A hard hitting GT4 America opener for the seven Aston Martins but with some reward at least

Monday, April 03, 2023


This weekend’s opening round of the GT4 America Series from the Sonoma Raceway in California was as probably eventful off the track as it was on the track as another sizable grid of forty-three cars and a new timing system left for some ‘confusing’ moments.

As previously reported, there were seven Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT4 powered crews at the event with returning partnerships from the Chouest Povoledo, Flying Lizard and Heart of Racing teams but also with four new teams joining in the fun from the likes of the Archangel, TR3, Van Der Steur and an all new, all female crew from the Heart of Racing team.

With the Am side of the driver pairing taking the first Qualifying session on Saturday for Saturday evenings first hour long event, it would be the #50 Chouest Povoledo car of Ross Chouest (with Aaron Povoledo) who would be the front running Aston, eighth overall and second in their Pro-Am class with the #26 Heart car of Hannah Grisham and (Rianna O’Meara-Hunt) next down the grid in thirteenth also second in their Am class with the #69 Archangel car of Todd Coleman and Billy Johnson behind them.

Unfortunately for those latter two Aston Martins, their race one didn’t last longer than the exit to turn one when multiple vehicles were caught up in an otherwise unavoidable collective coming together which caused sufficient damage to the #26 and #69 cars for them not to complete the race.

A brief Safety Car for a stranded car on track soon bunched the field back up again and it was upon the restart that another Aston, the #428 Van Der Steur of Brady Behrman (with Coby Shield) had nowhere to go after Gray Newell’s #25 Heart car had put a McLaren into a slight spin to hit heavily into the rear quarter of the McLaren, losing a wheel and any hope of a finish after less than twenty minutes of racing.

This time it was a longer Safety Car period whilst the debris field was cleared and that went across the intended start to the pit stop window which had to be delayed till its conclusion just fifteen minutes from the end.

Here, the new timing system again went down for those watching on-line and at the circuit but at least the nett result proved to be good as the #50 car came home P3 in Pro-Am with the #8 Flying Lizard car of Elias Sabo/Andy Lee close behind in fourth (in class) and the #77 TR3 Am car of Paul Kiebler/Jon Branam ninth in class. The final AMR finisher would be the #25 Heart car of Newell/Ian James way down in P35 overall after they had served their drive through penalty for accident causation earlier in the race.

Sundays second race was all about the second or Pro driver starting the proceedings based upon their Qualifying efforts of Saturday. All the damaged cars from race 1 had been repaired thanks to great work from the teams and the availability of spares c/o the CSJ Motorsport team who were again on hand to offer assistance when needed.

This time around it was a more orderly start from the grid but there was a moment for both Heart of Racing cars when contact between two or three cars occurred directly in front of them but only twenty seconds covered the first 29 cars on track.

Again, the shortcomings of the new timing system meant that it impossible to see where many of the seven Aston Martins were during the race but after twenty minutes, the #8 car of Lee was already up to P5 overall and battling hard for places higher.

Another brief Safety Car period for another stranded car on track (which did get going again before the Safety Car came out on track) meant for another delay in the opening of the pit stop window but that was only after some had already made the commitment to stop before the pit lane was closed. Going back to green, three cars would get spun into the retaining wall in two separate incidents that would again delay the proceedings bring out the Safety Car for the third time of asking.

Once the pit window had officially been opened, the two Heart cars, the TR3 and Van Der Steur Astons were all quick to stop as another caution period looked inevitable, but Lee pushed his luck to the limit and stayed out until the last possible moment from the lead of the race.

Now with just seventeen minutes remaining, it should have been just a simple dash to the flag but sadly for the race, a further three car accident saw two of those nosed heavily into the retaining wall to bring out the Safety Car again behind which the race would ultimately finish.

It was at this point the timing system caused real confusion into just who had stopped, when and that kind of useful thing of who won each class. Even on Monday, the results remain Provisional, but the series is listing that the #50 Chouest Povoledo car did win the Pro-Am class with the #8 Flying Lizard car eventually coming home fifth in class with the #428 Van der Steur car rounding off the top three Aston Martins in tenth. The #77 TR3 car finished just off the Am class podium in fourth with the #26 Heart car in seventh for their first and somewhat brutal introduction to the gentlemanly sport of GT4 racing!!

Next stop is Nola Motorsport Park at the end of April.

Photo credits - Teams / social media / GT4 America







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