A mere 125 points separate the top five teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD class with two events left. With about a 170-point (depending on number of entries) swing possible in each race, it’s anybody’s game. And right in the middle of that fight, unexpectedly after a less-than-stellar start to the season, is Heart of Racing’s Roman De Angelis.
De Angelis sits eight points behind Ryan Hardwick and Jan Heylen in second place, and 44 points from Stevan McAleer in first. Like McAleer, De Angelis hasn’t had the same co-driver throughout the season, so he sits alone in third. Forty-four points could be a difference of as few as two places ahead of McAleer in this weekend’s GT-only Michelin GT Challenge at VIR.
“We’re more than in it, for sure,” said De Angelis. “A win is 350 points, so obviously tons of points for grabs. We have a great weekend, and people in front have a reasonable weekend, we still close in quite a bit, and maybe we can even take the lead from them. So we’re definitely very close. As a team, we’re obviously pushing to try to win the overall championship. Considering how rough of a beginning of the year we had, it’s pretty impressive that we’ve been able to claw back this much.”
The first couple of races of the season could certainly have gone better for the whole Heart of Racing team, with the No. 23 GTD PRO Aston Martin Vantage being involved in contact early on and retiring and the De Angelis’s No. 27 that he shared with Ian James and Darren Turner having its own difficulties on its way to a ninth-place finish. Sebring was even worse.
“It wasn’t an easy start to the championship for both the Pro and the GTD car. So in that sense, it’s difficult in the atmosphere in general, because it’s not one side of the garage that’s struggling and down, both sides are kind of down. So in that sense, it was quite difficult,” De Angelis said.
Things began to look up for the team at Long Beach thanks to a win for Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas in the PRO car. And, now paired with Maxime Martin, who had been in the PRO car for the endurance races, De Angelis and the No. 27 were posting decent results and finishing on the same lap with the GTD winners. Then a second-place finish in Detroit really got things going. De Angelis, Martin and James won the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen. Then De Angelis and Martin won the non-points race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park followed by another second in the GT-only race at Lime Rock Park.
“A lot of it is just racing luck,” De Angelis said. “We had two seasons where we didn’t have any DNFs, we had no mechanical issues, and always had great results. I think in 2021, we had one race outside the top five. So eventually, it’s bound to catch up to you and you’re bound to get a string of bad luck. And we just happened to get that. Had some pretty good races at Long Beach and Laguna, and then our luck changed. And as the luck changes, the momentum and the atmosphere within the team gets better and better, and everyone’s more motivated as the results come. So we just kept pushing forward.”
Road America wasn’t great, except for the fact that De Angelis and Martin finished ahead of the teams leading them in the championship. And now they are in with a solid shot at the overall title after winning the Sprint Cup last year for De Angelis and Gunn. Those two had a solid finish at VIR last year; but the best news is the victory for them, with James as the third driver, in the season-ending Petit Le Mans. That certainly portends well for their championship chances as the season draws to a close.
“With Maxime as my teammate – obviously, he’s a very decorated and amazing driver – I think we do have some reasonable reasonable speed now and I’m quite comfortable in the Aston,” he said. “And so we knew we had a strong lineup, a strong car, and I think the best team in the paddock. We knew we could fall back to some good results when the luck changed. So now we’re just trying to take advantage of that.”
Sunday’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIR kicks off at 2 p.m. Eastern (green flag at 2:10) live on CNBC, and streamed on Peacock as well.