#77: AO Racing, Porsche 911 GT3 R (992), GTD PRO: Laurin Heinrich, Seb Priaulx

No. 77 ‘Rexy’ Porsche Takes Second Straight Victory Bite in Detroit

AO Racing Car Survives Contact and Chaos to Win 100-Minute Sprint in GTD PRO


By Tony DiZinno


Race Results


DETROIT – The concrete canyons of the new 1.645-mile, nine-turn street course were enough to cause loose fillings for drivers and cars alike in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Chevrolet Detroit Sports Car Classic.


Ultimately the car with teeth on its grille and a new “gold tooth” for this race survived a tough bite of action Saturday on the way to its second successive Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class victory.


AO Racing, with “Rexy” the No. 77 Porsche 911 GT3 R – featuring the T-Rex-inspired dinosaur livery – emerged from seeming hibernation to snatch an unlikely resurrection act after Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports appeared poised to dominate against the backdrop of General Motors’ corporate headquarters.


From a 1-2 start on the grid, the race quickly went awry for the pair of Corvette Z06 GT3.R cars.

First, Friday pole-winner Antonio Garcia’s race evaporated before it ever got going with reported alternator problems bringing the No. 3 car to pit lane just after the start. But where the race truly became a painful root canal for Corvette came after a restart from the second full-course caution just past halfway through the 100-minute race.


Tommy Milner was last of the GTD PRO runners to pit after leading the entirety of his stint and handing over the No. 4 Corvette Z06 GT3.R to co-driver Nicky Catsburg, who appeared to have the advantage on both tire and fuel strategy.


After the restart, however, there was contact between Catsburg and Ben Barnicoat, who’d taken over the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, at Turn 3. Barnicoat was on the inside of Catsburg attempting to take the lead.


In the aftermath, Laurin Heinrich, who’d taken over the No. 77 AO Porsche from Seb Priaulx, hit Catsburg on the rebound with nowhere to go and damaged his front splitter.


A subsequent traffic jam at Turn 1 following a separate incident between two Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) cars caused a third full-course caution and left the damaged Heinrich and Barnicoat cars limping but still running 1-2 ahead of Alex Riberas in the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo, Marvin Kirchhoefer in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports McLaren 720S GT3 Evo and Albert Costa Balboa in the No. 35 Conquest Racing Ferrari 296 GT3.


IMSA officials reviewed the Catsburg-Barnicoat contact with no action taken, leaving Barnicoat’s damaged car to go after Heinrich for the remainder of the race while Catsburg sat in the pits out of contention while the No. 4 Corvette was being repaired.


Two more full-course cautions interrupted the flow and there was one more bit of podium drama inside the final five minutes. Riberas and Kirchhoefer made contact into Turn 3, but the incident was put under review by IMSA race officials again with no further action.


Heinrich, battered but not beaten, emerged ahead of the similarly ailing Barnicoat by 2.885 seconds at the finish. Riberas finished third to ensure he and co-driver Ross Gunn scored their first podium of the season in the No. 23 Aston Martin.


It was the second career and second straight WeatherTech Championship win for Heinrich, Priaulx and AO Racing. Unofficially, the pairing extended its GTD PRO championship lead to 84 points over Barnicoat and co-driver Jack Hawksworth.


“It was super difficult and I had to adapt my driving style,” said Heinrich, who added that the Porsche’s vibration was “horrendous” and forced him to adjust his driving.


“I had to enter really slow in the corner. Every restart it got more difficult. I couldn’t have done it without (Priaulx). That’s the key to win in IMSA.”


Priaulx added, “Our job was keep the car nice and clean for Laurin and leave it for him to fight. I couldn’t have done it without the team. Double win! Really happy for the whole team.”


Hawksworth, who saw the Catsburg-Barnicoat contact from pit lane, described his view of the incident.


“It’s a hard one to say. The (No.) 4 came over in the braking zone, and you can’t do that,” he said. “From a little bit back, the (No.) 4 came across. You can’t move in the braking zone.”


The GTD PRO class resumes as part of an all-class WeatherTech Championship race, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, June 20-23. That race will be Round 5 of the GTD PRO season and Round 3 of the five-round IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup.