Mario Farnbacher produced a performance of outstanding speed, skill and poise to record a memorable class victory in AMG-Team Riley Motorsports’ Mercedes-AMG GT3 at the 65th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. In only their second race as a team, Farnbacher, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating crossed the finish line some 10 seconds ahead of their GT Daytona (GTD) rivals and secured a well-earned win in class at the Sebring International Raceway, Florida.
The second round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship began in warm and sunny conditions in central Florida, with Farnbacher, Keating and Bleekemolen starting from seventh on the grid. Keating took the green flag for the start and stayed out of trouble in the frantic early stages before handing the #33 car over to Mario Farnbacher for the second stint.
The 24-year-old German charged out of the blocks, taking the Mercedes-AMG GT3 from ninth position to the head of the GTD field in little under an hour. Long phases of green flag running allowed the #33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports car to stamp its authority on the race and the young German to establish a key advantage in the fight for GTD class honours. In fact, Farnbacher’s lead was so commanding that Jeroen Bleekemolen was able to retain the lead after taking over for the third driver stint.
“The car was really impressive and we looked in great shape,” Farnbacher said after the race. “We had a great balance overall. Unfortunately, the sister car had a problem with the suspension, which forced them to retire, so we made a real effort to go easy on the car – especially as the Sebring circuit is so tough on both man and machine.”
Another impressive stint from Mario Farnbacher stretched the #33 car’s class lead to over a minute, but a number of full-course yellow periods in the second half of the race erased advantage at the head of the GTD field again and again and bunched the field back up. However, this didn’t appear to faze the team, with Farnbacher, Keating and Bleekemolen remaining cool, calm and collected to record an impressive class victory in GTD.
Victory at Sebring, following on from a third place at the opening round at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, puts the #33 AMG-Team Riley Motorsports squad in a fantastic position in the race for the North American Endurance Championship. The next round takes the teams to Watkins Glen in upstate New York on the weekend of 2 July for the 6 Hours of the Glen.