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[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.]

[1-Apr_22_Alpine_Elf.jpg] April 2022

The face of victory in the WEC 1,000 Miles of Sebring — the Gibson-engined #36 Alpine A480, winner overall.

Photo by Colin Sword

Sebring... Truly ‘Super’ Once Again

by Jack Webster, Eddie LePine & Bruce Vild

SEBRING, Fla., Mar. 16-19 — It was nice to get back for SuperSebring 2022 after the trials and tribulations of the past couple of years — namely, all the cancellations and problems connected with the pandemic. This March felt more like a “real” Sebring week.

SuperSebring had several major events rolled into a single extended weekend. The two big ones were the FIA WEC (World Endurance Cup) race, “the 1,000 Miles of Sebring,” and IMSA’s traditional 12 Hours of Sebring.

Of course, with health restrictions removed, a massive number of fans showed up for both races. The WEC race, lasting either 1,000 miles or eight hours, whichever came first, was held on Friday, starting at noon, and the IMSA 12 Hours ran on its traditional Saturday date.

First, the WEC race

The Alpine Elf Team led qualifying, with their Gibson-powered #36 Alpine A480 taking pole overall and in the highly competitive Hypercar class. The class included two hybrids from Toyota Gazoo Racing that have for years been at the top of their game.

It was hot and humid for race day, with the potential for thunderstorms late in the day (which ended up playing a major role in the race). Alpine Elf’s drivers — Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Matthew Vaxiviere — looked solid from the race’s start and seemed headed for a good finish, and possibly the win over the favored Toyotas.

And win they did, after two red flags stopped competition for different reasons. One was for an accident involving José Maria Lopez in the #7 Toyota hypercar. The car had contact with a Porsche, spun, came back on the track, and then ran full-tilt into a tire wall after the front suspension apparently collapsed and its steering failed. It flipped with a lot of debris everywhere, but Lopez was unhurt. (In fact, he was well enough to co-drive a Cadillac DPi the following day in the 12 Hours!)

[3-Apr_22_Stormy_Weather.jpg] The weather brought an early halt to the WEC race.
Photo by Jack Webster & Eddie Pine

The second was for the weather (it was a very wicked-looking sky), which caused the race finally to be called and ended with about 45 minutes left to run. The rapidly approaching storm made it too dangerous for marshals and workers to be out on the circuit.

Red flags aside, Alpine Elf’s win certainly was not handed to them. They were running up front for the entire race and were chased aggressively by the remaining Toyota hypercar, #8, which had to make an unplanned fuel stop that spoiled its chances for the win.

The 1,000 Miles of Sebring was also a very successful event for Aston Martin. The marque finished 1-2 in the GTE Am class, with the #98 Vantage of NorthWest AMR taking the top spot, piloted by Paul Dalla Lana, Nicki Thiim and Dave Pittard.

It was NorthWest AMR’s 50th FIA-WEC class win and the first win for the Vantage at Sebring. The TF Sport #33 Vantage of Ben Keating, Florian Latorre and Marco Sørensen finished 2nd, after Keating (more on him later) put the car on pole for the race.

“This is a great start to the season for the Vantage,” said Huw Tasker, Head of Aston Martin Customer Racing, after the race.

“To record a historic 50th win in WEC, take 2nd place, and secure pole position, is about as good as it can get, and this is exactly the right tone to set for the season ahead!

“We’re pleased for Paul Dalla Lana, who has waited a long time to secure a victory with this version of the Vantage GTE,” Tasker added. “And Ben Keating ran him hard all the way! Both look like they will be title contenders this season.”

In the Gibson-only LMP2 class, honors were taken by the #23 ORECA 07 of Paul di Resta, Oliver Jarvis and Joshua Pierson. (Yes, that Oliver Jarvis.) Driving for United Autosports USA, they came out on top of a strong 15-car LMP2 field.

[2-Apr_22_NW_Aston.jpg] The #98 Aston Martin Vantage won its class (GTE Am) in the WEC race.
Photo by Colin Sword

IMSA’s 12 Hours

More on the aforementioned Ben Keating, who put the #33 Aston on pole and finished 2nd in the WEC race.

After running the WEC race on Friday, he then ran the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52 ORECA 07 LMP2 in IMSA’s 12 Hours of Sebring and, with teammates Mikkel Jensen and Scott Huffaker, won the class in that event. The man is truly an ironman.

The Sebring class win for PR1 was their third in a row. Following his 2021 LMP2 Championship, it was a great result for Keating, who credited Jensen and Huffaker with making the car “easy to drive” during practice for the race.

Said Keating, “Those two guys worked on the car the whole time. We went from a car that was really tough to drive to a car that was really easy to drive. We just had a great car... [and] for everybody on the team to have a perfect race, it’s special.”

As in the WEC, LMP2 cars competing in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC), of which the 12 Hours is a part, are all powered by U.K.-sourced Gibson engines.

Some other results:

Cadillac won the 12 Hours overall, with Cadillac Racing’s #02 DPi co-driven by Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Neil Jani. Daytona-winning British drivers Oliver Jarvis (another ironman — see above) and Tom Blomqvist finished 5th in their #60 Acura DPi. As Jarvis helped win the WEC’s LMP2 class on Friday, the week for him was not a total disappointment.

Also on Saturday, Inception Racing’s #70 McLaren 720S GT3 managed a 5th place finish in GTD, followed on the same lap by the Magnus Racing’s #44 Aston Martin Vantage.

Both cars started from the back of the grid — having not posted qualifying times — so these results aren’t bad. Magnus’ Andy Lally was running 5th at the eight-hour mark and might have been headed for the podium had he not had minor contact with another car. This led to a slow puncture and an unscheduled pit stop for new tires, the team ultimately finishing 6th.

[4-Apr_22_LMP2.jpg] PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ #52 ORECA 07, LMP2 class winner in the 12 Hours.
Photo by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

For Heart of Racing, who had Aston Martin entries in both GTD (#27) and GTD Pro (#23), it was a disappointing event as both cars ran into problems that took them “behind the wall,” i.e., back to the garage.

The #23 car’s woes started early in the race. Driver Alex Riberas took it back to the pits after only seven minutes on the track after “smelling oil or something burning” — a possible electrical issue, the team figured.

It was a long stop. The Aston eventually rejoined the race, but ultimately retired — with 13 minutes left on the 12-hour clock. This had to be heartbreaking, as Riberas had qualified #23 4th.

The GTD entry, helmed by Roman De Angelis, Ian James and Tom Gamble, finished the race near the bottom of their class, taking 15th place.

Aston shines in the Michelin Pilot Challenge

As readers of the Marque know, this year the only British game in town for IMSA’s Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC) series is Aston Martin. Gone are the McLarens, their teams and drivers either driving other cars in the IMPC or moving up to the IWSC.

However, there are good results to report from the Sebring IMPC race on Friday, the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120.

First, driver Trent Hindman had a late-race charge to 2nd place in the #7 Aston GT4 that put him and co-driver Alan Brynjolfsson in a tie for the lead in Drivers’ Championship, and their team, Volt Racing, in a similar tie for the lead in the Team Championship. Hindman was also credited with the fastest lap of the race.

Next, NTE Sport’s Josh Hurley and Manny Franco shared a top-10 finish, their best result to date, in the team’s #12 Aston.

[5-Apr_22_VOLT.jpg] Volt Racing’s #7 Aston GT4 battled to a 2nd-place finish in the IMPC race.
Photo by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

Veteran Aston team Automatic Racing finished further down the field, 21st, with Rob Ecklin and Ramin Abdolvahabi in their #09 car. Sadly, their second entry, #27 with driver Paul Kiebler, had contact with an Audi only four minutes into the race and never recovered.

Aston now leads the Manufacturers’ Championship — against Ford, Toyota, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Chevrolet.

Also of note...

Two very noteworthy and famous British racing drivers were inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame during the race meeting: Andy Wallace and David Hobbs.

Hobbs, who of course is the legendary driver and Formula One broadcaster, was a very popular choice. Andy Wallace won the race twice and finished on the podium 10 times in his career. It was great to see Andy return to Sebring after all these years.

RIP Vic Elford

And finally, we want to pay tribute to Vic Elford, who lost his battle with cancer just prior to Sebring week. “Quick Vic” was an outstanding driver and personality, and his friendly manner and wonderful stories will be greatly missed.

Vic won the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1971, driving the famous Martini Porsche 917K, and we were honored to have been able to call him our friend for many years. Many of the cars that ran in Sebring races during the week carried special decals in honor of Vic. It was a fitting tribute to a man who was such a part of Sebring history.

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