A faultless performance by reigning IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar GTD class champions Heart of Racing [HOR] and drivers Roman De Angelis (CDN), Ian James (GBR), Darren Turner (GBR) and Marco Sørensen (DEN), underlined a winning start to the team’s title defence for the Seattle-based Aston Martin Racing partner team.
The win is Aston Martin’s first in the Daytona 24 Hours – North America’s most prestigious endurance event – in its 12th attempt since its debut in 1964, and marks the perfect opening to the British ultra-luxury sportscar brand’s sporting season in its 110th anniversary year.
Vantage was a competitive factor in both of the event’s GT classes, but such was its emphatic level of performance, that HOR’s GTD class winner was the first GT car to finish the race. Moreover, HOR was chased all the way home by Aston Martin Racing partner team Magnus Racing, with the #44 Aston Martin Vantage, whose driver crew of John Potter (USA), Andy Lally (USA), Spencer Pumpelly (USA) and Nicki Thiim (DEN) finished second in GTD and third GT car home, making it a double podium finish for Aston Martin.
With the focus firmly on making it through the night unscathed in a race that is notorious for regular contact and high attrition, both GTD Vantages started steadily with James (HOR) and Potter (Magnus) staying out of trouble in the early running. But strong stints ensured both cars were firmly established in the top five by the evening.
The HOR #27 was never out of the top three throughout the long night, and for a long period until about two hours before dawn the team’s #23 GTD Pro class entry (for homologated GT3-specification cars), manned by AMR works driver Ross Gunn (GBR), Alex Riberas (ESP) and David Pittard (GBR) also led its class before running into technical issues.
Magnus Racing’s #44 car kept a watching brief however and steadily became a victory threat as dawn broke and the race reached its climax. Excellent performances from reigning IMSA GTD champion De Angelis and Turner, who can now add a Rolex 24 victory to his tally of three Le Mans and two Nürburgring class wins, meant that the American racing fans were treated to a showdown between FIA World Endurance GT champion Sørensen and his old ‘Dane Train’ team-mate Thiim, now a rival in the Magnus Racing car.
The last hour was interrupted several times by caution periods, but Sørensen held his nerve as he and Thiim crossed the line just 5.3 seconds apart at the finish.
Heart of Racing Team Principal and Rolex 24 race winner Ian James said: “Words can’t do justice to how proud I am of this team and what they’ve achieved this weekend. To win the Rolex 24 at Daytona is the crowning glory for anyone involved in IMSA and it means the world to all of us to have finally done it. Winning Daytona as reigning IMSA GTD champions just goes to prove the strength and the talent of the team we’ve built up at Heart of Racing. It’s great to be able to win this race for the Seattle Children’s Hospital and to underline the love and support we give to them, and we owe our gratitude to team owner Gabe Newell for allowing us all to make this dream come true, and of course Aston Martin.”
The Vantage GT race car is derived from Aston Martin’s critically-acclaimed road car, and shares the same aluminium body-frame and a specially tuned version of the four-litre V8 turbo-charged production engine. In all its variants (GTE, GT3 and GT4), Vantage has proved to be phenomenally successful, and the Rolex 24 triumph ensures that the car is a reigning Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner and a defending champion in both the world’s leading endurance series – the FIA WEC and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Huw Tasker, AMR Head of Partner Racing, said: “This is an incredibly significant day in the history of Aston Martin Racing. The Rolex 24 at Daytona is a race we’ve wanted to win for a long time with Vantage and, for good reasons, it’s proved a tough nut to crack, which is why it means so much today. For Aston Martin to win its class in the most important endurance race in North America is an emphatic statement of our intent in this market, and it’s the perfect way to begin the defence of Heart of Racing’s defence of the IMSA GTD crown. Congratulations too must go to Magnus Racing, who delivered a superb performance and could just as easily have won, and to our new partners TGM who along with TF Sport did a great job to reach the finish of such a challenging event.”
The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the world-famous 12 Hours of Sebring, which takes place on Saturday, 18 March 2023.