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Michelin Pilot Challenge

Automatic Targeting Second New Aston Martin GT4

Interest building for second new Aston Martin Vantage GT4 for Michelin Pilot Challenge…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Automatic Racing could take delivery of a second Aston Martin Vantage GT4 later in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season according to team principal David Russell, who has given the new-for-2019 model high marks following an encouraging debut at Daytona.

The Florida-based operation became the first customer team to race the British manufacturer’s new GT4 car in last month’s Pilot Challenge season-opener, which saw the trio of Rob Ecklin Jr., Brandon Kidd and Ramin Abdolvahabi record a 13th place finish.

It came in a race where the team’s previous-generation Stoner Car Care-sponsored Aston claimed a surprise runner-up result, thanks to a last-corner pass by Kris Wilson.

Russell, a longtime Aston Martin and Pilot Challenge entrant, said interest levels in the new car is extremely high, especially following the Vantage GT4’s strong and reliable debut in the four-hour enduro.

“I’d really like to take delivery of another one at the end of June,” he told Sportscar365. “But that’s far from done.

“I think the car has attracted a fair amount of interest. The manufacturer has done a good job. It’s really a nice piece. It’s no expenses spared on the electronics side.

“My phone’s ringing a lot, so for me it’s about retooling and making the next steps.”

While the previous-gen Aston showed more pace at Daytona, Russell believes it largely came down to the car’s initial Balance of Performance, which was set by IMSA without any previous on-track running in the U.S.

The team only took delivery of the car the week prior to the race and was forced to miss the Roar Before the 24 pre-season test as a result.

At Daytona, the new Aston ran 155 kg heavier than the old model, along with two-liter reduction in fuel capacity.

“For the first race, I understand,” Russell said. “It’s [racing] under a waiver and it’s not homologated until next month. It was fine and I appreciated them letting us run.

“The good news is that the guys at AMR don’t burn the bridge on that like some manufacturers do [in providing baseline data to series].

“There’s a fair amount of respect and I think that’s why they allowed us to run, having never seen the car [until the weekend].”

Russell believes the progress made at Daytona with the Stoner Car Care-backed effort bodes well for the rest of the year, with the team planning to run as a two-car operation for the remainder of the Pilot Challenge season, and potentially a third entry for selected races.

It would result, for now at least, in a continued split approach, in running one new Aston GT4 and at least one previous-gen model, which has now become eligible for Pilot Challenge competition through the end of the 2020 season.

“There’s going to be a fair amount of homework we have to do,” Russell said on the new Vantage GT4.

“We’re going to Sebring on the 26-27th for a two-day test. We’ll go through our shock settings and all of the changes that are allowed.

“Sebring is a different animal so it will take a little to dial it in. But I’m really confident in the car.

“As far as being reliable, we’ve already checked that box. As far as it being competitive, I think we’ll get some help on the BoP, I hope, and they’ll slow down the McLaren a little bit and we’ll see where we land.”

While driver lineups have largely been set on race-by-race or partial season programs, Russell said he’s working hard to secure Wilson for a season-long effort following his and Gary Ferrera’s second place finish at Daytona in the Stoner Car Care machine.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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