Twelve Years After Last North American Race, Heistand Makes Solid Return in AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus
Monday, February 11, 2019

More than a decade ago, Richard Heistand was on the open-wheel driver development ladder.

But after competing in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Championship, the racer from Orlando, Florida vanished from the North American motorsport scene. That is, until the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Heistand made his return to U.S. racing last month in the Rolex 24 At Daytona as part of the driver lineup for the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 alongside co-drivers Jack Hawksworth, Austin Cindric and Nick Cassidy. They finished fifth in the GT Daytona (GTD) class.

It was a solid start to what will be a competitive GTD season for the team, and especially for a driver who took more than 10 years off before returning to a race car last year.

“My background is a little unique, probably, compared to a lot of people here,” Heistand explained. “I did three years of racing a long time ago – 2005 to 2007 – Skip Barber National and then Champ Car Atlantic. I’ve been out of racing for a long time. Since then.

“Last year was my first year in GT cars, my first year back racing, and I ran Porsche Supercup in Europe and some Carrera Cup Deutschland. It was a great experience. Now, I’ve got an incredible opportunity to race for AIM Vasser Sullivan here in IMSA. I’m very excited about it.”

Beyond excited, it’s almost hard for Heistand to believe.

“Twelve months ago, if you would have told me that I would have had this opportunity to race with a team like this and Lexus and the ambitions they have, it’s the opportunity I was looking for,” Heistand said. “There’s a lot of expectation, but I’m going to work hard to do a good job. It’s a little bit surreal and I’m just excited for the year. It’s going to be awesome.”

Heistand will co-drive the full 2019 GTD season in the No. 14 Lexus alongside Hawksworth, the driver with perhaps the most experience of anybody in the world behind the wheel of the RC F GT3 race car. Hawksworth raced the full 2017 and 2018 WeatherTech Championship seasons for 3GT Racing, which fielded the Lexus program prior to this year.

Hawksworth wasn’t particularly concerned with Heistand’s break from the sport. In fact, he was impressed by the showing Heistand had in 10 Porsche Supercup and six Carrera Cup races last year.

“He had a good season in the Porsche Carrera Cup and Supercup, which is against extremely tough competition,” Hawksworth said. “He held his own, did well.

“I think he’s got a really good mentality. He’s got a lot of talent. Obviously, the field is extremely competitive and he’s going to definitely have to work hard, but I see no reason why he can’t go on to be really successful. I’m looking forward to working with him and hopefully, we can get some good results together.”

Fifth place in the Rolex 24 At Daytona was a pretty good start. The No. 14 team led a total of 22 laps in challenging weather conditions, while Heistand battled some issues beyond the weather.

“What a crazy race,” he said after the race. “It was wet, cold. I got zero sleep and a trip to the medical center for IV, and nausea medication was added to the schedule after I became ill at the start of my third stint. (P5) in the end. We deserved more after great drives by my teammates. That’s racing, I suppose.”

Heistand and the team will get another chance next month in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts on March 16. Tickets are available now at SebringRaceway.com.

The race will be televised live beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET on CNBC, with continuing coverage on the NBC Sports App and NBCSN. IMSA Radio also will have live coverage via IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio. 

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