British Marque photographer Karst Hoogeboom and his Turner get ready for the Thursday afternoon parade.
Photo by Bruce Vild
Historics Mark Their 40th
Lime Rock Scores Another Hit and No Name Straight Gets a Name
by Bruce Vild
LAKEVILLE, Conn., Sept. 1-5 — Some weekends simply fly by — something to do with having fun, we suppose. The Historic Festival at Lime Rock Park is always one of those weekends, and this year we were not disappointed (as if we ever were).
Corvette was the featured car for the weekend, and though this writer is not really a fan the special display in A Paddock of Corvette prototypes dating from the 1950s was something not to be missed. It seems the idea of a mid-engined Vette did not come from some 21st century whiz kid but has been around for decades, and the rather heavy-handed styling of the production Corvettes was preceded by some really beautiful designs. Kudos to the people who put together the display.
Historic Trans-Am cars were also features, with a separate class for racing (ear plugs definitely required) and a large area of B Paddock reserved for them. Of particular interest was a one-off 1964 Pontiac Tempest/GTO that in its day, at the hands of Bob Tullius, really embarrassed its competitors on the track. The other cars came from a very limited chronological range, 1966-1970, and consisted mostly of Camaros and Mustangs.
If Corvettes and Mustangs are not your cup of Earl Grey, not to worry, there were plenty of British cars at Lime Rock — racing, in the Concours, and of course for sale, along with the parts needed to keep them running, in the vendor areas on the Midway or the lower B Paddock.
The weekend followed the usual format, with a Thursday afternoon parade of classics and race cars, Friday practice and qualifying (this year in nine classes or “racing groups”), and Saturday and Monday racing. Sunday was for “Sunday in the Park,” a Concours d’Elegance along the Sam Posey Straight and a Gathering of the Marques (primarily of car clubs) around the remainder of the track.
And “No Name Straight” finally got a name on Saturday, honoring the gentleman who often registered to race as “P. L. Newman from Lime Rock, Conn.”
The festivities began under sunny skies Thursday afternoon, with the usual excellent representation of British cars in the parade. This writer was privileged once again to be offered the passenger seat of Al Chicote’s Elva Courier, and with more than a hundred vintage and classic cars we drove along a new parade route to Falls Village for the annual block party. Karst Hoogeboom was there, too, not only helping this writer cover the event but adding something special to the parade with his Turner.
What it’s all about. Race Group 1 action with a 1961 Sunbeam Alpine and a 1959 MGA.
Photo by Karst Hoogeboom
Another Turner driver, Stu Forer, who races his blue #48, was there for the parade with his silver Jag race car, also #48. It seemed that more cars were in the parade, or at least lined up at the Sam Posey Straight before the start, but Skip Barber himself, who overheard a conversation we were having to that effect, corrected us and said that the number was fixed and comparable with previous years.
The cars were arranged in the opposite direction this year, facing the pedestrian bridge at the end of the straight so that everyone could take a lap of the track before leaving on the parade route. This was something new, and Al particularly enjoyed this as it was his first time driving the track.
Another plus was that traffic into Fall Village seemed to flow a lot smoother, with less of a chance of older cars overheating with the usual stop-and-go. After we parked, we mingled with the crowd of participants and spectators and ran into several of our friends — besides enjoying the incredible variety of cars.
Of course, the main reason for coming was the racing, and there was an interesting twist.
Except for the featured class, Historic Trans-Am (Group 3), your position in the next race was determined by your best lap time to that point. For example, where you gridded in Race 1 depended on your best time in practice or qualifying. In Race 2, it was based on your best time in practice, qualifying or Race 1, and so on.
In the first races Saturday morning, British cars performed in epic style. Group 1, Mid-century Sports Cars/Formula Juniors, had an all-British podium led by Paul Stinson in his #7 1963 Lotus Super Seven, followed by Michael Taradash in another Lotus Seven (#11) and Norman Berke in an Elva Courier (#26).
Group 2, Prewar/Early Postwar Cars, belonged to Peter Greenfield in his #41 1935 Alfa Romeo 8C-35, but British cars took 3rd, 4th and 5th with Frank Filangeri’s 1951 MG TD (#928), Chris Towner’s 1951 Morgan Plus 4 (#746) and Graham Scaife’s #757 1953 TD. This was an interesting mix of cars, with the Prewar racers starting first and followed by the “Early Postwar” guys that were driving cars as recent as a 1965 NSU Prinz.
Group 3 was Historic Trans-Am, so no British cars there. (One of only two classes without them.)
Group 4, Wings and Slicks/Formula Ford, had several British chassis builders represented. Ben Sinnott’s #126 1997 Lola T97/20 won that one, followed by Chris Fahan’s #39 Van Diemen Rf2000 and Tony Carpanzano’s #25 1993 Reynard 93H/Toyota. Fahan’s Van Diemen and David Neidell’s #56 Lola B2K40, also from 2000, were the newest cars racing this weekend. Maybe that’s why the event is no longer called “Vintage” but “Historic.”
Nine race groups — seven loaded with British cars — meant incredibly diverse fields.
Photo by Karst Hoogeboom
Group 5, Tin Tops/IMSA RS/Under 2.5 Litres, saw another British win, David Porter’s #11 1965 Ford Lotus Cortina Mk1, on top of 25 other entries. Simon Kirkby’s #771 1963 Hillman Imp was a bit further down the list at 6th, and Jon Clerk’s #10 1965 Mini Cooper placed 10th.
Group 6 was Air-cooled 911s/IMSA GTU Porsches, and none of them were made in the U.K., so…
Group 7, Fast Production/Sports Racing Cars, had British representation with Sean Brown’s #35 1975 Ford Escort and Randall Smalley’s #77 1963 Aston Martin DB4, and sort-of British representation (likely more German, with its Cologne/Köln V6) from Norm Murdock’s #2 1972 Ford Capri RS2600. The Escort made 4th, the Capri 7th, and the Aston Martin 11th. The two top positions were taken by 1965 Corvettes.
Group 8, GT/Under 2 Litre/Austin-Healeys was an interesting bunch, taking in swoopy sports racers, familiar four-cylinder roadsters from the 1960s and two Mazda Miatas. British machinery absolutely dominated, taking nine of the top ten spots in the first race. Joe Blacker took the victory in his #61 Brabham BT-8, followed by Laurent Fumex in the #14 1968 Ginetta G16 and Rich Maloumian, Jr., in the #347 1956 Healey 100. Tenth place? That was taken by one of the Miatas.
Group 9, Big Bore Cars, had two of Donovan Motorsports’ E-types at or near the top, with Jack Busch in the #61 1967 coming 1st and Art Hebert in the #63 1967 3rd, separated by a Corvette. They bested other Corvettes, Porsches, Mustangs, two 240Zs and a Camaro.
And that was just Saturday morning. There were still three races to go, one that afternoon in the sunshine and two on Monday in the rain.
Race 2 proceeded with full grids once again, and the top-five morning finishers usually placed there in the afternoon. One particularly notable result was in Group 4, where Neidell’s Lola finished 2nd, up eight positions from the morning race and nudging Fahan and Carpanzano to 3rd and 4th.
“No Name” no more
In the very late afternoon — after the track cooled down — fans were called over to Spectator Hill where it looked down on No Name Straight. A banner had been set up in the woods directly opposite, and it was covered. No doubt underneath was the Straight’s new name, ready to be revealed at the proper moment.
There was of course some mystery and suspense purposely drummed up for the event. For whom was the Straight to be named? There were some pretty obvious clues. For one, the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp had a big display in the Lime Rock midway. For another, the new President and CEO of Lime Rock, Dicky Riegel, introduced members of the honoree’s family who had lined up in front of the banner before it was uncovered.
Newly christened Paul Newman Straight, with a Corvette race car in the Newman style (he left us at age 83).
Photo by Greg Clark, LRP
The unveiling ceremony confirmed that the honoree was, of course, Paul Newman, and No Name Straight from now on will be known as Paul Newman Straight.
Said Riegel, “The balanced appellation of the Sam Posey Straight and the Paul Newman Straight pay homage to these amazing and pioneering drivers and friends of Lime Rock Park.” Posey was in attendance at the ceremony, and the straight named for him, dedicated in 2013, runs from the track’s Downhill to Big Bend.
Also attending was Hole in the Wall Camp CEO Jimmy Canton, who confirmed that the Camp will now partner with Lime Rock in its fundraising efforts. Newman founded the Camp, which caters to seriously-ill children and their families, in 1988, and it is as much a part of his legacy as racing and motion pictures.
Speaking of which, Newman won his last race at Lime Rock at an SCCA event at age 82 — the number on his car, which, appropriately enough for the theme of this year’s Historics, was a Corvette.
Sunday in the Park
There was no racing on Sunday, but there was plenty of action on the track. The Sam Posey Straight was filled with cars to be judged in a Concours d’Elegance, about 200 of them, and perhaps 800 others, from Crosleys to Bentleys, occupied the rest of the circuit in an informal Gathering of the Marques.
In the judged competition there were special awards, and several British cars snagged them — including Bill King’s 1951 Jaguar Mark V (Turtle Invitational Award), Steven Solomon’s 1994 Jaguar XJ220-N (Sports Car Market Award), Jim Messenger’s 1967 Jag E-type (Hagerty Spirit of Motoring Award), and Orrie Simko’s 1926 Rolls-Royce Springfield Silver Ghost (Marsh McLennan Award).
Class winners included David Porter’s 1988 Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Gerald Lettieri’s 1949 Allard J2, Dean Cusano’s 1970 Jag E-type, and Nathaniel Pulsifer’s 1930 Rolls-Royce 20/25 HP.
“Stars of the Rock” included Jim Messenger’s previously cited E-type, Anita Stechow’s 1990 Lotus X180R race car, M. S. Koly’s 1935 Rolls-Royce 20/25, Danny Bell’s 1959 Aston Martin DB2/2 Mark III, and Dean Cusano’s 1954 Jag Mark VII.
Among “Skip’s Sunday Best” was Matthew Piacentini’s 1973 Jag E-type.
Lawrence Auriana’s 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B won Best of Show. Not British, but it was magnificent.
Monday — more racing, fewer cars
Monday morning was interesting: rain on and off, and with less than 10 minutes to the start of Race 3, the grid in Group 1 slowly, very slowly, started to fill. The group wound up with 12 game drivers Group 2, with the prewar and early postwar cars, was relatively well represented, too, but both were reduced by half compared to Saturday.
At the Sunday Concours — Lawrence Auriana and his Best-of-Show 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B.
Photo by Bruce Vild
It rained enough in the early morning to make the track slippery. Sharon Adelman’s #97 Brabham BT6 FJ was the first casualty and was extracted by the track tow truck as Group 1 went yellow. A 1956 Alfa Giulietta won that one, but Berke’s Elva Courier and Forer’s Turner made the top five.
Only four cars showed up in Group 4. Sinnott continued his winning ways in his Lola T97/20, but Neidell, Fahan and Carpanzano did not participate. Second went to Graham Adelman, #58 1968 Brabham BT23C, and 3rd to Mitchell Eitel, #62 1975 Chevron B31.
Group 5 was much bigger — though still severely reduced from Saturday — with 14 entrants including Porter’s Cortina (winner of Race 1 on Saturday), Kirkby’s Imp and Jon Clark’s Mini. Porter, sadly, did not make it past the pace lap, but Kirkby and Clark ran consistent laps in 5th and 6th place. Toward the end the Mini nipped the Imp for a top-five finish.
Group 7 had but three entrants, a Corvette and two Ford Escorts (the British kind, not the “world car” Ford launched in the States in the 1980s). The Vette won, naturally, but Brown’s Escort made a good show of it in 2nd place and actually bested the Corvette’s best lap time by about a tenth of a second.
Blacker and his Brabham BT-8 won again in eclectic Group 8, with Fumex’s Ginetta placing 2nd and James Goodson III’s #254 1962 Lotus 7 3rd. Rich Maloumian had left for the weekend but the Miatas were still there.
Group 9 turned out to be a big bore for this writer on Monday, with the Donovan Motorsports Jaguars (the only British cars in the class) notable in their absence. They had packed it in due to the weather.
But the weather was better than expected in the afternoon — cloudy rather than rainy, and with enough of a breeze to keep the humidity at bay. This did not necessarily translate into larger grids in the afternoon as some teams had already bailed. Pity that, but with weather reports as dire as we heard, it was to be expected.
Many of our favorites did return for the final race, but sadly the Mini and Imp from Group 5 were missing, the Imp, one source said, having problems on the pace lap. But a different car from the group that suffered a similar fate during a different pace lap was back — David Porter’s #11 Cortina, moving a tad on the cautious side but moving.
Drizzle settled in after 4 p.m.
Martin Hosek provided some amusement as the sole entrant in Group 7 in his #39 1957 Devin Special. Someone quipped he was the only racer all weekend who placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the same race. Officials deemed this “a timing exercise,” however, as none of Hosek’s colleagues showed up to race him. At least he got to see how well he could do in the wet. His best time was on his final lap — 1:22.622, compared to 1:02.414 in the dry (Race 1).
Then came Group 8, with seven entrants, five of them British cars. The victor was Tom Brown in the #18 1963 Triumph Spitfire, and Owen Adelman’s #51 Turner MkIII placed nicely in 3rd. Blacker, Fumex and Goodson, and even one of the Miatas were no-shows. A Jensen-Healey that had not entered the previous three races turned up on the grid, but only completed two laps.
And finally, Group 9. Seven entrants also, more than half of them Datsun 240Zs. David Neidell, now in a 1968 Corvette, came out on top, bringing a nice end to a Corvette-themed weekend for the model’s fans.
Can’t wait till next year.
Heart of Racing’s #23 GTD Pro Aston Martin at Lime Rock on a bone-dry course.
Photo by Bruce Vild
Lime Rock to Elkhart Lake
Different Tracks, Different Traffic, Different Results for Aston Teams
by Bruce Vild & Jack Webster
Midsummer brought IMSA to two very different venues, with different ranges of participation and even different weather: the “Bull Ring” known as Lime Rock Park in Connecticut’s southern Berkshires, and Road America near Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin, with a track more than two and a half times longer than Lime Rock’s.
The Northeast Grand Prix at LRP was a GT-only gig, while the IMSA Fastlane Sportscar Weekend at Road America had all five race car classes present, the two for the GTs plus DPi, LMP2 and LMP3.
The weather at Lime Rock was mostly sunny race day, starting off at 81° ambient and 102° track. At Road America it began at 73° ambient and 77° track, with a light mist — and then it poured, with teams scrambling to decide whether to run on slicks or rains.
The Marque had boots on the ground at both tracks. Here is our report.
FCP Euro Northeast Grand Prix Weekend
Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, Conn., July 14-16
No sense of loss from this quarter that IMSA came to Lime Rock for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC) race with only the GT classes — GT Daytona (GTD) and GTD Pro — because that included both Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3s.
Readers will remember that last year team drivers Roman De Angelis and Ross Gunn won at Lime Rock under a cloud. Literally. Lightning in the area red-flagged the race, but at a time when De Angelis and Gunn were in front. The race never resumed as the clock ran down to zero.
So, would lightning strike twice?
The weather report said no, but the thought in the back of many people’s minds was it just might figuratively. The Heart of Racing team was on a roll coming into Lime Rock, coming off wins in both GT classes at Watkins Glen (due to another red-flag complication), and an outright, uncomplicated, GTD win and a GTD Pro podium at Mosport.
IMSA commentators told fans Heart of Racing was a team to watch. We were watching them anyway because they, and Aston Martin, were the only team and manufacturer representing a British marque in this IWSC race.
Courses that run the GT classes exclusively (in other words, no prototypes — no DPi, LMP2 or LMP3) are running cars that are essentially identical, spec-wise, and differ only in the experience/skill level rating of the drivers. That is, the GTD Pro class features the same homologated GT3-spec cars that GTD uses, whether they are made by Aston Martin, Porsche, Mercedes, Chevrolet or another manufacturer.
GTD Pro teams typically have drivers rated “platinum” or “gold,” the top two categories under FIA, i.e., Le Mans, standards. Teams in GTD must have at least one “silver” or “bronze” driver.
That means that a GTD car, such as Heart of Racing’s #27 Aston, could wind up the overall winner, not just the class winner, a result of driver skill (and luck), excellent pit strategy, and flawless pit stops. All of which Heart of Racing had demonstrated at the Glen and Mosport.
Volt Racing’s #7 Aston, a contender in IMPC, passes under Lime Rock's pedestrian bridge.
Photo by Bruce Vild
Lime Rock did offer a full schedule for the fans despite the GT-only IWSC line-up. That meant the weekend included the Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC) race, with no fewer than 35 cars starting — 20 more than were signed up for IWSC.
But there were slim pickin’s there for British car fans, though not if you’re talking quality, not quantity. While there was only one Brit running, an Aston Martin Vantage GT4, the team was Volt Racing, with drivers Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman, current leaders in points in the IMPC Drivers’ Championship.
Volt’s competitors in the IMPC Grand Sport (GS) class included GT4-spec versions of the cars running in IWSC from BMW, Porsche and Mercedes, plus a few Ford Mustangs, a Toyota Supra and a Chevy Camaro. IMSA describes these cars as production cars “with only minor modifications” to go racing. The second IMPC class, Touring Car (TCR), is dominated by front-wheel-drive sports coupes and sedans from Hyundai, Honda, Audi and Alfa Romeo.
Qualifying — Qualifying sessions for IMPC and IWSC were held Friday, with positions determined by tenths, hundredths, and even thousandths of a second. Alan Brynjolffson did the honors for Volt Racing and placed the #7 Aston 9th on the IMPC grid, less than 0.6 sec. behind the Porsche that attained pole. (That Porsche, by the way, set a new track record in qualifying at 53.891 sec.)
After putting down the fastest time in IWSC’s GTD Pro class about halfway through the session, Heart of Racing’s Ross Gunn (“gold”) qualified the #23 Heart of Racing Aston 4th. Over in GTD, teammate Roman De Angelis (“silver”) placed the #27 Aston 3rd.
IMPC race day — Saturday morning began with the IWSC morning warm-up, followed by the IMPC fan walk and the series’ race, the Lime Rock 120.
The race’s first full-course caution resulted from an incident involving cars #59 and #40, both Ford Mustangs. When the race returned to green (with new driver Trent Hindman) the #7 Volt Aston was running 8th, then lost a position to Jason Hart’s #22 Porsche. Hindman was sandwiched between two Porsches. Kenny Murillo led the pack in the #72 Mercedes AMG.
Great racing ensued. Hindman gained a position at the expense of Hart about halfway through the race, and Stevan McAleer’s #28 Porsche pulled ahead of Murillo.
The second full-course yellow came after an incident involving cars #56 (the other Murillo Racing Mercedes) and #46 (a Porsche), which led soon after to the retirement of #56. During the caution the #60 Mustang and #22 Porsche collided and then pitted, the Mustang’s damage terminal.
The race went back to green with about 34 minutes to go. Then came the charge. Hindman moved up to 5th, trading positions more than once with Mike Skeen’s #55 Mercedes, while Kyle Marcelli led in the #877 Mustang. But then with a little more than 11 minutes to go, Robin Liddell took the lead while Hindman was now 4th.
And with five minutes to go, Hindman passed Billy Johnson’s #59 Mustang (which commentators observed was losing grip on his tires), and then passed Marcelli’s #877 Mustang for 2nd position.
And that’s how it ended, with Volt on the second step of the podium, Liddell on the first, Marcelli on the third. Liddell was unstoppable as he put more than four seconds ahead of whomever was running 2nd. Hindman kept a two-second gap between himself and Marcelli.
Meanwhile there was a really spirited race in TCR, with lots of tight spots, nudges, a GS car flummoxed and shunted, and a late charge against the leading Audi that did not end well for the charger.
Maxime Martin (left) and Roman De Angelis share the second step of the podium for GTD at Lime Rock.
Photo by Bruce Vild
IWSC race day — Later on Saturday came the main event for which the weekend was named: the FCP Euro Northeast Grand Prix.
Connor De Phillippi’s #25 BMW gave Heart of Racing a surprise gift in GTD Pro, when race officials determined the BMW violated ride height regulations and sent it to the back of the grid, elevating #23 to 3rd at the start.
Then came the race’s first drive-through penalty, which had to be served by GTD leader Robert Megennis in the #39 Lamborghini for changing lanes before the start (a “false start” under IMSA rules). This dropped Megennis to the back of the pack and elevated Roman De Angelis’ #27 Aston to 2nd, behind Frankie Montecalvo’s #12 Lexus.
A driver change from De Angelis to Maxime Martin dropped the car one position to 3rd — a credit to the crisp and clean pit stops Heart of Racing has become known for. Ross Gunn, the starting driver in #23, was running 4th (overall and in class), with a Porsche, a Corvette and a Lexus ahead of him. But driver changes were ahead for GTD Pro, with the usual pit rotations and order jumbles.
First came the Corvette with a change from Jordan Taylor to Antonio Garcia, dropping them to 4th and returning the car to the track 45 sec. behind Jack Hawksworth’s leading #14 Lexus. Meanwhile the #25 BMW that was running 5th in GTD Pro went behind the wall and driver John Edwards lost lap after lap. The car eventually was retired.
In GTD, Martin advanced a position, some 17 sec. behind class leader Aaron Telitz. Back in GTD Pro, the Corvette went wide at the chicane into the turnoff area and limped back to the pits for tires — and maybe hub failure. Mechanics looked under the right rear wheel arch. Garcia had tried to get around a GTD car while chasing the #23 Aston and had contact. It was a long pit stop for the Corvette as techs attempted a repair.
But they were able to return without going back to the garage, albeit down five laps. Shortly afterward, in the same class, Matt Campbell d a brilliant pass around Hawksworth’s Lexus to take the lead in the #9 Porsche.
About this time Gunn handed #23 over to Alex Riberas. Although overall position suffered a bit, Riberas exited the pits in 3rd position, and soon 2nd though he was off the lead lap under #9 pitted for the driver change to Mathieu Jaminet. While Jaminet maintained his class lead, the stop cost him the overall lead, which now belonged to a GTD car.
More GTD pit stops advanced Martin’s #27 Aston to 2nd in GTD, 5th overall.
With 45 minutes to go, both Astons (Riberas/#23 and Martin/#27) were 2nd in their respective classes. Now it became a matter of saving fuel, and the leading GTD Pro cars (which were overall leaders as well), let up a bit, allowing some of the mid-field GTD cars to pass them.
But the fuel management strategy didn’t settle positions within the classes. Philip Ellis in the #57 GTD Mercedes overtook Martin, who slipped to 3rd in class and 6th overall.
Another full-course yellow happened with 21 minutes to go as Ryan Eversley wound up off-course and slammed his #51 GTD Acura into a tire wall. This was unlikely to change overall or class leaders, particularly since this was d a “short yellow” with pits closed.
This is when it started getting very interesting in GTD. Bryan Sellers in the #1 GTD BMW made a move against Martin, pushing the Aston to 4th position. Then Ellis’ Mercedes pushed past to take the lead with seven minutes to go. Aaron Telitz, who earlier had brought his #12 Lexus to the lead, pitted with a loose hood and fell back several positions. Martin was back in 3rd.
Sellers won the class! How? Ellis’ car apparently ran out of fuel and had to coast to the checkered flag 6th in class! And that elevated Martin, who was turning consistent laps in 3rd, to 2nd place.
So — 2nd place across the board for Aston Martin at Lime Rock Park, in IMPC (overall and in GS) and IWSC (overall, in GTD Pro, and in GTD).
The #23 Aston at Road America. Note headlight reflections off the wet pavement.
Photo by Jack Webster
IMSA Fastlane Sportscar Weekend
Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisc., August 5-7
IMPC — The Michelin Pilot Challenge Race at Road America was unusual because it was four hours long — twice as long as the Lime Rock 120, and all the other races in this series except for the BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona last January.
There was also a second Aston running, the Automatic Racing #09 entry co-piloted by Ramin Abdolvahabi and Rob Ecklin. Saturday’s qualifying session saw the team place 23rd in class (GS) and 27th overall, but during the race they moved up through the field and finished 14th, on the lead lap and in about the middle of the GS pack.
Alan Brynjolfsson qualified 9th and had a good run before handing over Volt’s #7 Aston to Trent Hindman, except for a side-by-side brush with Sheena Monk’s #877 Mustang that forced Hindman to do a drive-through after the driver change. Hindman came up from way behind to finish 4th in GS and overall, with the #56 Murillo Racing Mercedes of Kenton Koch and Eric Foss taking the win.
While Brynjolfsson and Hindman still hold a comfortable lead in the IMPC Drivers’ Championship, Aston Martin now leads 2nd-place Mercedes in the Manufacturers’ contest by a mere 20 points.
IWSC — Heart of Racing’s Aston team kept their championship hopes alive at Elkhart Lake, even in the rain that came on Sunday.
Road America occupies enough real estate that different areas of the track were inundated as the storm moved through the region. When the DPi, LMP2 and LMP3 cars pitted for the first time that morning, most did not switch to rain tires, but when the GTD Pro and GTD cars pitted minutes later, all came out on rains. By the second pit stop all cars, prototypes and GTs, were on rains.
Then the sky started clearing to the west, and by the third stop the switch was made back to slicks as reports came in saying the track was drying quickly. Nothing like a little weather to make things interesting!
The presence of the prototypes meant the likelihood of a GT car coming out on top overall was nil. Traffic was now a real challenge, with the GTs hampering and being hampered by the flow of three classes of faster cars.
The race found Mazda-AER alumnus Oliver Jarvis still pursuing the victory that has eluded his Acura DPi team since the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Sadly it was not to be. Jarvis’ #60 car was nudged from behind and went off course and into a wall very late in the race. He recovered quickly, but he and everyone else had to finish under yellow as a crew cleared the debris he left on the track. He ended up 4th overall while Felipe Albuquerque claimed the win in another team’s Acura.
Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas finished their race 4th in GTD Pro and Roman De Angelis and Maxime Martin 6th in GTD, after qualifying 5th and 6th respectively — probably not the result they had hoped for.
However, the team is still in the mix for both the GTD Pro and GTD championships, with just two races remaining on the 2022 schedule at this writing — the GT-only event at Virginia International Raceway and the 10-hour, all-class Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, two more opportunities to move up in points.
In GTD Pro, the overall championship looks to be a bit out of reach, with the team currently sitting in 4th place, but a podium finish in the championship is certainly within the realm of possibilities. Pfaff Porsche leads, followed by Vasser Sullivan’s Lexus and then Corvette. As it is, Heart of Racing is well ahead of the WeatherTech Mercedes and the factory RRL BMW team. Anything can happen in the last two races of the season.
In GTD, Heart of Racing truly has a shot at the overall championship, both for teams and manufacturers. The #27 car is currently 3rd in the Teams’ Championship and 2nd in the Manufacturers’ Championship, just behind and within striking distance of BMW.
As usual in IMSA racing, which is ultra-competitive, it looks like both the GTD Pro and GTD championships will not be decided until the last turn of the last lap at the last race of the season at Motul Petit Le Mans.
Stay tuned, it is going to be a wild ride to the finish.
Ross Gunn (left) and Alex Riberas on the top podium step in GTD Pro at the Glen.
Photo by Jack Webster
Victory Back to Back
Heart of Racing Takes Aston Martin to a Double Win at
the Glen, then Another Win at CTMP (a/k/a Mosport)
by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine
Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen/Watkins Glen, N.Y.
As Alex Riberas would later remark, sometimes you just never know. You might cross the finish line first only to be cited for an infraction shortly afterward and sent to the back of the pack.
Or you might be that 2nd-place team suddenly elevated to victory as a result.
But it’s truly remarkable when that happens in two classes in the same race — and it happened June 26th at Watkins Glen.
With additional support from Aston Martin this year, Ian James and his Heart of Racing team have entered two cars in the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC). As readers of this publication know, they have split their squads, with one car racing in the GTD class and the other in the GTD Pro class.
Everything came together perfectly at Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, with the team taking 1st place in both classes — though initially that did not seem to be the case.
At the checkered flag it appeared that BMW M Team RLL had won GTD Pro and Winward Racing’s Mercedes was on top in GTD, and the Astons would have to settle for 2nd in both classes.
However, an isolated thunderstorm rolled into Watkins Glen and caused a red flag late in the race, throwing a monkey wrench into pit strategies and causing drivers for the BMW and Mercedes teams not to meet minimum drive times. They wound up disqualified.
Heart of Racing made no such mistake and were in the hunt for victory in both classes all day long in a very hard-fought race.
The #23 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 driven by Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas took the GTD Pro win, their second class win of the season, after being in 3rd place with only five minutes to go in the race. Pfaff Motorsports’ #9 Porsche had to pit for fuel at almost the last minute, handing 2nd place over to the Aston.
Shortly after the checkered flag IMSA audited minimum drive times, adjusting for the red flag period. That was when they found the apparent winner, the RRL BMW, had come up short. Hence the victory went to Heart of Racing, whose fuel and race strategy had been flawless. The ruling was made in time for the Heart of Racing crew to celebrate in Victory Lane.
Alex Riberas later commented, “It’s still a bit of a shock. I’m speechless, not only for what it means for the #23 car, but especially for the history of the Heart of Racing team. Today we had very unusual circumstances, and that is in my opinion what makes IMSA racing so special and entertaining and unique. You just never know, and that fits the Heart of Racing really well, because they never give up as a team or as a family.”
Ian James, Roman De Angelis and Maxime Martin (left to right) celebrate their GTD win.
Photo by Jack Webster
Added Ross Gunn, “We were out of sequence due to issues earlier in the race, and that was in a way lucky for us because when we restarted with 35 minutes remaining, we knew we didn’t have to worry about fuel. To be honest, when I crossed the line, I thought I was P5 [in 5th position], then I was told P2, and about 10 minutes after the race I was told P1. I’ll never forget that, for sure.”
For Roman De Angelis, Maxime Martin and Ian James in the #27 Heart of Racing Aston, their first win of the 2022 season was sweet. Like their GTD Pro teammates, their strategy and timing assured them of the win after the Winward Mercedes was disqualified. But Roman, who ran the final stint, was literally willing his car to the finish line, as he knew that they were close on fuel — extremely close, as it turned out.
Said De Angelis, “We always know our car is strong here, this is a really good track for us. We had a really good results last year here, so we came in here with a lot of confidence.
“I thought 2nd would have been a good result for us, and it was very close. As I came to the last corner and got out of the throttle, we ran out of gas, so we coasted across the finish line!”
Team principal Ian James summed up the week perfectly for the Heart of Racing Aston Martin team.
“For sure we had some luck,” he said, “but at the end of the day, it was good racing.”
Follow up — another win!
Chevrolet Grand Prix at CTMP/Bowmanville, Ont.
Just one week later, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Ontario, Heart of Racing took yet another class victory in IMSA competition, winning GTD. Roman De Angelis and Maxime Martin combined to take the #27 Aston to victory, this time without the intervention of lightning or the disqualification of other competitors.
Team Principal Ian James observed after the Canadian win, “We’ve found a bit of a rhythm. The crew are knocking it out of the park, the pit stops are amazing, and even if we’re not the fastest car, we seem to be executing on strategy and work in the pit box.
“So I am very happy with what’s going on. The drivers are doing an awesome job and it’s great to be at the front.”
Meanwhile, Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas made podium in GTD Pro with a well-paced 3rd place finish in #23.
Both cars had qualified 2nd in their respective classes, with De Angelis taking the lead during the race in GTD and Riberas holding steady in GTD Pro until being overtaken by a Corvette. Martin and Gunn worked up to 1st and 3rd after the driver change and held their positions right to the checkered flag.
The two-car, split-class plan for 2022 seems to be coming together nicely for Heart of Racing, as they find themselves right in the middle of the IWSC battle in both GTD and GTD Pro. With only four races left for the GT classes this season, the Championship will likely come down to the last corner of the last lap at the last race of the season — Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta at the end of September.
Next up, though, would be the GT-only FCP Euro Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. Six GTD Pro cars, nine GTD cars. Both Astons. Stay tuned.
[Exec. Ed. note: Aston Martin is having a great season with recent successes in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC). But the news is even better in the Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC), where Aston leads the manufacturers and Volt Racing’s Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman are on top among the drivers. The latest IMPC sessions at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park had challenges all their own — particularly the brutally hot track conditions at the Glen — but the marque and the team acquitted themselves well and at this writing remain in front with four more races to go. —BV]
Heart of Racing’s #27 Aston placed 2nd in GTD — its best result so far this year.
Photo by Jake Galstad, LAT Images
They Call It an ‘Overcut’
Aston Team Awesome but Outfoxed at Belle Isle
by Bruce Vild
DETROIT, Mich., June 3-4 — Endurance race or sprint, the result depends heavily on pit strategy. And when the track and the race’s duration prescribe a single pit stop as it did at Belle Isle, deciding when to bring a car in can make or break a win.
Which is exactly happened in Long Beach, when the Heart of Racing Team brought its #23 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 to victory in IMSA’s GTD Pro class by scheduling a stop at just the right time. A pleasant memory, no doubt, as the team considered its run at Belle Isle — like Long Beach a street course, located in a park outside downtown Detroit.
The track is 2.3 miles long with 13 turns, with not much room for overtaking or missteps. The race, called the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic, ran only 100 minutes, making it a true sprint. Only two of the five IWSC classes participated, DPi and GTD, meaning only one British car — Heart of Racing’s #27 Aston. Sister car #23, the winner in Long Beach in GTD Pro, had to sit this one out.
That freed Ross Gunn, a #23 co-pilot, to cross classes this weekend to share driving with #27’s Roman De Angelis. It was not lost on fans, or this writer, that the De Angelis-Gunn combination grabbed the IWSC Sprint Championship last year.
The team looked as ready as ever to break a cycle of bad luck that has plagued #27 this season — especially when De Angelis, who was gridded 2nd, grabbed the lead just moments after the race’s start.
And the Aston did post its best result this year. But De Angelis and Gunn wound up on the second podium step, not the top.
De Angelis held the lead for a remarkable 24 laps before coming in for the driver change, fuel and four fresh tires. But the pole sitter he passed almost immediately at the start — Kyle Kirkwood, in the #17 Lexus RC — stayed out for one more lap (a maneuver known as an “overcut”) and Gunn, back on the track and just getting up to speed on cold tires, fell behind.
Kirkwood handed the Lexus to Ben Barnicoat in a very quick stop. Barnicoat emerged from the pits just as Gunn was coming around the bend on his first lap. Barnicoat was ahead of the Aston by about four seconds. Though there was still nearly an hour left to race and Gunn poured it on, the die was cast. The Lexus team, Vasser Sullivan Racing, had set up a class win.
Pit strategy. And a bit of luck.
Over in DPi, it was Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zende once more in the winner’s circle in their #01 Cadillac, and Oliver Jarvis and Tom Blomqvist again placing 2nd in the #60 Acura. That’s how they were gridded at the race’s start, and Bourdais’ skill at “being fast while saving fuel” (as IMSA’s Jeff Olson remarked) again carried the day for Cadillac Racing.
This was the last IMSA race to take place at Belle Isle. Next year there will be a new street course in Detroit. For now, though, the IWSC teams are looking forward to Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when all classes will be represented and cars that are not participating in the sprint races will be back in action. The Michelin Pilot Challenge will be part of that weekend, too.
That means more Astons on the track, and likely at least one McLaren. See you there.
[Sources for this article include IMSA Radio and Lee Driggers’ Pit Notes.]
Victory! Checkered flag waves for GTE Am winner TF Sport and the #33 Vantage GTE.
Photo courtesy Aston Martin Racing
Aston Martin 1-3 at Le Mans
by Simon Strang
LE MANS, France, June 12 — Aston Martin has plenty to celebrate. Partner team TF Sport has just claimed its second class victory in three years at the 90th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, taking its #33 Vantage home with a performance many said was close to perfection.
The win was shared in the crowded 23-car field by drivers Ben Keating, double FIA GT world champion Marco Sørensen, and Henrique Chaves — all first-time victors at Le Mans. The result lifts the TF Sport team into the GTE Am class lead in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
This was complemented by a fighting 3rd-place finish for another Aston, the #98 Vantage campaigned by NorthWest AMR. At the wheel for that team were Paul Dalla Lana, the FIA WEC GTE-Am champion in 2017, veteran driver Nicki Thiim, and David Pittard, a Le Mans rookie.
NorthWest AMR had led this year’s class standings ahead of Le Mans, having set the pace in both opening rounds, the 1000 Miles of Sebring and the 6 Hours of Spa.
The event marked the fifth year of the Vantage’s participation at Le Mans, and the 1-3 result came in the wake of the double GTE Pro and GTE Am victory for Aston Martin in 2020.
TF Sport leads before halfway
The Astons rose up the order after being gridded 5th and 8th (NorthWest AMR and TF Sport, respectively). A third GTE Am Vantage, the #777 car entered by D’station Racing in its second assault on Le Mans, started 19th.
By the time daylight turned to dusk and then into darkness, two of the Aston teams were in the top four. Just before the halfway mark, the TF Sport #33 took the lead for the first time and by Sunday morning, Keating and his teammates were fully established at the top of the class with NorthWest AMR’s #98 running 2nd.
However, as the morning progressed, Dalla Lana and his teammates found themselves delayed by a series of slow zones and a safety car interruption. But they continued to battle for a podium finish, and took advantage when a rival ahead of them hit some trouble with less than an hour and a half left to the race. Aston #98 was perfectly placed to gain ground and move up to 3rd.
Meanwhile, the TF Sport Aston duked it out with its main rival, WeatherTech Racing’s #79 Porsche 911 RSR-19, capitalizing on a spin to secure the win. The D’station #777 Aston sadly had to retire early in the race with suspension damage following an on-track incident.
Joy for Aston Martin and its partners
“This is a great result and performance from TF Sport,” said a delighted Keating on the victory. “We’ve had no penalties, no mistakes, no trips to the gravel or anything!”
NorthWest AMR’s David Pittard was over the moon with a podium finish on his Le Mans debut. “We are competing in the full championship and there are a lot of guest entries here with very fast drivers,” he said. “But the consistency of both Aston Martins and our driver line-ups have brought us up.”
Showing 3rd was NorthWest AMR and Vantage #98.
Photo courtesy Aston Martin Racing
Pittard confessed to “a roller coaster of emotions” during the race. “After half an hour I’d have been happy to even finish in the top 10. But for 20 hours we were fighting for a place in the top three.
“This is not the team’s first rodeo, so they have kept me calm,” he laughed. “It’s been amazing, one of the best weeks of my life!”
Corporate was delighted, too. Lawrence Stroll, Aston Martin’s Executive Chairman, commented, “To enjoy this kind of success at the top level of endurance racing is testimony to the quality of the Vantage GTE, the TF Sport team and the Vantage road car that is the basis of the race car. Congratulations to Ben, Marco and Henrique on a faultless race and their first win at Le Mans.
“Aston Martin was born 109 years ago out of a love of racing,” Stroll added. “Competing at all levels of motorsport is at the heart of [our] DNA. It is fitting that Vantage, our most focused performance sports car, is a true success on the road and track.”
Embarking on its fourth world championship season, the Vantage GTE remains as formidable a title contender as ever. Powered by a race-developed version of the four-litre, twin-turbo-charged V8 engine found in the road car, it was all-conquering in the WEC GTE Pro category during the 2019-20 season. It recorded five wins from eight races, including both GTE Pro and GTE Am classes at Le Mans in 2020. The car took Aston Martin to the FIA GT Manufacturers’ World Championship title and carried Thiim and Sørensen to the Drivers’ crown. In total it has claimed 12 class victories so far in WEC.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans was the third round of the 2022 WEC series, which features six rounds altogether. The series heads to Italy for the 6 Hours of Monza on July 10th. WEC then returns to Japan for the first time since 2019 for the 6 Hours of Fuji on September 11th, and concludes with an eight-hour race in Bahrain on November 12th.
[From a press release. Simon is Motorsport Press Officer for Aston Martin.]