Debuting Mercedes-AMG GT3 drivers Memo Gidley and Jason Daskalos combined to give Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams a sweep of the GT America powered by AWS season-opening doubleheader this weekend at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Daskalos scored a last-to-first victory in the No. 27 CP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to win Friday’s first race while Gidley won Saturday’s second and final race in the No. 101 TKO Motorsports/Flying Lizard Mercedes-AMG GT3. The solid weekend of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing competition at St. Petersburg also saw Scott Smithson win the pole in Friday’s qualifying session in the No. 08 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Daskalos and Gidley each made bold moves at the start of their winning races that proved key to their respective victories in the pair of caution-plagued sprints.
Gidley grabbed the lead going into Turn 1 from the outside front row grid position at the start of Saturday’s race just seconds before the first of two lengthy caution periods slowed the field. Gidley successfully defended the lead on both restarts and crossed the finish line .795 of a second ahead of the race runner-up.
Rebounding from a practice accident earlier in the day that forced him into a back-up car, Daskalos started last in Friday’s late afternoon race. When the green flag flew, Daskalos wasted no time and passed four competitors in the charge into Turn 1 just before that race too was slowed by a lap one caution period.
Daskalos, as well as Gidley, also gained key positions in Friday’s race when three of the top four qualifiers were eliminated in a pair of lap-one incidents. Smithson and reigning GT America Champion George Kurtz were two of the three competitors knocked out of the race, but both drivers were able to take the green flag for Saturday’s finale.
In addition to their race wins, Daskalos and Gidley were the only GT America drivers competing at St. Petersburg to secure podium finishes in both races. Daskalos pulled off the winning pass on Gidley, who held on for a second-place finish just .893 of a second behind the No. 27. Daskalos in turn backed up his Friday victory with a third-place showing in Saturday’s finale.
Daskalos won in his Mercedes-AMG GT3 debut with CP Racing, which has extensive experience with the brand, but Gidley’s win with TKO and Flying Lizard came in the first race in a Mercedes-AMG GT3 for both the team and the driver.
Another veteran team joining its drivers in a strong Mercedes-AMG GT3 debut at St. Petersburg was RealTime Racing. Longtime and championship winning SRO America GT competitors, RealTime is partnering with Bartone Bros. Racing this year with a pair of Mercedes-AMG GT3 entries.
Each Bartone/RealTime entry secured a top-four finish at St. Peterburg. Accomplished sports car racing veteran Andy Pilgrim finished fourth Friday in the No. 43 Bartone Bros. Racing with RealTime Mercedes-AMG GT3 while his teammate, Anthony Bartone, finished fourth Saturday in the No. 427 Bartone Bros. Racing with RealTime Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in SRO Motorsports America competition is 2023’s first all-series race of the year at Sonoma Raceway, March 30 – April 2. Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer teams compete that weekend in both GT America and the season-opening rounds of the top-tier Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS series.
Memo Gidley, Driver – No. 101 Flying Lizard/TKO Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It’s really hard to pass around here so I planned on making a move right at the start from second on the grid. I just threw it in there in the first turn. I went a little bit deeper than the leader and got a little bit wide. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, but I just soldiered through and made it stick. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 just feels good. The first time I drove it just a few months ago it was just very relaxed driving. It does what you want, but you can also charge it and drive it hard or not. It is fast both ways and also very simple inside. So many other GT3 cars have way too many buttons and switches inside. This is all just very simple but the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is still very fast.”
Jason Daskalos, Driver – No. 27 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I was down on myself on Friday when we were fastest in practice only to have a mental error and put it in the wall. But to see the team switch over to a back-up car that really wasn’t ready to race and then come out with a victory from last and third on Saturday, it really is a testament to how good this team is. I started racing in front-engine sports cars like the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and this is definitely the car I am happy to be in right now.”
George Kurtz, Driver – No. 04 CrowdStrike Motorsports with Riley Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We were excited coming into the weekend but obviously disappointed leaving. Unfortunately, we got caught up in somebody else’s incident in the first race and it really put us on the back foot. Without really getting a lap in race one, we had to start in the back in race two, which had so many yellows. We only really had three green laps of racing and really couldn’t show this weekend the speed we had to move up in the order. We will have to put this race behind us and look forward to Sonoma. We are going to be focused on better results in GT America and getting GT World Challenge America off to a good start with my co-driver Colin Braun.”
Anthony Bartone, Driver – No. 427 Bartone Bros. Racing with RealTime Mercedes-AMG GT3: “We were all out there for 30 minutes just driving around in Saturday's race, but the green laps I had were good. We were pretty spread out at the front. I had Andy just behind me in fifth, and we were able to bring the cars back and put them on the trailer in perfect shape for Sonoma and know we have good Bartone Bros Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 cars going forward. I know typically what happens in Turn 1 here, so on Friday I was just going to stay to the outside. If someone gets by me, that is OK, but before the green flag those guys were getting into each other on the pace lap. I was just going to stay back and be careful. We both maximized our points and brought the cars back in one piece.”
Andy Pilgrim, Driver – No. 43 Bartone Bros. Racing with RealTime Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It’s a win when we can load two Bartone Bros. Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 cars on the trailer in perfect condition after two street races. Anthony’s progression this weekend was measurable, with him posting the fast lap of the race on Saturday. Thanks to the Bartone Bros. Racing with RealTime crew for giving us fast cars this weekend. I gave myself a little extra breathing room at the start of Friday's race, and then at the exit of Turn 3 all hell broke loose, there was smoke everywhere and a tire came off. I had to do a quick flick to miss the tire and the wall. Then two guys got together in Turn 4, and I had to really get in the brakes and the ABS. It was a great race. Anthony was pushing me around and he was driving really well. He was quicker than me in some places, I was quicker than him in sections, and then the traffic came into play. We brought both Bartone Bros Racing cars home in one piece.”