Podium success as well for AMR Teams in GT America from Sonoma

Monday, March 08, 2021


Part of the racing timetable for Sonoma at the weekend was the introduction by the SRO of the new for 2021 GT America Series – a level playing field of racing for only Bronze rated drivers to learn and develop their race craft in both GT3 and GT4 machinery over the two – forty-minute races.

An incredible nineteen cars entered this series – a grid size that was made up of seven GT3’s of various iterations and twelve up to date GT4 machines from six manufacturers with three of those being an Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4 from GMG Racing (Jason Bell), Notlad Racing (Matt Dalton) and the Heart of Racing team (Gray Newell).

Whilst both Bell and Dalton are proficient GT4 racers, Newell was very much in at the deep end as he ventured into a personal racing development plan with the help of the Heart of Racing team and the two AMR Vantage GT4’s that they took with them to California. Newell is the son of Gabe Newell, the financial backer of the Heart of Racing team although it is understood that no charitable fundraising will be conducted at these SRO events as opposed to the IMSA events that the teams Vantage GTD competes in and fundraises at.

Saturdays first race actually produced some decent racing with #2 car of Bell heading the AMR trio at the grid P3 in class whilst the #00 Dalton car wouldn’t be too far above Newell’s #25 car in P9 and P11 respectively in class.

This time competing in his mainly white liveried AMR, Bell took the race to the pace setting Ford Mustang and BMW M3 ahead – pushing hard for the P2 spot before falling down to P4 towards the end of the race. Dalton meanwhile was still finding his racing feet as his red and white liveried car fluctuated between P8 and P10 whilst Newell was still finding out what worked and what didn’t in terms of line and position.

With the race approaching its conclusion a puncture for the then third placed BMW put the #2 GMG AMR back onto the podium at the death, securing the team’s and the driver’s first podium finish on their AMR account. Dalton would improve his finishing position to P7 in class whilst Newell would complete his first GT4 race in P10.

Sunday’s mornings finale was on the chilly side and tyre temperatures would be of an issue as the cars formed on a grid determined by their fastest laps in race 1. This time Bell would start on the front row of the GT4 grid in P2 but the other two cars would be at the tail end of the nineteen starters.

Early losses and gains for the AMR runners in the opening laps were always to be expected with Dalton looking the raciest as he climbed up to P7 in class in the early stages before an ‘elbows out’ move on another Mercedes AMG took him into sight of a possible podium in P5 with still twenty minutes remaining. 

Newell meanwhile was finding his racing feet and was posting lap times equivalent to more experienced racers ahead before a bizarre Safety Car was called with only 9 minutes remaining for a circuit sign stranded on the racetrack. Fortunately, only three minutes were lost to that caution but that was sadly enough for Dalton to lose tyre temperatures to run wide coming towards the final two corners of the lap to spin out from P6 at the time.

Bell would come home just off the podium and latterly off the pace in P4 whilst Newell would finish P9 and just ahead of the recovering Dalton. Not as exciting as the first race for sure but all teams came away with valuable lessons learned and data gained ready for the next round at the Circuit of the America’s in late April.

Photo credits – GT America / CSJ Motorsport / Teams
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