#14: VasserSullivan Lexus RC F GT3, GTD: Jack Hawksworth , Aaron Telitz, #96: Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, GTD: Robby Foley, Bill Auberlen, Race Start

Watkins Glen Thursday Notes: GT Daytona Sets Competition Standard

Seven Manufacturers Victorious in Last Nine Races; Porsche Carrera Cup, Lamborghini Super Trofeo Hold Practices

By John Oreovicz

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Some forms of motorsport like to brag about close competition and parity. The GT Daytona (GTD) division of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship lets its on-track product do the talking.

When the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 driven by Ross Gunn and Roman De Angelis won the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park two weeks ago, not only was it the first victory for the marque in WeatherTech Championship competition, it also marked seven different manufacturer winners in the last nine GTD events dating to the Mid-Ohio race in September 2020.

While that may be more normal in a spec series, where competitors use equally matched equipment from a single supplier, the seven GTD winners represent seven distinct cars from seven manufacturers, not to mention eight teams. The No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 pairing of Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley are the only two-time winners in GTD over the last nine months of competition.

In addition to Aston Martin and BMW, other manufacturer winners during the stretch have been Lexus, Ferrari, Acura, Porsche and Mercedes-AMG.

At Detroit on June 12, the No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 crossed the finish line ahead of the No. 23 Aston Martin, but the entry was moved to the rear of the results list when a postrace audit showed the team’s refueling time was faster than the minimum time listed on IMSA’s Balance of Performance (BoP) table for the GTD class.

While Audi now has to wait to achieve its first GTD win since 2017, Aston Martin was able to belatedly celebrate the marque’s first victory in the category.

Heart of Racing team principal Ian James, who co-drives the No. 23 in IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events, including this weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, has witnessed Aston Martin’s increased commitment to motorsport since being acquired by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll that included a full acquisition and rebranding of a Formula One team. The marque’s presence in worldwide sports car racing has increased greatly over the last decade, resulting in 47 class wins in FIA World Endurance Championship competition (including four at the 24 Hours of Le Mans) and multiple championships.

A strong alliance with Aston Martin was the foundation James used to revitalize his Team Seattle operation after a three-year hiatus, rebranding it as the Heart of Racing Team in 2020.

“Getting our first win after starting the team last year is a huge achievement,” James said. “I couldn’t be prouder of everyone involved – the drivers were amazing and the crew were faultless. It’s a great reflection of a huge team effort to secure the first win for Aston Martin in IMSA for a long time.”

The winning effort also caught the attention of Aston Martin Racing President David King.

“The Heart of Racing have been superb this year and this first win was only a matter of time,” King said. “They are doing a great job representing Aston Martin in the U.S. and are now very well placed for a title challenge.”

Earlier this year, James and De Angelis noted that they expected the Aston Martin to be at its best on fast, flowing circuits. With two races at Watkins Glen in a six-day span, followed by Lime Rock Park and Road America, the No. 23 could indeed be the car to beat as the summer unfolds. But history has shown it won’t be an easy fight.

“The GTD class is so close, it doesn’t take much for things to go anyone’s way,” James remarked. “Obviously, there’s ebb and flow with the performance between different cars, but the performance parameters of the cars in GTD are pretty close.

“I feel as a team, we’re doing pretty well,” he added. “We feel like we’re maximizing the performance of the package we have right now.”

Kelly-Moss Teammates Lead Porsche Carrera Cup Practice

Kay van Berlo and Seb Priaulx, teammates at Kelly-Moss Road and Race, were the two fastest drivers in Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands practice on Thursday at Watkins Glen. Van Berlo (No. 3 Porsche 991 GT3 Cup car, type 992) was quick in the morning practice with a best lap of 1 minute, 48.253 seconds (113.068 mph) on the 3.4-mile circuit. Priaulx (No. 15 Porsche) was second in the morning at 1:48.576 (112.732 mph).

Riley Dickinson (No. 53 Team Hardpoint EBM Porsche) led the afternoon session with a lap of 1:48.623 (112.683 mph) that ranked third on the combined speed chart. Porsche Carrera Cup qualifying is set for 9:15 a.m. ET Friday ahead of the first race of the weekend at 1 p.m. The second race starts at 9:35 a.m. Saturday, with both races streaming live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA.com/TVLive.

Spinelli Sets Pace in Lamborghini Super Trofeo Practice

Loris Spinelli was the sole driver to turn a lap of less than 1:46 during two practices Thursday ahead of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America doubleheader weekend at Watkins Glen. Driving the No. 51 Taurino Racing, Lamborghini Palm Beach Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO that he shares with Claude Senhoreti in the ProAm class, Spinelli was clocked at 1:45.375 (116.156 mph) in the second practice.

Alec Udell was a distant second at 1:46.070 (115.395 mph) in the No. 48 Kelly-Moss Road and Race, Lamborghini San Francisco Huracán. Qualifying for both Lamborghini Super Trofeo races begins at 10 a.m. Friday. Race 1 starts at 2:10 p.m. Friday and Race 2 at 10:40 a.m. Saturday. Both races stream live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA.com/TVLive.