GT World Challenge America: Heylen looks for success at VIR

Richard James

GT World Challenge America: Heylen looks for success at VIR

SRO America

GT World Challenge America: Heylen looks for success at VIR


VIRginia International Raceway is a favorite of drivers, crew and spectators for many reasons. And as the track and Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS is welcoming spectators for the first time in a year for this weekend’s SRO races at the track, the atmosphere will be that much more inviting.

“VIR is a great track because of the people that run it,” says Jan Heylen, driver of the No. 20 Wright Motorsports Hopkins Investments Porsche 911 GT3R with Fred Poordad. “I think they stand out from all the tracks that we go to. It’s always nice to go there and you always feel very welcome there.”

Heylen and Poordad go into Rounds 5 and 6 of the season with a win and four second-place finishes to lead the Pro-Am category. Colin Braun and George Kurtz have two wins, but a couple of rough finishes leaves them trailing Heylen and Poordad.

“I think it just shows more than anything the hard work from the team and Fred’s commitment to the program,” Heylen says. “I think Fred is going to get stronger and stronger as the season gets underway. Because of his injury from last year – he injured his shoulder at the end of the season – we weren’t able to test all winter long. So we went into the first race with only one test.”

And the Belgian racer, who makes his home in Florida, says he expects VIR to be a good track for them thanks to the mix of high-speed and medium-speed corners.

“Over the years as the GT3 cars have gotten more and more downforce… VIR really suits that type of car,” he explains. “It’s got a really nice flow and a lot of elevation changes. Certainly for us in the Porsche, it’s a track that just feels right for that car. Another thing that makes VIR special is there is some good opportunity to make some passes, and sometimes that can be a challenge in these cars.”

Image by Richard James

One of those spots is Turn 1, which while Heylen says is a simple corner, it provides a good passing opportunity. He also likes the way it flows into Turns 2 and 3. Another favorite section is the Uphill Esses and South Bend (Turn 10). One of the turns that appears fairly straightforward, though, is actually one of the harder on the track and a critical corner as well.

“Oak Tree… I think it depends a little bit on the car, but I feel like it’s a turn that’s hard to get right every time, and to get good traction out of there is not easy. It’s an important corner, and also a very challenging corner,” he says of the tight turn named for the much-missed grand oak tree that used to shade it, which leads onto VIR’s long back straight.

Fanatec GT World Challenge America will be joined this weekend by the full complement of SRO America series, including Pirelli GT4 America, Touring Car America and GT America. Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Porsche Sprint Challenge are also on the card. GT4 America’s entry list has 29 entries, although there are rumors that a previously unseen car may appear at VIR as a surprise. What’s not a surprise is that Matt Travis and Jason Hart have dominated the season so far, winning Pro-Am in all four races. History indicates they have a pretty good chance to keep that streak going in the No. 47 NOLASPORT Porsche Cayman. Kenny Murillo and Christian Scymczak, driving the No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG will be looking to add to their two wins so far in the Silver category.

The TCX category continues to grow, with six entries in BMW M2 CS cars. Thirty-three entries are on the list between TCX, Touring Car and TCA. All races will be streamed live via SRO’s GT World YouTube channel.