Mario Farnbacher marked his first start for AMG-Team Riley Motorsports with an impressive third-placed finish at the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona. The 24-year-old German put together a flawless performance at Daytona International Speedway in Florida together with his teammates Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating and Adam Christodoulou to finish third in the GT Daytona (GTD) class at the line, just five seconds behind the victorious Porsche.
The traditional curtain-raiser to the US motorsport season began in cool but clear conditions in Florida, with Farnbacher’s #33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports starting back in 19th position. A strong start saw the US-based team slowly move up the field over the course of the first few hours in the 27-car GTD field. As night turned to day, the race transformed into a gruelling test for the teams and drivers, with prolonged periods of rain blighting the night-time running and even forcing the organisers to call two full-course yellow periods due to standing water on the track.
Mario Farnbacher took over at the wheel in the early hours of Sunday morning and rose to the top of the class with some consistently fast driving in tough conditions. “We kept things tight in the early stages and tried to stay out of trouble,” said the German after the race. “Then it began to rain and my second stint wasn’t easy. The tyres cooled down significantly behind the safety car, which gave us even less grip. But I was delighted to hand over the car in a good position shortly before sunrise.”
Farnbacher and his AMG-Team Riley Motorsports colleagues kept their cool in frantic closing stages marked by a number of full-course yellow periods and gradually drying conditions. Despite some considerable pressure from fellow GTD competitors, the #33 held strong for well-earned podium on the IMSA debut for the Mercedes-AMG GT3. “What a fantastic race – it will live long in my memory,” said Farnbacher. “We fought hard, took the car right to the limit and we were rewarded with a great result. Now our focus moves to Sebring, where we’ll be looking to take the win.”
The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship takes the teams just a couple of hours down the east coast of Florida to Sebring International Raceway for the 12 Hours of Sebring from 15th to 18th March, where Mario Farnbacher will be looking to repeat the 2015 class victory.