Winward Mercedes takes double GT victory at Indianapolis

It was a great day to be in a Mercedes AMG at Indy, and less so to be a polesitter as WeatherTech Racing and Winward Racing took the respective victories in GTD PRO and GTD in the Battle on the Bricks for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. And while they couldn’t convert their pole position into a victory, Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow still sealed up the GTD championship and their second consecutive Sprint Cup championship for Paul Miller Racing.

Klaus Bachler had put the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R on the GTD PRO pole and started outside overall GT polesitter Snow. But when the green waved, but before the field crossed the start/finish line, Bachler made a big move to the inside. Drivers aren’t supposed to depart their respective columns until they go under the green flag, and Bachler was given a drive-through penalty, effectively ending any hope for he and Patrick Pilet to secure victory.

That left Jules Gounon in the lead, and he and Daniel Juncadella drove the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes AMG to their third victory of the season, the others coming in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.


“It always tastes good to win a race, our third one of the season after a tough summer season, I would say,” said Juncadella. “Unfortunately, a lot of things out of our control in the last couple of events just didn’t really go in our favor results-wise. I think performance-wise we were not far off. But we just did not have the smoothest of weekends. We had to take some risk lacking pace to the other cars, but obviously this event we’ve been stronger. I think the Mercedes AMG GT3 is very good around here. Both Joules and I raced in the past in the Indy 8 Hours. I won last year, I was second two years ago, so that shows that it suits our car, suits our driving and today was a smooth, smooth race.”

Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas finished second in the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3, ahead of Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC-F. The victory moved Gounon and Juncadella into third in the GTD PRO standings, 39 points behind the Corvette Racing duo of Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia. Barnicoat and Hawksworth still command the championship, and will likely seal the GTD PRO title with a start in Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta next month.

Snow led the first stint from the GTD and overall pole in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3, but was soon facing an attack from Mikael Grenier in the No. 32 Korthoff/Preston Motorsports Mercedes AMG. Grenier got around, but wasn’t there for long before he had contact with the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier LMP3 of Lance Willsey and spun it, leading to a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility.

That put Snow back into the lead, but when the second of two full-course cautions came at the perfect time for GTD teams to back-time the pit stops to make it to the end, the Paul Miller squad didn’t bring him in right away and the No. 1 lost the lead again. Sellers would eventually get the car back to the front, but Philip Ellis was coming hard in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG he had taken over from Russell Ward, followed closely by Loris Spinelli in the No. 78 Forte Racing Powered by US RaceTronics Lamborghini Huracán. Sellers held them off for a while, but didn’t engage in the combat that followed, which saw Spinelli take the lead after some contact with Ellis, and Ellis regaining the lead doing the same.

“I just got out of a battle with Bryan, which was all clean and fair, which would have been nice to watch, I guess,” Ellis recounted. “Then Loris came along and thought he’d play … I don’t know what his mission was, but he tried to pass me on the grass. Basically, drove through our car. Luckily nothing too badly damaged and in the end I just gave back what he dished out.”

Spinelli and Misha Goikhberg ended up second, while Sellers cruised home third ahead of the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Roman De Angelis and Marco Sorensen, exactly what Sellers needed for he and Snow to clinch the championship, The No. 96 Turner Motorsports BMW M4 GT3 of Patrick Gallagher and Robby Foley finished fifth.

The GTD win was the culmination of a perfect weekend for Winward Racing, as the day before, his father Bryce Ward and Daniel Morad took the GS win in the four-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race.

“That was our first double win,” said Ward. “And for the past couple of years here this team has kind of been feast or famine. We won a lot last year; this year we’re struggling due to different things – sometimes performance, sometimes mistakes, and sometimes just bad luck, so it’s it’s really nice to see it all come together here for both cars and that kind of shows the potential the team and what the group of guys we have is capable of.”

Second place in the GTD championship is practically decided as well, as Sorensen and De Angelis have 179 points in hand over Vasser Sullivan Racing’s Aaron Telitz and Frankie Montecalvo.


Story originally appeared on Racer