Heart of Racing Aston Martin Racing - IMSA GTD Sprint Cup Champions

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Our congratulations extend tonight to the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Racing Partner team over in North America after they claimed enough points this evening in the last round of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship Sprint Cup to claim the outright GTD Class win with drivers Roman de Angelis and Ross Gunn.

Going into this final round at the Virginia International Raceway with a lead of just seventy-four points and on the backfoot to their nearest competitor who were on a faster balance of performance than their V8 Vantage GTD, it was always going to be an uphill struggle for the #23 crew.

Yesterday’s points for Qualifying P1 (with a new track record for Gunn as well) for the Englishman placing his car first in the second Qualifying session certainly helped come the end of today’s two hours forty-minute race where the #23 car finished no lower to the #1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini that it could have to retain their Championship lead and hence the Sprint Cup Championship win – but it was close!!

Morning rain had left the track damp and greasy by the time the eighteen GTLM/GTD cars hit the picturesque VIR circuit and fortunately it would stay that way as De Angelis started form P3 in class and Ian James from last (after their own technical infringement after Qualifying dropped them to the back of the grid).

Playing the opening laps sensibly cautious, De Angelis came out of the opening laps in P5 but still with the #1 car in close proximity as the chasing pack also kept the class leading #96 BMW within 3-4 seconds of themselves and it wasn’t long before the young Canadian was battling the #1 car for position.

At the hour mark and with his minimum drive time served, De Angelis pitted to hand the #23 over to Gunn for his two-part run to the flag and hopefully the Championship. James had also done his part as he pitted at near enough the same time to hand his #27 car over to Alex Riberas.

At the halfway mark, a dramatic incident for the #66 Acura that buried itself deep within the tyre wall slowed things down as the Safety Car was called out immediately. Fortunately for that team, the driver soon emerged unscathed from the debris field but the race would still be held under caution as the tyre wall was repaired. For the GTD field, that allowed most to save fuel and tyres as they would all still have to stop more than once again each but importantly for the #23 car – that stopped the #1 car from progressing too far ahead than themselves.

Getting into the final twenty minutes of the race, the final roll of the dice were made by the teams with last minute tyres and splashes of fuel were made that would see them to the end. 

The biggest drama however took place with little over seven minutes remaining as the leading #96 BMW was tagged into turn 1 by one of the GTLM cars, causing both to spin and for the #96 to get a puncture that would effectively destroy their near certain class win. That of course opened the doors for the #9 Pfaff Porsche and the #1 PMR Lamborghini behind as a class win for the #1 car would snatch the prize from the AMR team at the death. As the minutes ticked by, the #1 car got ever closer to the #9 car and, with no response possible from the #23 car in return, looked like the Heart of Racing crew would lose everything on the last lap.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen as the #9 car claimed a class win from the #1 car by less than 2.78 seconds – enough to be enough as Gunn brought home the #23 car in P5 to claim the Sprint Cup Championship by just ten points (all subject to official confirmation).

The #27 car of Riberas and James improved upon their past performances again by finishing close behind their sister car in P6 in class – a remarkable achievement considering that they started from the rear of the grid!!

Photo credits – HoRT / CSJ Motorsport / F Lagunas
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