Disappointment for the Aston Martin runners in California

Monday, May 15, 2023


IMSA’s annual visit to the Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca proved to be something of a disappointment by the end despite many sterling performances before and during the two hours and forty-minute race for the four Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTD powered crews.

The weekend started well for the two full season Heart of Racing crews as both the #23 GTD Pro entry of Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas claimed a P2 start within their class whilst the #27 GTD entry of Roman De Angelis and Marco Sorenson also claimed a P2 start for both Heart cars to fill the second row of the starting grid.

Also featuring within the GTD grid of thirty-eight cars were the #44 AMR from the Magnus Racing team as John Potter and Andy Lally looked for seat time ahead of the Championship’s next round of the Endurance Cup at Watkins Glen at the end of June as well as the first competitive running of the new #94 Andretti Autosport AMR of Jarrett Andretti and Gabby Chaves. These latter two crews would struggle during early track sessions and qualifying to start the race from the rear in P16 and P13 respectively.

With Sunday’s race programme being disrupted by untimely morning fog, early morning warm up eventually got underway but with Race Control having to remain somewhat ‘fluid’ to keep the schedule on track ahead of its afternoon live TV slot.

Competing within a field of GTP and LMP2 cars, the staggered grid eventually got away with the #27 car of De Angelis picking off a car to grab P2 overall in class by the exit of the first corner whilst Riberas maintained his position. Early contact between two GTD’s within the mid-field brought out the Safety Car with only two minutes race time on the clock but once the race went back to green, the #94 car of Andretti would be seen recovering from an unchallenged spin.

However, just a further ten minutes into their Aston Martin/IMSA debut, the #94 would then be seen getting a nudge from a passing GTP that would send the American heavily into the tyre wall at pit entrance – bringing out the Safety Car again and bringing about their immediate retirement as well. Thankfully Andretti was otherwise unhurt but at least he would be cleared of any wrongdoing as the #7 Porsche would be later sanctioned by Race Control.

With the pit lane opening this time, both Heart cars pitted for tyres and fuel but dropped track position as a consequence as the third Safety Car was called at the hour mark for an LMP2 car in the gravel and tyre wall.

By the time the race went back to green this time around, the #23 car of Riberas had now claimed top position in GTD Pro, with the #27 car in P8 and with the #44 car upon the cusp of a top ten position in GTD.

Just over an hour to go and all three remaining Aston Martin cars pitted for the final time as Gunn took over the #23, Sorensen the #27 and (slightly earlier) Lally the #44 cars.

Ten minutes later, another Safety Car for a stricken GTD Pro car at the final corner. What happened next was extremely ‘odd’ as the #23 car was seen to be driving extremely slowly to a point of cars behind deciding whether to pass it or not within the ongoing Safety Car train! What that turned out to be was the first inklings of a mistake from the Heart team in getting the #23 car to pass on the wave around – incorrectly it then transpired with the slowing an attempt to make amends for that pit wall error.

Unfortunately for the #23 car, that error came with a mighty price as Gunn was soon instructed to park up for a stop and hold that would lose them the class lead and two further laps as a consequence.

That left little over half an hour for the #44 car to maintain its GTD class lead after having unassumingly taken that position despite being listed as visiting pit lane five times over the usual three from their peers around them. As the laps counted down, the tyre degradation was beginning to show and one by one, the four cars stacked up behind Lally passed his car for position.

Having battled it hard to the end, the #44 car would finish just off the GTD podium in forth whilst the #27 had never recovered from the second Safety Car period to finish a disappointed P8 with the #23 being relegated to last in class after being passed by the equally culpable Corvette in the dying stages of the race.

With now just over a month until the next round at Watkins Glen, that gives the teams enough time to analyse what exactly went on at Laguna Seca and prepare themselves for the next round!

Photo credits – Jamie Price / Teams / AMR
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