Story By: HALEIGH JORDAN / THE HEART OF RACING – ALTON, VA – Facing temperatures in the high 90s and a tough balance of performance (BOP) hit, the Heart of Racing (HOR) team scored a fourth and twelfth place finish at VIRginia International Raceway during the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR weekend.
The weekend started with two practice sessions on Friday and Saturday before a hot Saturday afternoon qualifying session with track temperatures reaching 102 degrees. Unfortunately, the Aston Martins had a BOP hit after winning at Lime Rock Park and Road America, leaving the two Heart of Racing cars with little power.
Ross Gunn qualified for the No. 23 Aston Martin entry, the English driver currently holds the track records in both GTD PRO and GTD competition at VIR. Due to the limitations on the Aston Martins, Gunn qualified fifth in class. Roman De Angelis set the sixth fastest lap of the session in GTD competition.
For Sunday’s race, Gunn was first behind the wheel of the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin, quickly moving up to fourth place on the first lap. Gunn handed the Aston Martin over to Alex Riberas on lap 25. Once the No. 23 Heart of Racing team discovered that the speed was topped out in the Aston Martin, it switched to a fuel saving strategy. The Spanish driver was involved in an incident that forced him off course on lap 60, but Riberas suffered minimal damage and was able to continue without stopping in the pit box. Riberas was able to maintain the fourth place position for the remainder of the two hour and 40 minute race.
“It was a difficult day at the office,” said Gunn. “We struggled for pace throughout the weekend and could never really get into a groove that was competitive. So disappointing, we’ve come here off two very strong weekends. This weekend had a bit of a touch of reality. The guys did an awesome job with the car, the pit stops, everything from the technical side was awesome and Alex had a great stint. We just didn’t have the pace this weekend, which is why it’s very frustrating.”
“It was a tough day here at VIR,” said Riberas. “We knew today was going to be a
long day at the office. So we tried to maximize everything we had. The car actually felt pretty good out there. The engineers and the mechanics did a phenomenal job to prepare the car, but we just didn’t have the speed. Some days, you just are not competitive and today was one of those days. It’s very hard to process, but the only thing we can do is try to learn from it and try to improve for Indy. I’m looking forward to coming back strong for that race.”
De Angelis began to pass cars right away, making his way to sit fourth on the first lap. Marco Sorensen took over the Aston Martin on lap 23 in fourth, but had to fulfill a drive through penalty just two laps later due to not meeting minimum refueling time requirements. Sorensen and the No. 27 Heart of Racing team decided to play the fuel game moving forward and pitted one more time for a quick splash of fuel before the team’s final stop on lap 47 which consisted of four tires and fuel. Sorensen crossed the finish line in twelfth.
“The weekend wasn’t great, we qualified ninth and eleventh overall which is not where we expected to be,” said De Angelis. “In the race, right at the back in both cars, the team did a great job doing everything they could with strategy. The setup
on the car felt good, but just didn’t have any pace to everybody else. We did what we could to try to get some points, but it’s going to be difficult now to fight the BMW in the championship. We’ll see what we can do the next few rounds and see if we can get some pace back, so hopefully it’s not a tough end to the season.”
“Well, the only positive thing this weekend is that the track is awesome,” said Sorensen. “The rest of the weekend was pretty bad. I think what they did to the BOP and all was the wrong way to go because we literally had no chance of a realistic fight out there. We were just using so much tire just trying to stay in the game and then when you’re fully gone then they just drive around you. There’s just no way you can fight it. We got a penalty as well, but it wouldn’t have changed too much because they always had an easy time getting past us.
The Heart of Racing team will head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, September 15-17, for the first time in recent IMSA history.