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[1-Aug_22_GTD-Pro.jpg] August 2022

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.

GTD Pro

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.”

[2-Aug_22_GTD.jpg] 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.”

GTD

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.

Looking ahead

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]



[1-July_22_Aston.jpg] July 2022

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.]



[2-July_22_Le_Mans.jpg] 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.”

[3-July_22_Le_Mans_3rd.jpg] 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.”

What’s ahead

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.]



[1-Jun_22_Volt.jpg] June 2022

Volt Racing’s Aston crests a hill at Mid-Ohio, where the team extended its lead in IMPC championship points.

Photo by Jack Webster

The Beat Goes On
British Cars Advance as IMSA Nears Mid-season

by Jack Webster & Bruce Vild

Mid-spring brought IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC) and Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC) to two tracks decidedly different from the season’s previous venues — the “terrain courses” of Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio, with elevation changes and other challenges not seen at Daytona or Sebring and certainly not in Long Beach.

Traffic on the track was managed at both IWSC events by deleting a class. At Laguna Seca it was LMP3, IMSA’s entry-level prototype class using the Nissan VK V-8 spec engine, and at Mid-Ohio it was GTD Pro, which robbed British car fans of a Heart of Racing Team Aston to root for (car #23).

But that in no way suggests that the races were dull or drama was kept to a minimum. There were incidents, controversies and even the snatching away of a class victory for one of the British cars.

On the other hand, we also saw Heart of Racing’s #27 finally finish a race without major problems and pick up some championship points for Roman De Angelis and Maxime Martin, and Inception Racing’s #70 McLaren and Jordan Pepper and Brendan Iribe at last coming into their own — even if it was just for a brief moment.

Laguna Seca

Some of the best news at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca — which follows the contours of a “dry lagoon” (as the name suggests) that once occupied the area — came from the IMPC race on April 30th, where a bit of strategy and a lot of luck paid off big for Volt Racing, its Aston Martin Vantage GT4, and drivers Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman.

Brynjolfsson started the #7 car in 9th place, but pit rotations under the race’s first yellow flag and smart driving moved him up to 4th. The team kept him out on the track, taking a chance with the tires. Laguna Seca is notoriously bad on tires.

As the race progressed, he moved past a Mustang and a Porsche, and the team called him in right after a Porsche was punted off the track at Turn 11. Fuel, new tires, and a driver change to Hindman followed, and moments later came the race’s second yellow to retrieve the Porsche — after Hindman had exited the pits, finding himself with a lot of “clean air” ahead (the lead and eventually the win).

Hindman and the Volt team stayed with their one-stop pit strategy when other teams had opted for two, and that was key to their victory at Laguna Seca. But Brynjolfsson and Hindman also drove brilliantly, Alan confessing “trying to be patient” to save the tires and not slide the car out of 2nd place, and Trent fending off last-minute assaults on his lead by Bill Auberlen’s BMW and Stevan McAleer’s Porsche, even though he had to ease up a little at the end.

Said Hindman, “The guys up on the pit box put us in position to get it done today. Our job behind the wheel was just not to screw up. It was a great call to stay out for the first yellow, and an even better call to come in for the second.”

The win gave the Volt Aston a 90-point lead in the IMPC’s Grand Sport (GS) class standings.

[2-Jun_22_Jarv_Blom.jpg] Brits Oliver Jarvis (left) and Tom Blomqvist placed 2nd at Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio. Blomqvist also set the fastest lap in class at both tracks.
Photo by Jack Webster

In the IWSC race, the cars to watch in the two GTD classes were the Heart of Racing’s two Aston Martin Vantage GT3s and Inception Racing’s McLaren 720S GT3.

Starting 3rd in GTD Pro, Alex Riberas was unable to advance the #23 Aston further and, after the hand-off to co-driver Ross Gunn, the car lost position but did manage a top-five finish.

Roman De Angelis, starting the #27 Aston 4th in GTD, ran as high as 2nd but had to serve a drive-through penalty for hitting equipment in pit lane. It cost him 24 seconds and several positions. The driver change to Maxime Martin came with #27 back in 4th, but dropped the car a few positions again, and Martin finished the race 7th.

This was the best result so far this season for #27. Daytona saw the car suffer suspension failure. In Sebring there were alternator problems, and in Long Beach it lost its left steering arm and side-swiped a concrete barrier after a hard charge against a BMW for the win.

The Inception Racing McLaren started 12th with Brendan Iribe at the wheel and ran as high as 8th after co-driver Frederik Schandorff took over. Schandorff later had to do a drive-through penalty, eventually finishing 13th. He did set the best lap in class, however, just as he did in Long Beach.

The overall podium at Laguna Seca was taken by two Acura DPis and a Cadillac DPi. Two drivers hailing from Britain, Mazda-AER alumnus Oliver Jarvis and co-driver Tom Blomqvist, were the runners-up, with Blomqvist setting the best lap in DPi.

Bittersweet Mid-Ohio

IMSA then made its annual stop at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course May 13-15, and the track lived up to its billing as “the Most Competitive in the United States.”

The IMPC race was a nail-biter that at first looked like a sure thing for Murillo Racing and its two Mercedes, #56 and #72, with Eric Foss in the lead in #56 and Christian Szymczak heading for 2nd place in #72.

But Hindman and the Volt Aston once again proved themselves a force to be reckoned with. A contact incident between #72 and a Mustang led to a spin that dropped the Mercedes several positions, enabling the Aston to climb to 2nd place and challenge Foss for the win.

Foss’ #56 and Hindman’s Aston ran side-by-side in the last 15 minutes, but Foss nosed ahead and crossed the finish line about 7/10 sec. ahead of Hindman.

Foss said later, “Every time I race with Trent, he’s super polished and fun to race with. I’m glad we were able to have a good battle at the end and make it entertaining for everyone.”

While Hindman and Brynjolfsson didn’t get to stand on the top step of the podium at Mid-Ohio, with their 2nd-place finish the team and drivers now stand 130 points ahead of everyone else in the GS class, and Aston Martin is firmly in the lead among GS manufacturers.

The following day came the two-hour-and-40-minute IWSC contest, which was held in perfect Ohio spring weather with three prototype classes (DPi, LMP2 and LMP3) and a single GT class (GTD).

Overall it looked like Cadillac would be the brand to beat after Sebastien Bourdais took pole in Cadillac Racing’s #01. Once the race got underway, however, the Acuras showed their dominance on the low-grip Mid-Ohio track, with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque piloting the winning car and local favorite Meyer Shank Racing’s Oliver Jarvis and Tom Blomqvist coming 2nd.

Blomqvist turned in the fastest lap in the race (again), but in the end it just wasn’t quite enough as their Acura finished just over 2 sec. behind at the checkered flag.

[3-Jun_22_McLaren.jpg] The victory celebration for Inception Racing’s McLaren at Mid-Ohio was a short one.
Photo by Jack Webster

“Close again, but not quite enough,” Blomqvist said later. “That was a crazy race, actually. Two little errors in the race possibly cost us the win. The positive is, we’ve had a very quick car the last few races. We just have to iron out our mistakes and the wins are going to start coming.”

Jarvis agreed. “We’ve got a great car,” he said, “and we’ve got to keep pushing for the rest of the year. We’re still in it for the championship!”

Meanwhile, Bourdais’ co-driver Renger van der Zande had a bad spin in #01 just past the race’s midway point — right into the path of Blomqvist’s Acura — and had to settle for a 5th place finish.

Of particular interest was what happened in GTD, where it looked like McLaren would be taking its first class victory. Inception Racing’s McLaren 720S GT3 bounded ahead of two BMWs to cross the finish line first. The driving team of Brendan Iribe and Jordan Pepper did an outstanding job, moving their car through the field after starting 10th out of 11 to take the apparent win.

We say apparent win, for in post-race inspection the car was found to be underweight — IMSA did not say by how much — so the race win was taken away and the car moved to the rear of the finishing order (11th).

That is really a shame, as in the last part of the race Pepper was phenomenal at saving both fuel and his tires as he sliced his way through the GTD field. During his stint, the car ran an incredible 84 minutes on a tank of fuel!

[Writer’s note: I know how the team and drivers must feel as I’ve been there before, in my previous life as an IMSA race team manager back in the 1980s. The crew works their heart out, both in the shop and at the track, the drivers give their all and in the end it can all be taken away with an error, a slight miscalculation, an unintentional infringement of the rules.

The bottom line is that motorsport can be full of incredible highs and unbelievable lows. For Inception Racing, they experienced both within a matter of a couple of hours at Mid-Ohio. However, they will be back, and they did prove that the McLaren is a very competitive car in the ultra-competitive GTD class of IMSA racing. —JW]

The other British car in the race, the Heart of Racing #27 Aston with De Angelis and Martin again at the helm, was brought home in 8th place. De Angelis started 3rd in GTD, and Martin moved up and briefly held the class lead until pitting for fuel and tires and dropping to 5th. Another dash into the pits for fuel with but two minutes left in the race led to the final result.

So, all in all, it was a bittersweet day for British teams and drivers. Highs and lows, ups and downs.

Such is the nature of motor racing, just like life.

[Additional sources for this article include Lee Driggers of Pit Notes, IMSA Radio, and commentator John Oreovicz.]



[1-May_22_Checkered_Flag.jpg] May 2022

Alex Riberas takes the checkered flag for the Heart of Racing team in GTD Pro. He and co-driver Ross Gunn almost made it look easy with what one commentator called a ‘flawless performance’.

Photo by Michael L. Levitt, LAT Images

Dancin’ in the Streets
Heart of Racing Aston Takes Class Win at Long Beach

by Bruce Vild

LONG BEACH, Calif., Apr. 8-10 — Move over, Porsche. You too, Mercedes. And you, Lexus and BMW, and even you, Corvette. The one to watch is Aston Martin.

After a podium finish at Daytona and a win at the WEC race at Sebring, the marque ended another race brilliantly on the street course in Long Beach. Drivers Alex Riberas and Ross Gunn from the Heart of Racing took their #23 Vantage GT3 to victory in IMSA’s GTD Pro class in what Gunn called “a very clean race.”

Well, it was for them, but not so much for some of the other contenders.

The pole-sitting #3 Corvette had to serve a drive-through penalty that surely cost it the win when it was cited for “losing control of equipment” during a pit stop. It seems a wayward wheel nut lost while the Vette’s tires were being changed bounced into the path of the #9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche about to exit pit lane, puncturing the Porsche’s radiator and sidelining it for the rest of the race.

Paul Holton and Jon Miller kept up a strong run in the GTD class in their #59 Crucial Motorsports McLaren 720S GT3, with Miller qualifying 2nd, and handing the car over to Holton who kept it there until the last half-hour of the race. There was a long pit stop, speculation that Holton had hit a wall, and then the car’s retirement.

Another McLaren, the #70 entry from Inception Racing, had its own drama. In the last 20 minutes of the race Inception’s Frederik Schandorff, running 5th, brushed past a Lamborghini and set off a chain reaction that drove Stefan McAleer’s #32 Mercedes into a tire wall. Schandorff lost four positions with a drive-through penalty for the incident and ended up 9th in the GTD field of 14. Ironically he had also set the fastest lap in class.

And then there was the Heart of Racing’s sister car, #27, running in GTD with Roman De Angelis and Maxime Martin. Qualifying 6th, De Angelis moved up as far as 2nd before the driver change to Martin. The pit rotation cost them a position, but Martin had his eyes set on the win. The Aston was back in 2nd and on the tail of class-leader Bryan Sellers’ BMW when the two had contact. The Aston lost its left steering arm and side-swiped a concrete wall.

Sellers, apparently unscathed, went on to win but #27 came to a halt and did not finish.

Another BMW, this one in GTD Pro and run by BMW M Team RLL, had its 4th place class finish nullified when one of its drivers failed to meet the 35-minute drive time minimum. They dropped to the back of the pack.

And last but not least was Sebastien Bourdais, who started at the top of the grid in his #01 Cadillac DPi but within minutes took a turn too wide around a Porsche and hit a wall. He did recover, though several positions down — and made a spectacular comeback, charging up the line until he relinquished the car to Renger van der Zande again in the lead. Van der Zande took the car to Victory Lane. Talk about coming from behind!

[2-May_22_Gunn_Riberas.jpg] Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas at the top of the podium.
Photo by Jake Galstad, LAT Images

The challenges of a street course

Long Beach was the first of the sprint races in the 2022 IMSA season, conducted on city streets with a duration of only one hour and 40 minutes — 100 minutes, if you will, very different from the 24-hour and 12-hour endurance races on purpose-built tracks that preceded it.

The first practice had no fewer than four red flags in a one-hour session as cars went into runoffs. More runoffs followed in the second session, along with several trackside pit exit violations.

Qualifying wasn’t exactly unblemished either, but familiarity with the course — and some discipline — became evident as new class lap records were set in GTD and in the fastest class, DPi. Tom Blomqvist started the trend in DPi in his #60 Acura DPi with a time of 1:11.248, but that was quickly surpassed and Bourdais’ Cadillac wound up besting that by almost two full seconds. (Which is why Bourdais started in the lead.)

There were three yellow flags during the race, the first for some curbing that had come loose on the track, the second for when they fetched Maxime Martin, and the third for the #32 Mercedes and debris on the track.

Prospects for Aston Martin

The Heart of Racing’s result with the #23 Vantage was the first win in the new GTD Pro for the team and for Aston Martin.

“It’s been a tough start to the year,” commented Gunn, reflecting on the disappointing finishes for the team at Daytona and Sebring. At Daytona, the podium position for Aston had gone not to them but to Magnus Racing, and at Sebring, the win was in the WEC race, not IMSA.

“But [here] we were able to capitalize on some good fortune for a change,” he continued. “We were able to do that thanks to a great strategy, an awesome car and great teamwork.”

Huw Tasker, head of AMR Partner Racing, said, “It was incredibly unfortunate for the sister car, but both Vantages were in podium contention and that is all you can ask for in such a competitive series as IMSA.”

Not only is the sun shining on the Heart of Racing, but Aston can be proud of Magnus Racing’s showing at Daytona, and recent outcomes in the Michelin Pilot Challenge (which sat out Long Beach), where the marque currently leads the 2022 Grand Sport manufacturer standings thanks to two podium finishes by Volt Racing. Volt’s #7 Vantage GT4 and drivers Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman are tied in that series for the team and driver lead, too.

We at the Marque are looking forward to the rest of the season for both McLarens as well.

[Sources for this report include Lee Driggers of Pit Notes and David Phillips and Mark Robinson of IMSA. Thanks to all.]




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