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Dinosaur and Dragon Team Quickly Making a Name for Itself

‘Rexy’ and ‘Spike’ Making AO Racing a Fast Fan Favorite


By John Oreovicz


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s tough for a start-up racing team to create a unique and memorable identity that immediately resonates with fans.


Not for AO Racing.


You may not know AO Racing by name yet – “It’s not that interesting of a story; AO was a company I had previously, and I just attached ‘Racing’ to the end of it,” said team co-founder PJ Hyett. “That’s part of the reason why we had to do something fun with the livery, so people would actually recognize what we’re doing.”


2024 02 22 Galstad Imsa R24 Dis 0124 023422Ah yes, the livery. AO Racing showed up for its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut at the 2023 Rolex 24 At Daytona with its Porsche 911 GT3R (992) in a tribute T-Bird Swap Shop livery mimicking the 1983 Rolex 24 winner. A few weeks later at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, “Rexy” was born; a vivid green faux-dinosaur livery derived from cartoon characters Hyett had incorporated into his helmet design to amuse his young children.


To say the Rexy livery has been a hit would be a colossal understatement. The AO Porsche immediately became one of the most recognizable and popular cars in the WeatherTech Championship field – not to mention a leader in merchandise sales. Later in 2023, Rexy went on to spawn “Roxy,” a pink Porsche 911 GT3 “Rawr” that AO campaigned in select IMSA events when Rexy was racing simultaneously in other series.


This year in the WeatherTech Championship, Rexy is joined by “Spike,” the purple, dragon-themed No. 99 Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class entry shared by Hyett and Paul-Loup Chatin.


Hyett gives all the credit for the clever branding approach to his AO Racing co-founder, longtime IMSA competitor Gunnar Jeannette.


“He has a lot of that marketing genius embedded in a race car driver; he’s come up with a lot of these fun concepts,” Hyett said. “Gunnar thought, ‘People seem to like your helmet, so why don’t we try to translate it to the car?’ It was really a simple idea like that, but then we rolled it out at Sebring, and people went absolutely crazy for it.


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“For us, it’s a bit of irreverence, but it’s also OK to have fun,” Hyett continued. “We’re serious when we’re in the car, and when we’re racing. We want to win. But if we’re just hanging out in the paddock or if we’ve got fans watching from home on TV, it’s really easy to see the dinosaur. Nobody knows what the hell AO Racing is, nor do they need to know what it is. They just need to know that when a green dinosaur or a purple dragon goes around, they recognize it.”


AO Racing’s decision to move into the Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class from Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) this season with its Porsche while adding the LMP2 entry was in part driven by the evolution of driver rating regulations across the international sports landscape. Hyett, who carries a Bronze rating, qualified the No. 99 Spike ORECA LMP2 07 seventh in the 13-car LMP2 field at Daytona, and he and co-drivers Chatin, Matthew Brabham and Alex Quinn eventually finished eighth in class after leading 82 laps.


Meanwhile, Sebastian Priaulx qualified Rexy on pole position for its GTD PRO debut, and he and co-drivers Laurin Heinrich and Michael Christensen delivered a solid second-place finish while leading 31 laps.


“We kind of had the P2 concept in our back pocket since the middle of last season as a just-in-case,” Hyett said. “We had purchased a car and done some testing just to make sure that I could still participate in a class that does have a Bronze mandate, which is the LMP2 class. The cool thing is I really enjoy driving the LMP2 cars. In many ways, it’s an upgrade. That car is real fast, and it’s fun to drive.


“So now we get to do the P2 for me with the Bronze requirement and we get to do Rexy in GTD PRO with an all-star lineup. I’m very excited about that; I do have big aspirations for what we can accomplish this year. We don’t know for certain, but based on the online response to Spike, we think we’ve got a nice follow-up back to Rexy with the P2 car.”


Jeannette has won 10 races in an American sports car racing career dating to 2000, and he’s energized by what he and Hyett are building. AO Racing is quickly becoming known as much for its on-track performance as its clever branding.


“It all seems surreal,” Jeannette stated. “We’ve done our first race in 2024 with two cars, two programs and two characters. It was great to see both programs lead their classes at various points in the race. The team operated absolutely flawlessly. We spent the least amount of time in pit lane, and that’s a strong testament to the pit crew, the engineering calls and to the drivers.


“In the end, a couple of mishaps dropped us down the running order, but to make it to the finish with both cars was very special.”


AO Racing and the rest of the WeatherTech Championship competitors return to action March 13-16 at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac.