Rough and tumble of season opener damages AMR teams endeavours at Daytona

Saturday, January 30, 2021


Last nights opening round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge from Daytona International Speedway proved itself to be a bruising one for the series regulars but it was the series debutant’s who eventually came out on top for the Aston Martin Racing trio of teams.

Preparatory work for the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge opener had already been a fraught affair for the Volt Racing with Archangel team and drivers Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman as an overheating issue going into Qualifying meant that their V8 turbo charged engine was effectively ‘cooked’.

Fortunately for them, the Notlad Racing with Rennsport 1 had brought their second Vantage GT4 chassis with them to Florida and a deal was struck for them to use the engine from this surrogate car in order for them to make the rear of the GS grid for the race.

The #09 Stoner Car Care car of Rob Ecklin and the #23 Notlad car of Matt Dalton would be starting midfield in P17 and P21 respectively.

At the start, Brynjolfsson spent no time in making up ground as he quickly elevated his bright yellow machine from P24 in class to as high as P12 in the opening ten minutes of racing whilst the other two AMR’s each lost a position as both of their drivers literally got up to speed before the first Full Course Yellow brough the tempo back down whilst another GS car was recovered after a collision with the wall.

A short green before a second FCY obviously lead to some ‘rubbing’ amongst the pack for the #07 car as it was next seen coming into pit lane for what was first thought to be a rear offside puncture but was (a lap later) re-diagnosed to be right rear suspension damage that took the team six laps to repair.

That obviously took the #07 car out of race contention but the #09 car of Ecklin had quietly moved up to P8 by the time the MPC grid stared at their next inevitable FCY with another TCR car stranded on track. Anticipating a quick FCY, Ecklin pitted and handed the car to Ramin Abdolvahabi to continue whilst Dalton meanwhile had stayed out of trouble to hand his #23 car to his professional co-driver pat Gallagher in P15.

With just under half race time now completed, Abdolvahabi took the restart with confidence only to be sadly collected by an errant Mercedes AMG as it spun off into the tyre wall (and taking the Aston with them) coming out of the infield and onto the famous banked oval part of the track. Fortunately able to restart, the #09 car had dropped to P18 in class with any hopes of a high finish slowly diminishing as collision damage affected the lap times there in. That would be further compounded by a self-imposed drive through penalty when a departing Brandon Kidd ran over pit equipment on his pull away from pit lane.

Whilst the other two Astons had already cycled through their drivers, Hindman would finally get his first racing experience of the season in the #07 car with only 90 minutes remaining – not that there was much even he could do about the cars lowly position, still some 6 laps in arrears!

Going into the final hour of the race, the #23 car had to sacrifice its then P13 for fuel service and in the hope that a subsequent caution period would allow them to catch back up with the leaders. That caution period did then materialise but the pace of the top ten was such that Gallagher could not remain in contention and he would ultimately finish P13 by the end of the four hours.

The #23 Notlad car would therefore be the top AMR runner at their first time of asking with the #09 Stoner car next in P18 in class and the #07 in P21.

That was not the start either full season Stoner or Volt car had hoped for and they then cast their attention to the next round from Sebring in just over six week’s time. For the Notlad team, we wait to hear when their next IMSA MPC interaction will be.

Photo credits – AMR / Volt Racing / Stoner Car Care / CSJ / Jamey Price Lagunasphoto
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