Early heartbreak for both AMR runners at Rolex 24

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Success can be measured in many ways but succeeding in taking the chequered flag at the end of this weekends opening round of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship at the Rolex 24 from Daytona was sadly not one of them for the two Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GTD runners.

Looking at the positives though for this race, we were blessed with the appearance of not one but two examples of the new turbo charged variant of AMR GT3 race platform for the first time in an event that has been seriously lacking in the Aston Martin front since those heady days of the TRG-AMR entries with 2020 hopefully being a stepping stone with a full season entry to a return to GTLM or even another destination for Hyper-car with other news from the track this week.

Long time AMR customer, Paul Dalla Lana was first to confirm his ambition in taking one of these new race cars over to Florida to again race in an event that has so far eluded him whilst racing in both Aston Martins and Ferrari's but his dream took a blow just before the Roar Official Test when an ankle injury kept him away from both the test and subsequently the race.

Then we had confirmation that AMR had secured their first full season GTD entry in the form of the Heart of Racing team returning to the series whilst continuing with the Seattle Children's Hospital fundraising cause so going into this weekends event looked positive.

Dialling in a new car car to the Championship around a very bespoke race track that Daytona International Speedway is took its time especially after five of the eight allotted drivers across both the #23 Heart of Racing and #98 Northwest cars had never driven the car in competition.

With the race starting under gloriously clear Floridian skies yesterday afternoon, both cars would be starting the Rolex 24 behind one another with the #98 of Mathias Lauda starting P12 having pipped Ian James in the #23 car, starting P13 during Fridays Qualifying.

As with the start of Fridays Michelin Pilot Challenge, the start of the Rolex 24 was a very orderly affair with only the mildest of bumping and bashing going on within the midfield of the low thirty eight number starting grid during the opening laps.

Whilst the AMR managed #98 Northwest car quickly cycled through its four drivers during the opening stints to give each early track time, Heart of Racing preferred to run multiple stints for the starting James and subsequent Roman de Angelis was the remainder of the daylight hours diminished.

With a stronger, more experienced driver line up of Pedro Lamy, Andrew Watson and Ross Gunn joining Lauda in the #98 car, it wasn't long before that car started to progress up the class timing board to as high as P3 on track as some points. The #23 car meanwhile would strangely not be able to cast itself away from the bottom end of the class despite their averse lap times not being too dis-similar to that of the #98.

Daytona debuting drivers Gunn and (late call up) Watson both drove extra-ordinary opening stints in the race - each going around the outside of the same Acura GTD to recover its P3 position on track after their full service stop. By the time the sunshine gave way to night, both AMR cars were running comfortably in P6 for the #98 and P16 in class for the #23 by the end of the four hour mark.

Then came trouble........................

Coming up toward the end of only the fifth hour of racing Alex Riberas, now aboard the #23 car strangely collided heavily with the rear of the #47 Lamborghini with their momentum sending both cars spinning across the infield grass section to the front of pit lane. Full Course Caution!

As the rescue crews reached the scene and attended to Riberas (who was evidently unharmed although high on adrenalin at the time) it was clear that the damage to the Heart of Racing car was extensive and their continuation within the race was somewhat unlikely. Twenty five minutes later when the track went back to green all we knew at the time was that Riberas had fortunately been declared well by the Championship medical team.

As Race Control delivered their 'incident responsibility' report with a penalty of s stop and 60 second hold for the #23 car for its part on the collision (if the car was to return to the track) we then heard from John Gaw of AMR that the #98 car was also harbouring an internal issue that was puzzling the team. That news was only just ahead of the Heart of Racing team team confirming the early retirement of the #23 car with damage specifics not being able to be repaired at the circuit.

That just left one more AMR gun in the barrel and for the next hour or so, all appeared well despite this apparent issue until the about the quarter race distance mark!!

With Lamy now at the wheel, a Corvette GTLM had just come past the Portuguese driver on the inside of the banking at the finish line and towards turn 1 but then moved over onto Lamy's line and that resulted in slight side to side contact between the two that sent both cars spinning. Flat spotting all tyres as well as suffering secondary contact with the Corvette during the spin, both cars were at least able to recover themselves back to pit lane for service and repair.

Having completed the work necessary, AMR swapped out Lamy for Gunn who went on to make the simplest yet most damaging of mistakes on his way out of pit lane. Understeering on cold, fresh rubber Gunn pushed the car too hard coming out of pit lane and struck the immoveable concrete barrier to his right sustaining yet further damage. When he came back to pit lane, the car was sent immediately back to the teams paddock area for repairs - mainly to the front end but also to the rear right quarter.

Without being aware of the specifics of the damage and despite the valiant efforts of both the AMR and Heart of Racing mechanics the damage was adjudged to be too significant to repair to make the continued race effort viable or indeed necessary. From postings on his social media, Gunn has taken full public responsibility for the incident that he described as 'thoroughly embarrassing and disgusting' but we all know that he is just in a long line of drivers to make that mistake and many more will do the same in the future!

That, unfortunately was about that for both Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GTD's with still nearly seventeen hours on the clock.

Whilst that is a simple statement of fact, like we said at the start is that success can be measured in many ways.

Firstly - welcome to the IMSA Championship Heart of Racing and their AMR Vantage GTD, the damage will get repaired and results will come their way (like they have with many teams already across Europe) as your knowledge and experience with the car develops.

Secondly - all the drivers (except for Nicki Thiim who never actually got to drive the car in the race) have boosted their own knowledge and experience that will go onto benefit them somewhere/sometime in an AMR - like both Watson and De Angelis at Bathurst 12hrs next weekend maybe?!

Finally (but not limited to of course), we have heard the news that despite their early race finish, Heart of Racing have raised over $100,000.00 at the Daytona circuit this weekend alone and that is an incredible achievement in its own right.

Next stop for the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship is Sebring in March. Things will be just as exciting there (hopefully not as damaging of course) but the #TeamAMR family will be even larger and stronger with the World Endurance Championship crews also being there.

Photo credits - AMR / IMSA / Heart of Racing

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes