33 in the stop was momentarily loose and was errantly grabbed by a pit-side videographer before a Winward crew member could retrieve it. Despite the outside interference, the No. 33 was assessed a drive-through penalty, which the team pitted from the lead to serve.
Undeterred, Grenier raced back into the top five in his race-closing stint and eventually took the checkered flag just behind Cooper fourth overall and third in Pro.
Additional podium finishers Saturday included George Kurtz and Colin Braun, who joined DXDT teammates Vogel and Cooper on the GT World Challenge Pro-Am podium in third in the No. 04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Kurtz and Braun secured the top-three finish in a charge back to the front following an unscheduled tire change after a contact incident with another competitor.
Sunday’s final day of competition at VIR begins with the second GT America race at 9:10 a.m. EDT. Pirelli GT4 America follows at 11:10 a.m. EDT for its second of two races that set the stage for the featured and final GT World Challenge race that closes out the weekend with a 1:45 p.m. EDT start.
Sunday’s GT World Challenge America race will be featured in live coverage on the CBS Sports Network (CBSSN) beginning at 1:30 p.m. EDT in addition to worldwide livestreaming of all Sunday races on the SRO GT World YouTube channel.
Live timing and scoring, as well as session reports and one-stop video viewing for GT World Challenge, are available at gt-world-challenge-america.com.