Automatic Racing’s No. 09 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 will be focused on IMSA’s new-for-2022 Bronze Cup this year, with Rob Ecklin, Jr. and Ramin Abdolvahabi confirmed as drivers for the Stoner Car Care-sponsored GS class entry.
The Bronze Cup award will provide podium and season-end recognition to the top Bronze-rated finishers that are paired together in a lineup.
Business obligations will keep Ecklin away from this weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 pre-season test but will return to the wheel the following week for the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge.
“I’m very disappointed that business will keep me away this weekend,” said Ecklin, president of Stoner, Inc. “It’s a holiday tradition, to head immediately to Daytona. It’s such an iconic track – we’ve been there so often but every time you go feels so special.
“It’s going to be stiff competition in the Bronze Cup this season, with some very fast drivers in that category, so it’s going to be fun. It’s one more challenge to go after.”
With Ecklin not on hand this weekend, the team’s former endurance driver, Brandon Kidd, will step in to test the Aston Martin on Friday and get the setup ready for Abdolvahabi.
Kidd was recently upgraded to a Silver-rated driver, taking him out of eligibility for the Bronze Cup and curtailing his race plans for the year.
Abdolvahabi will use the remainder of the sessions on Saturday and Sunday to continue setup work and to bring himself back up to speed on the high banks and tight corners at Daytona.
“2022 presents an entirely new challenge with the new Bronze Cup,” said Abdolvahabi, a neurosurgeon in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. “It’s great that our efforts to get this Bronze Cup in the series have paid off.
“It’s a motivation – we know that at this stage in the game, it’s unlikely that two Bronze drivers, or even a Silver and a Bronze, can go up against two Gold drivers.
“This gives us a level playing field and a way to get recognized for that. But for the Roar, the goal is to get back into the groove. We haven’t been in this car since Road Atlanta, so we’ll do some data gathering at Daytona and get some strategy going on. It’s a great warm up for next weekend.”
In addition to the No. 09 entry, team manager David Russell will also field an Aston Martin Vantage GT4 for Paul Kiebler and Jon Branam.
“We’re looking forward to the Bronze Cup,” said Russell. “Rob and Ramin will run the full season, gunning for that title, and I think they have a good shot. The Bronze Cup concept is very popular around the world.
“The Bronze drivers are really the backbone of the series so I think IMSA will be surprised at how positive the outcome will be. There are so many guys who are not full-time race car drivers who are super competent on the racetrack so it’s good to recognize them.
“For the team, it’s great to start off with a home race, just 45 minutes up the highway. It’s so much more efficient, especially with the Roar and the race being back-to-back – that was a good move by IMSA.
“The field is super strong this year, and it’s clear that the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will continue to break records so there are so many positives right now with the extent of manufacturer involvement and the caliber of teams.”