With increased support from Aston Martin, the Heart of Racing Team expanded to field two Vantage GT3 entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Daytona (GTD) class in mid-2021. Since then, the team managed by longtime racer Ian James has developed into one of the most consistent performers in the production car-based GT categories.
This year, the Heart of Racing Team split its attack, running one of its Astons in GTD and the other in the new GTD PRO class. After a slow start to the 2022 campaign generally not of its own making, the team has rebounded strongly, capped by an amazing run through back-to-back weekends at Watkins Glen International and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park that produced a total of three wins and a perfect four-for-four podium finishes.
Unlike at The Glen, where both Heart of Racing Team victories happened when they were elevated to winners after crossing the finish line second due to infractions by other competitors, the win for Roman De Angelis and Maxime Martin in the No. 27 GTD class Aston Martin and the hard-fought third-place finish in GTD PRO for Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas in the No. 23 at CTMP were cemented on the track.
The recent string of strong results has thrust the drivers back into championship contention, with the duo of Riberas and Gunn lying fourth in the GTD PRO standings. De Angelis likewise ranks fourth in the GTD season standings and third in the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup — the latter a title he won last year with Gunn.
For De Angelis, a 21-year-old native of Windsor, Ontario, the win on home soil was especially sweet. Wise beyond his years, De Angelis likes the way the Heart of Racing Team is progressing.
“It’s just all of us molding,” he observed. “We’re more of a family than a team, and that really helps. When you go through hard times like we did early in the year, it’s always hard to get motivated to get back up again. But the guys have been working tirelessly all the time. They never got down on themselves, and that’s really important.
“We take them when they come,” he continued. “A streak of bad luck isn’t really the end of the world. We had an amazing season last season and some great results the season before. We knew we were a strong team, we just needed to put everything together — and get some luck as well.”
Gunn, who at 25 is a rising star in sports car racing, also appreciates the close-knit nature of the team.
“There’s great team harmony, and that comes from the top all the way down to the bottom,” he said. “The team is really coming into its own now. We had a tough start to the year, but we really have dug deep to keep pushing, believing that we can get the good results flowing. Of course, in racing you sometimes need a bit of luck, but we’ve had some very strong performances and are happy to be in the hunt.”
James, 47, is a longtime sports car racer whose 24-year IMSA career resume boasts 10 race wins and a LMP2 championship in 2004. He has also earned a podium class finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
James started as a driver for the team now known as the Heart of Racing Team in 2014 and quickly added “team principal” to his skill set. He still maintains an in-cockpit presence, co-driving the team’s No. 27 GTD entry in IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races.
“We’ve found a bit of a rhythm,” James remarked. “The crew are knocking it out of the park; the pit stops are amazing, and even if we’re not the fastest car, we seem to be executing on strategy and work in the pit box. So, I’m very happy with what’s going on. The drivers are doing an awesome job and it’s great to be at the front.
“We’re doing a lot of work off the track, building our engineering base around the team and some of the resources we need to get better,” he added. “We’re never going to settle for where we are, and that’s a testament to the people involved in the team that work so hard in between races.”
With a youthful driver line-up (excluding James, 36-year-old Martin is the elder statesman) and an expanding role in Aston Martin’s worldwide racing efforts, the Heart of Racing Team has evolved into a premier organization that is making its presence known in IMSA’s GT classes. The future looks bright.
“I couldn’t put myself in a better situation,” said De Angelis, who is developing into one of sports car racing’s hottest young prospects. “Obviously, Ross, Maxime and Alex are amazing drivers, and what Ian has done as a team manager and team owner, and as a driver in the past — he’s had a very decorated career, with podiums at Le Mans and Daytona.
“To be trusted by them to go racing every weekend is a dream of mine, and I hope it doesn’t ever stop.”