Monday, 27 June 2022, Watkins Glen, USA. Aston Martin’s Vantage GT3 recorded a famous double-class victory in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen, on Sunday, in what was a day of firsts for Aston Martin and its IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship partner team The Heart of Racing (THoR).
While THoR’s GTD PRO crew of Alex Riberas (ESP) and Aston Martin Racing works driver Ross Gunn (GBR) recorded its second win of the season in North America’s premier endurance series, having been victorious on the streets of Long Beach back in April, this was the maiden win of the season for the #27 GTD crew of AMR Driver Academy winner Roman De Angelis (CDN), works driver Maxime Martin (BEL) and team principal Ian James (GBR). It was the first time that Vantage has recorded multiple class wins in a single IMSA event. It was also the first occasion that a GTD car had been classified as the first GT car home since the new GTD PRO class was introduced alongside GTD for 2022.
Powered by a four-litre, twin-turbo-charged V8 engine derived from the road car, THoR’s Vantages proved competitive all weekend at the classic former Grand Prix venue in New York State. The #23 qualified second in class, having missed the GTD PRO pole by a mere 0.048s, while the #27 ran as a front-runner for much of the six-hour race, finishing second on the road in GTD, following strong stints from all three drivers. The sister #23 led early on in the GTD PRO race in the hands of Gunn, before a small issue led to the team switching off-strategy to its rivals, but on the lead lap.
With a little more than 90 minutes left in the event, the race was red-flagged for an hour because of a nearby storm. When the cars got going again with 35 minutes to run, THoR’s alternative strategy played back into Gunn’s hands as one-by-one his rivals stopped for fuel, moving him up to second on the road. Further confusion caused by the red flag meant that several teams failed to ensure each driver completed his minimum driver time of one hour and 17 minutes. Once the resultant penalties were put into effect post-race, both Vantage crews were promoted to first in the standings. Such was the #27 GTD Vantage’s consistency and pace, it was classified as the top finishing GT car, ahead of several supposedly faster GTD PRO cars – including their own team-mates.
“We’ve always been strong at Watkins Glen,” said De Angelis, “and so we went into the race with a lot of confidence. We’ve had some bad luck this season, so I was thinking second place was a good result, and then we got bumped up to the win! The whole team deserves this, and we’ve worked as hard as we always do, sometimes for not a lot of reward, so this win feels good today!”
Gunn added: “Because we were out of sequence on strategy, we knew we didn’t have to worry about fuel at the restart. One of the things I love about this team is that we never give up, and we went for it in those last 30 minutes. When I finished the race, I thought we were fifth and then they told me on the radio that I had finished P2. When I got out of the car, they then told me we’d won – what a crazy day!”
THoR team principal and driver James added: “This has been very special for The Heart of Racing. To win both classes at a historically significant event like the 6 Hours of the Glen is no small achievement! It is a very proud moment for this still young team, and these results are a testament to the hard work of the crew, drivers and everyone that makes this possible!”
Huw Tasker, Head of AMR Partner Racing, said: “It’s been our aim to establish Vantage as a leading contender in IMSA’s primary GT classes with our partners The Heart of Racing and Magnus Racing in 2022, and this result is clear evidence of the car’s potential in the USA. There may have been some luck involved in today’s win, but the pace was there, as it has been all season, and these results are thoroughly deserved by everyone in the programme. Now we must ensure we carry the momentum and mount a title challenge in the second half of the season.”
The Heart of Racing now moves on to Mosport for the Chevrolet Grand Prix next weekend (1-3 July) and then Lime Rock for the FCP Euro NorthEast Grand Prix (15-16 July), before heading to Belgium to make its European competition debut in the TotalEnergies Spa 24 Hours (28-29 July).