The addition of the GTD PRO category in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship gave Heart of Racing the perfect opportunity to expand its team to a two-car effort. They were rewarded with victory for Alex Riberas and Ross Gunn in GTD PRO at Long Beach, although it might be argued that they backed into the victory with the bizarre Corvette/Pfaff Porsche lug nut incident. The No. 23 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 was in contention with a podium in hand and ready to seize upon the others’ misfortune.
Last year, Heart of Racing ran a single car in GTD with Gunn and Roman de Angelis, adding a second car for a few races. Gunn and de Angelis ended up third in the championship, winning Petit Le Mans with team boss Ian James serving as the third driver, in addition to the Lime Rock GT-only race. The second car was a desired option, but having them in two different classes was better for the team.
“When we decided to go to two cars, it was my preference not to race against each other in the same class,” James said. “So GTD PRO, first of all, gave us an opportunity to go for their own races. Secondly, the drivers that we already had on the roster — it fit nicely with their driver ratings as well. Also we wanted to support this…brave initiative.”
Gunn moved to the GTD Pro car with Riberas while de Angelis has a new partner in Maxime Martin. Gunn, for one, is happy with the decision to add GTD PRO to the team’s program.
“Based on the results of last season and the tremendous progress that Heart of Racing and I’ve made since joining the Aston fold, I think it was probably the natural progression to do that,” Gunn told RACER. “And there was a big learning process to start with in terms of running two cars. It’s been a tricky start to the year; we had some some unfortunate luck. But last year, we had a lot of luck, so maybe we were just owed some bad luck at the start of the year. The performance and the pace was generally not too bad. It was just about putting it all together. That happened at Long Beach and we had a tremendous result so we’re…hoping that we can build on that result and keep performing at a high level.”
Heart of Racing is challenged by the fact that they’re the only team in the series running the Vantage GT3 and are a privateer going up against factory teams from BMW and Corvette. With factory drivers Gunn and Riberas, who are still learning their way around each other, the team has solid experience with the car.
“I didn’t know Alex that well until he joined the team for several races last year, but so far the relationship is very good. We have quite a different driving style so we’re kind of working out that we, in a way, require something slightly different at times, but generally we we tend to meet in the middle. He’s a very, very accomplished driver. He’s also very well embedded in the Heart of Racing team. It’s handy having somebody like him because I’m only in my second year and I’m still, in a way, learning a little bit. So far the relationship has been very positive and I fully trust him when he’s in the car,” Gunn said.
The team is hoping to carry the momentum of the Long Beach victory, no matter how it was earned, into this weekend’s race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“We executed really well there,” declared James. “We were only two or three seconds behind that [Corvette and Pfaff Porsche] battle when it happened. It definitely gives us momentum in terms of doing well as a team. Laguna is one of our stronger tracks so we’re looking forward to this weekend.”
Qualifying for the Hyundai Grand Prix of Monterey takes place at 3:50 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, viewable on IMSA.tv, with the 2h40m race on NBC at 3:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.