The No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes Leads the Season Standings
By Godwin Kelly
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It may have taken a scramble to get the car ready for the Rolex 24 At Daytona to open the season, but the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 has emerged as a Cinderella story in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition.
After competing in just four races in its debut season last year, Team Korthoff blasted from the 2022 starting gate with a third-place GT Daytona (GTD) finish at Daytona and followed with a second-place showing in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. Behind the steady hands of season-long co-drivers Mike Skeen and Stevan McAleer, the team heads into the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship Presented by Motul later this week leading the GTD team and driver season standings.
“We are all committed and we are going for the overall GTD championship,” Team Korthoff crew chief Bradley Perry said. “The glass slipper is on Cinderella and we don’t intend on taking it off.”
Perry acknowledged this year’s GTD field is packed with high-quality teams and expects a dogfight through the schedule. But he has a season-long plan in place and isn’t keeping it a secret.
“You can look at the timesheets and you can see we aren’t necessarily the fastest car in GTD, but we have been able to maintain a fairly good pace,” Perry said. “Obviously, in endurance racing you can do that consistently. In the sprint rounds, that will be a little more challenging. The good news is we have a fairly substantial lead in both team and driver points (57 over the nearest full-season competitors). Our best chance is to stay in points management mode and acquire as many points as we can at each event.”
So far, so good. Perry’s formula – stick to the basics of racing – is working to date and the drivers get it.
“I think it’s just we have stayed away from making big mistakes,” Skeen said. “We’ve had a couple of little penalties but nothing that cost us too much and nothing late in the race that mattered too much when it counted. I don’t think we had the fastest car at either of the first two races, but we were able to execute and keep the car up towards the front.”
Perry said the goal is to make the No. 32 Mercedes as bulletproof as possible at every race. Meanwhile, the drivers are following the old racing adage of “to finish first, you must first finish.”
“We had strong strategy and kept the car out of trouble,” Skeen said of the team’s Daytona and Sebring runs. “At the end of both races, the car was more or less intact. We avoided most contact and just trying to stay out of trouble, which is a little different tactic than we will have to take in some of the sprint races where elbows get out a little bit more and you don’t have that much time to make back up or outlive the attrition rate.”
The elbows were definitely out in the most recent race, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, where Skeen and McAleer finished sixth in class on April 9 after being hit from behind on the tight street circuit. Points for Long Beach counted only toward the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup and not the overall season chase, keeping the No. 32 atop the season standings heading to WeatherTech Raceway, where the points earned will be applied to both championships.
“The endurance races that start the year are quite a bit different than this weekend,” Skeen said. “These shorter races, you really have to be on it from the start and not make any mistakes at all. That’s the biggest thing is making sure we continue to execute really well on the pit lane, and that Stevan and I don’t make any mistakes, obviously. It’s much harder to catch back up in the short races.”
Perry said going back to the basics has paid handsome dividends so far, but he knows there are big battles on the horizon.
“There are a lot of teams with massive budgets, with a lot of marketing and public relations, while we went with the basics of motorsports,” he said. “I’ll make sure the crew is sorted, the car is sorted, then let everything fall into place.”
Activity for the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship begins with a late-afternoon practice Friday, followed by a second practice and qualifying on Saturday.
The race airs live at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC network.