INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams secured a second-place overall finish and Pro-Am class victory in the Indianapolis 8 Hour Intercontinental GT Challenge race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP shook off an early-week shipping delay of their No. 89 Mercedes-AMG GT3 to lead Sunday’s race on several occasions and finish second with team drivers Raffaele Marciello, Daniel Juncadella and Timur Boguslavskiy. The Pro-Am class victory was earned by the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 team of Kenny Habul, Mikael Grenier and Martin Konrad who finished 10th overall.
The overall runner-up finish by the AKKA ASP team and drivers is the best result of the season for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing in Intercontinental GT Championship competition. Sunday’s race was the second round of the 2021 IGTC season and the second appearance of the global championship at Indianapolis after debuting at the “Brickyard” in 2020.
The podium finish was a remarkable achievement considering AKKA ASP didn’t even take delivery of its No. 89 Mercedes-AMG GT3 until early Saturday morning at IMS. The team relied on the kind support of fellow Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing team DXDT Racing who loaned AKKA a backup Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the team and drivers to use during Thursday and Friday practice.
After a solid race-opening stint by starting driver Boguslavskiy, Juncadella took over and moved the No. 89 into lead for the first time in the race’s second hour. Juncadella’s 19 laps up front were part of 23 total race laps the No. 89 led.
SunEnergy1 Racing’s victory came after they led for the majority of the race and overcame a pair of pit violation penalties to maintain control of the Pro-Am class. Habul, Grenier, Konrad and the SunEnergy1 team, which is operated by Gradient Racing, improved on their third-place Pro-Am finish in last year’s inaugural Indianapolis 8 Hour.
Another competitive performance came from the No. 99 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Maro Engel, Luca Stolz and Jules Gounon. The No. 99 team led the race overall several different times for 23 laps up front only to retire after an on-track contact incident in the final hour.
Craft-Bamboo wasn’t the only Mercedes-AMG Customer team to hit trouble as the Indianapolis 8 Hour took a typical endurance-racing toll on several competitors.
A multiple car incident at the top of the race’s second hour led to the retirement of the No. 33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Russell Ward and the No. 19 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Erin Vogel at the wheel.
The No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of David Askew was also caught up in the incident but continued with minimal damage. Askew and his co-drivers Ryan Dalziel and Scott Smithson persevered to the finish, taking the checkered flag 14th overall and fourth in the Pro-Am class.
The third DXDT Racing entry of George Kurtz, Colin Braun and Ben Keating overcame a flat left front tire early in the race, but the team’s No. 04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 was later retired near the end of the seventh hour after losing a rear wheel on course.
The next major endurance race challenge for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in North America is the Motul Petit Le Mans IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, November 10 – 13.
Raffaele Marciello, Driver – No. 89 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We did the best we could. We were not able to match the overall tempo of the race, but we can be proud to finish second. To be sure it’s good points. We wanted to do better, we always do.”
Daniel Juncadella, Driver – No. 89 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Big, big kudos to the whole team, the mechanics, the engineers and my teammates for the turnaround. The car arrived early on Saturday, just before the pre-qualifying, so that’s a pretty sick way to turn the weekend around, finishing second! If you would have told me when our car arrived so late, and then the wet conditions we had to run in, I would have signed anywhere we would not have done this well. It was a frustrating race, but I love coming here. The atmosphere and the attitude of the American people is just amazing. Everyone is so cheerful, you see all the marshals, everyone is like, ‘hey man, good luck today.’ Everybody is so friendly and very social here, and the way the American helped us here, giving us their car to get some laps in practice, is simply amazing. It felt like we are all part of the family, and we didn’t even know them before. I’m so thankful to them because those laps obviously helped us. We were all rookies here at the track, even if we didn’t race with that car, we at least got to do some laps and learn the track. That kind of attitude is simply great to see as a part of the Mercedes-AMG family."
Kenny Habul, Driver – No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “What an amazing day. Congratulations to the SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG team, thanks to Mik and Marty, my teammates, and my engineer and the entire team. It was an amazing effort all day and we deserved it.”
Mikael Grenier, Driver – No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Thanks to Kenny for putting the program together. It was good to get a win in Pro-Am and top 10 overall. There’s not a scratch on the car. Martin and Kenny did really well, so we are happy with the result. Thanks to Mercedes-AMG as well.”
Luca Stolz, Driver – No. 99 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We had the speed basically all weekend and the team showed great performance. In the race, the early leaders made a step up, and they were quite fast, but we were always in the game. It’s a shame that it ended the way it did, but the team pulled out a great effort. It’s a bittersweet pill to swallow I guess, but that’s where it ended up and we will keep our heads up.”
David Askew, Driver – No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I think this is the third Intercontinental 8 Hour race that DXDT Racing has done, and this year it was with the most cars we've ever run here. We've won it twice before, including in Pro-Am last year with George and the No. 04 team. This year we came up a little short. We had to retire the No. 19 car and eventually the No. 04 car. The No. 63 soldiered on and came home fourth. Two bronze drivers made a few too many mistakes, and that's what happens in endurance racing. It was a tough race. They’re always tough. It’s a battle of making the fewest mistakes and keeping out of trouble and for the most part we did that. All in all, it was a good experience for the team. Endurance racing is why I got into racing, so I’m always looking forward to the endurance races. We're excited to move on to next year and a new season and to come back here and do it all over again."
Colin Braun, Driver – No. 04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: "It was a tough day for the No. 04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. It's not the result we were looking for, but I'm proud of our guys. George and Ben did a super job in the car. Luck just wasn't on our side. You'll have those days in racing. More than anything, I'm proud of the group and happy for all the CrowdStrike and AWS folks that got to come out and see what all this is about. When those folks come out, it's always a lot of fun and reinvigorates within you with what racing is, how cool it is and how special it is to get a chance to be a part of it all. I enjoyed our weekend. We have a lot of positives to take away and look forward to what's next.”