Lone Star Racing team principal and driver Dan Knox will debut the new No. 80 ACS Manufacturing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with co-driver Mike Skeen in the team’s home-race next month at Circuit of The Americas (COTA).
The IMSA WeatherTech Championship Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown at COTA, May 4 – 6, will be the first of four IMSA GT Daytona (GTD) races that Lone Star Racing, Knox and Skeen will contest this year in the team’s new Mercedes-AMG GT3.
In addition to COTA, Lone Star Racing will also race in the three-race stretch of IMSA events at Road America, August 3 – 6, VIRginia International Raceway, August 25 – 27, and Laguna Seca, September 22 – 24.
Lone Star’s 2017 schedule includes the same four races that the team selected last year for its IMSA GTD racing schedule.
“This schedule worked for us last year and we are looking forward to visiting four of our favorite tracks again in 2017,” Knox said. “We would love to do more races, who wouldn’t, but I also have many time commitments away from race track with family and business. It has been six months since we last raced so we are anxious to get things going very soon at COTA.”
Skeen partnered Knox at all four IMSA races in 2016 and the duo also co-drove in the Pirelli World Challenge GT and Sprint-X events at Laguna Seca.
“Last year we were knocking on the door of a top-five finish on a couple of occasions but never quite got the result due to a few different reasons,” Skeen said. “The competition is as strong as ever, but I think we are capable of that performance again if we put everything together. Like always, execution is the name of the game.”
Lone Star, which is based in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area, took delivery of its new Mercedes-AMG GT3 very late last year. The team has thoroughly prepared the new car over the last few months at the team’s Motorsports Ranch-based shop in Cresson, Texas and recently completed its first test at COTA.
The two-day session last week at COTA allowed the team to test with the on-site support of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing Engineers.
“I am very excited,” said Lone Star Racing Team Manager AJ Petersen. “Our COTA test went well, and it will be special for us to race in front of a home-state crowd in a couple of weeks. There will be friends and family attending this event. It will be one of our most important races of the year.”
Knox, Skeen and Lone Star earned an IMSA season-best finish of eighth last year at COTA. They were as high as fifth in the late stages of the race only to be forced to serve a penalty for an earlier contact incident in the final minutes.
“Our recent test at COTA has shown that the returning members of the team are all ready to go, and we have some excellent new additions as well,” Skeen said. “The new car, for one, is very exciting and should prove very competitive. The racing in IMSA is always good although I believe we should be able to find some good success at COTA. We had a strong run last year even though we didn’t have the best results, so hopefully we can hit the ground running when we get back to Austin.”
Lone Star raced a Dodge Viper GT3-R the last three seasons, a big-bore, front-engine race car similar to the basic platform of the Mercedes-AMG GT3.
“The cars are somewhat similar,” Petersen said. “Mercedes-AMG has done a great job with this car. It has high levels of downforce and quick responses to driver input, which brings driver confidence. It has less torque than the Viper that should help the car be easier on the tires and make for a more consistent pace throughout a stint.”
Skeen also sees the long-run consistency and potential of the Mercedes-AMG GT3.
“I think the levels of downforce are significantly higher with the Mercedes-AMG and the platform is much more direct,” Skeen said. “This gives the driver more confidence that the car is going to go where you place. Perhaps more importantly, I think the car will prove to be much more consistent over a race stint, so we should be able to maintain a strong pace to fight for positions at the end of a race.”
- Petersen and his team have had to learn more than just a new race car in their switch to Mercedes-AMG. “The biggest change for me is my tool box,” Petersen said. “Going from Viper to Mercedes has meant a new assortment of metric tools and torx drivers. I am also becoming proficient at reading German and the current Dollar to Euro exchange rates!”
- Lone Star’s participation at COTA and the other three races will give Mercedes-AMG a fourth entry in those events in its bid for the IMSA WeatherTech GTD Manufacturers Championship in its first year in the series. Victories in the last two series races and a third-place finish in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona have given Mercedes-AMG an early-season lead in the GTD manufacturer title race over Porsche, 100 – 91. “We can’t help but be encouraged by the performance of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 so far this year,” Petersen said.
- Petersen hasn’t ruled out more IMSA races for Lone Star this year if the right customer can be found. “I really look forward to the consecutive races that we have scheduled late in the season,” Petersen said. “It will be good to bring the team into the routine of the events and for us to hit our stride. We are still working to add to our 2017 schedule with other drivers with budget that desire to run a Mercedes AMG-GT3 in IMSA.”