Heart of Racing Back in GTD; WIN Autosport to Run in LMP2, Prototype Challenge
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Formula 1 race winner Robert Kubica headlines the driver lineup named by High Class Racing for its Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) entry in this month’s Rolex 24 At Daytona to kick off the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
Joining Kubica behind the wheel of the ORECA LMP2 07 will be Ferdinand Habsburg, along with the Denmark-based team’s European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship regulars, Anders Fjordbach and Dennis Andersen.
"I am grateful for the opportunity that High Class Racing has given me," said Kubica, who won the 2008 F1 Canadian Grand Prix driving for BMW Sauber.
The 36-year-old from Poland drove in 76 F1 races from 2006-10, then returned for a full season in 2019. In between, he raced several years in European and world rally events. Kubica tested a Le Mans Prototype 1 car in 2017 but did not compete in any races.
"This is a new challenge and experience for me, as I have been focusing mainly on sprint races in the past," he said. "It will not be my first 24-hours race, as I also entered the one in Dubai a few years ago, but unfortunately we had to withdraw with technical issues.
"Endurance racing requires a different approach. You are sharing the car with your teammates, with whom I am happy to enter this challenge, and I also look forward to reaching the finish line of this demanding race with them. The car is also new, as it is the first time I race an ORECA LMP2 car, but I hope for a smooth transition, even when sharing the driving time, so we can focus on our work and preparation for the race. Generally, I am very excited about the whole challenge, and I am looking forward to be working with the whole team."
Fjordbach is the only one among the four drivers with previous WeatherTech Championship experience, finishing second in LMP2 at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in 2019 with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports. Fellow Dane Andersen summed up the feelings for all the drivers looking to their first Rolex 24 appearance on Jan. 30-31.
"The 24 Hours of Daytona is one of the big ones, and I cannot imagine a better way of starting the 2021 season than to race with Anders, Robert and Ferdinand in this," Andersen said. "It will offer me a great preparation for the FIA WEC, where I also get the opportunity to learn and adapt to the new engine specs in a very competitive race. I am really excited about the whole experience."
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 from Jan. 22-24 opens the WeatherTech Championship season, which includes testing on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course and the Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying race that will set the Rolex 24 starting grid. Race week for the Rolex 24 runs Jan. 27-31, with the 24-hour race set to start at 3:40 p.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 30.
Heart of Racing Looks to Build on 2020 Momentum
After a strong finish to the last WeatherTech Championship season, the Heart of Racing team returns to GT Daytona (GTD) competition this year with the same promising lineup that closed 2020 with a pair of podium results in the final four races.
Ian James and Roman De Angelis will again drive the full season in the No. 23 Aston Martin Vantage GT3. They finished third on the rainy Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL in October before taking runner-up honors in November’s season finale, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.
"I’m so happy, honored and mostly excited to be back with the Heart of Racing at Daytona," said De Angelis, the 19-year-old Canadian sensation. "We had such an amazing last year with two podiums and such a strong connection with the team by the end of the season. I’m very happy to be returning to the track to work with this amazing group of people and build on last year’s results for a great Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona. I can’t thank them enough for having me back!"
Aston Martin works driver Darren Turner, who joined the effort for the final three endurance races of 2020 including the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented By Advance Auto Parts, is back for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. Ross Gunn, another Aston Martin driver and FIA World Endurance Championship competitor, rounds out the team’s Rolex 24 lineup.
"Straight into the Daytona 24 Hour, a perfect way to start 2021," Turner said. "We finished last season on a high with a strong race in Sebring, narrowly missing out on the team’s first win. We need to carry that momentum from the start at the Roar and hopefully it will put us in a strong position for 24 hours of racing. The Aston Martin Vantage GT3 will be very competitive for the season ahead, and a good result at Daytona will really get the year started."
Heart of Racing also continues its second mission of raising awareness and support for Team Seattle, the nonprofit that has raised more than $7 million for Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Thomas Forms Team for LMP2, Prototype Challenge Assaults
Steven Thomas, the Bronze Cup champion last year in the IMSA Prototype Challenge, has formed a new team – WIN Autosport – that will field 2021 entries for him in both the Prototype Challenge and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Joining Thomas in the WeatherTech Championship Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) entry for the full season will be Tristan Nunez, who has spent the past seven seasons as one of Mazda’s Prototype and Daytona Prototype international (DPi) drivers.
Thomas Merrill, who teamed with Thomas for two Prototype Challenge races in 2020, will join WIN Autosport’s WeatherTech Championship effort for the endurance races. Matt Bell, the reigning Prototype Challenge champion along with Naveen Rao, was named the fourth driver for WIN’s LMP2 entry in the Rolex 24 At Daytona that opens the season.
Thomas said adding Nunez to the team will pay immediate dividends.
"When Tristan believed we had built a good team and wanted to race with us, that was a big boost," Thomas said. "Tristan is young but already brings so much top-level experience. He helps the team in every way. And, of course, he’s quick. Bell is a champion and has great experience, and watch out for Thomas Merrill. He will be as quick as anyone."
Nunez is looking forward to the challenge. "I believe I can bring WeatherTech racing experience and hopefully make everyone better," he said.
Meanwhile, in the Prototype Challenge featuring Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) machines, Thomas plans to drive solo in each of the one-hour, 45-minute events. The Prototype Challenge season opens Jan. 23 as part of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 weekend at Daytona International Speedway.