The withdrawal of the factory-assisted No. 98 Aston Martin Racing team from the Roar Before the Rolex 24 has left the The Heart of Racing Team without a wingman in its bid to prepare the new twin-turbocharged Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for its Rolex 24 debut.
Despite the setback, driver Ian James is pleased with the progress of the No. 23 Aston Martin that he co-drives with Alex Riberas, Roman De Angelis and Nicki Thiim.
“We’re really excited to get out with this car for the first time,” James said. “It’s a pleasure to drive. The twin-turbo is definitely a joy to hear — and to jump on the gas pedal with.”
The Heart of Racing had anticipated working with the No. 98 team at the Roar, getting feedback from factory Aston Martin pilots Pedro Lamy, Ross Gunn and Mathias Lauda. However, that car was loaded up without turning a lap: Driver Paul Dalla Lana was not cleared to compete in the Rolex 24 due to an Achilles tendon injury suffered in a skiing incident.
“It would be good to have another Aston Martin here, but, unfortunately, it looks like that is not going to happen,” James explained. “We were prepared to do the whole year on our own anyway, and we still have a lot of Aston support here — we have three Aston Martin engineers installed in our team — so I don’t think (the absence of the No. 98 car) will hurt as much.”
After three sessions, the No. 23 has been hovering around the 14th and 15th position on the GTD time chart, although less than a second behind the class leader.
“Obviously, it’s a new car and we’re still getting our head around it,” James said. “IMSA has to make sure it’s where it needs to be (and) we knew this Roar would be a fact-finding mission. We’ll be in the hunt. Obviously, everybody comes to the Rolex 24 to win, but this is our first 24-hour for this car, and we just want to get to the end and put on a good show.”