Torment and frustration for the Heart of Racing team in powerless IMSA visit to VIR

Monday, August 28, 2023


The final race of the weekend gone was the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship GTD only race around the beautiful circuit of Virginia International Raceway.

Although in previous rounds of this championship, the performances of the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTD powered crews usually gave us fans something definitive to cheer for, but sadly their permitted performance this time around hit the proverbial nail right on the head regarding the effects of BoP.

Running of course within both the available GTD Pro and GTD classes, both the team’s #23 (Ross Gunn / Alex Riberas) and #27 (Roman De Angelis / Marco Sorenson) driven cars had done rather well within the last two or three rounds it had to be said, winning class pole and/or winning the class or overall races for that matter but that only came about after IMSA gave the Aston Martin Vantage more power after something of a lacklustre start to the season anyway.

After those recent performances however, and going into the VIR round, IMSA saw fit to remove that power break again from both cars even at this late stage of the season where any championship aspirations for either team car/class still required a large degree of luck and race fortune, but the results were immediate and obvious. They also chose not to review that of any other manufacturer platform despite the more constant results of some.

Despite getting out in Qualifying early and setting some decent ‘banker’ laps, the #23 car of Gunn would end up finishing P4 in class but actually behind the #27 car of De Angelis on track for an overall team starting order of P9 and P11 respectively out of a grid of just nineteen GTD Pro and GTD Class cars.

The opening few laps of the two hours forty-minute race were also surprisingly quiet and orderly – despite a bit of rubbing along the way of course as we waited to see just what kind of race pace the Aston Martin’s had within them. That had to wait a while however, as a heavy off for the #92 Porsche into (fortunately) the tyre wall meant for a large debris field and barriers that needed addressing. Unseen by us, immediately before that FCY came out, the two Heart cars had traded places in P8 and P9 so at least some early gains were being made.

Back to green and once the front runners were back up to pace, it was a goodnight from them ahead as far as the two Astons were concerned, neither had the literal power to follow them with many running 0.5 to 0.8 of as second faster over the lap.

Further trouble on track thankfully neutralised the race and brough the pack back together again as a Lamborghini first went wide off the track before later hitting another tyre wall hard after they experienced intermittent engine failure around the lap. Fortunately, nobody was hurt but it did slightly confuse the obvious start to the pit window after 45 race minutes were done.

If at first you are struggling for pace, the next rule would be not to make any further compounding mistakes, but unfortunately that befell the #27 car at their first stop after Sorenson was allowed to leave pit lane whilst not meeting the minimum refuelling time requirement. That would earn them a drive through penalty and any residual chance of a class podium with it.

The #23 car also experienced pit lane issues after Riberas took what felt an age to refire his car before doing so and re-joining down in P16 just as the first signs of rain were felt around parts of the circuit.

With the final stops done, it was another simple dash to the flag for the two Heart cars but whilst circulating towards the lower end of the pack, being able to do anything positive to that fact is obviously easier said than done – especially if some of your available power has been taken away. The effects of that were easily demonstrated when the Inception McLaren passed the #23 and simply drove away to the tune of several seconds gap within just a couple of laps!!! Add to that rear end contact for the #23 just compounded their day of torment.

At the end, it definitely wasn’t Heart of Racing’s day as the #23 car finished P4 in class (at least one Pro class car had a worse day at the track than they did) whilst the #27 would finish a very distant P12 and in fact the last of the runners despite their efforts with what they had under the bonnet.

Unofficial words coming out the team after the event speak of their frustration to the fact and how just all their hard work and effort has meant for two cars not being capable to contend for any decent finish yet alone any class podium. In many ways, the results of VIR for the Heart of Racing team typified that all the AMR Vantage GT3 based runners competing around the world at the weekend – there, but never in a position to claim class honours whatever the reason but then, you cannot win them all!!

Next stop Indianapolis in September – maybe things will be different there? Let’s hope so!

Photo credits – Team / J Price Photo
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