SEBRING, Florida – A pair of second-place finishes were enough for co-drivers Kenny Murillo and Christian Szymczak, and the No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 team, to clinch the 2021 Pirelli GT4 America Silver-class driver and team championships this weekend at Sebring International Raceway. Murillo’s titles are the first for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in national SRO America Championships competition and capped a successful two days of racing at Sebring that saw Conquest Racing West secure an overall race-win sweep of the weekend’s Pirelli GT4 America doubleheader. Sunday’s final day of competition at Sebring also saw Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer teams in the Fanatec GT World Challenge shake off race-one frustrations for podium finishes. Both Winward Racing and DXDT Racing secured second-place class finishes in Sunday’s 90-minute GT World Challenge race that closed out the weekend.
Murillo’s championships, which were clinched one race before the season-ending event in two weeks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, were earned with a class-leading tally of five race wins and a string of podium finishes in the year’s 12 races run to date.
This weekend’s pair of podium runner-up showings by Murillo backed up a dominating performance by the No. 35 Conquest Racing West Mercedes-AMG GT4 team, and co-drivers Michai Stephens and Colin Mullan, that broke through for a commanding race-win sweep of the weekend’s Pirelli GT4 America races. The Murillo entry finished second in the Silver class just behind Conquest in both race wins.
Conquest’s overall and Silver-class victories highlight a run of five-straight podium finishes by the No. 35 team and drivers since debuting in both the Pirelli GT4 series and with Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing just three race weekends ago at Road America in late August.
At Sebring, Mullan took over from starting driver Stephens in Saturday’s race while Mullan in turn started Sunday’s finale before handing off to Stephens for the run to the checkered flag. Before stepping out of the No. 35 today, however, Mullan posted a top time of 2:12.859 (101.34 mph) on lap seven that held up as the fastest lap of the race.
Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in SRO America competition is the 2021 finale weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, October 14 – 17, which also features the North American round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
Kenny Murillo (#72)
“For Sebring and Watkins Glen one race ago, we were staying out of trouble and not necessarily pushing too hard to make sure the car came back in one piece. We knew that we had a real shot at the championship with the Mercedes-AMG GT4, and we’re just thankful for the Mercedes-AMG support. For Murillo Racing, really everybody involved, this has just been an absolute blast. To be able to win a championship with the Mercedes-AMG GT4 is a real honor. We went for a survivability setup this weekend. We didn’t want to put ourselves in any danger. I think if we wanted to go a little bit faster, we would have loosened the car up a little bit, but we wanted a car we could safely race and not take any risks. We turned back the setup a little bit and really focused on the game plan, which was just finish ahead of the No. 22, our nearest competitor. Murillo Racing always does a good job of just executing the plan that we prepare so hard for. This is my first attempt at a full season. I’ve been a substitute driver for three years now, just doing a race or so every year. This is my first full season, and to be able to walk away with a championship in my first attempt, is so amazing. I’m just incredibly grateful for the opportunity. I have the best team behind me and wouldn’t want to run any other car with any other team.”
Christian Szymczak (#72)
“It’s great. It’s been a pleasure to drive with Kenny and work with him. For such a young guy, he’s got a mature head on his shoulders, and he drives well on top of that. We’re really stoked. This is what we set out to do and we achieved it. It’s super important for Kenny’s career, so I’m happy for him that we can get it done. I’ve actually learned quite a bit from him, even being the old guy on the team. The temptation in every race is to really just go for it, but we had to keep the championship in mind today. After a few laps at the start, I just backed off to make sure Kenny had a good car when I handed it off to him.”
Michai Stephens (#35)
“There is no “I” in team, and it starts with our great manufacturer Mercedes-AMG, and to all of the great people we have on hand at our disposal who nit-pick at the car’s true potential. What we’re looking to find is very much the optimum performance of the Mercedes-AMG GT4 ourselves, and that’s been a tremendous pairing. This has been a magical weekend, and whether it be a success or a loss, we learn from it every day. I personally did not come into the race thinking we could sweep, but I was convinced by the team that it was something to have the proper belief behind. The most unexpected part of the weekend was how the track developed over the duration of a race or a day. It started in one form and ended in another. That was not only session by session but day by day. It was really a battle of not over or under driving the conditions on track, and yet again the Mercedes-AMG GT4 does a beautiful job of relaying that to us in the cockpit.”
Colin Mullan (#35)
“It’s really amazing. When you put all the right pieces together things can fall into place. For us this weekend, everything just went right for. The racing gods smiled upon us, and we had a very quick Mercedes-AMG GT4 out there. This team has just done an amazing job in such a short time with this program to really get us up there and set the benchmark for the series. It’s been really amazing to work with this group of people, and thanks to John Farrow for putting this together and Eric Bachelart for assembling an amazing group of people to help run this program. We have some amazing brains behind this program. It’s been absolutely incredible and we’re really relishing this opportunity to stand on the top step of the podium twice in a weekend. Setting the fastest race lap early in the stint makes it even sweeter. We really focus on our long-run pace, and for Machai and I, we figured out some stuff driving-wise that really helps work for us on track compared to even some of the other Mercedes-AMG GT4 competitors out there. I can’t give away any secrets obviously, but we really figured out that long run pace, which is what helped us get these two wins this weekend.”