Aston Martin squad The Heart of Racing claimed victory in the GTD class at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and beat the GTD Pro-winning WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo in the process.
The No. 27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 driven by Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James was the highest-finishing production-based car despite being entered into the second-tier category with its driver lineup restrictions.
Sorensen crossed the line 2.3 seconds ahead of Maro Engel, who shared GTD Pro honors with Jules Gounon, Daniel Juncadella and Cooper MacNeil.
The latter reached victory lane at the end of his final IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship appearance.
A succession of late full course caution periods bunched up the GT3-based cars which had mingled throughout the twice-around-the-clock enduro.
Sorensen first overtook the GTD Pro leader before holding firm at each of the crucial restarts, keeping Engel’s Mercedes-AMG between his No. 27 Aston Martin and the chasing No. 44 Vantage GT3 of Nicki Thiim.
Thiim made up several positions at the final restart to take second place in GTD alongside his Magnus Racing co-drivers Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly and John Potter.
The GTD Pro podium was completed by Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Tommy Milner and the third-placed Vasser Sullivan Lexus crew of Jack Hawksworth, Ben Barnicoat and Mike Conway.
The No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R GTD recovered from drama in the 11th hour when Taylor dropped out of the lead with damage to the right-rear tire.
That promoted the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin to the top spot, however its chances of victory were ended by a wheel hub failure.
With six hours to go, Corvette Racing was back in contention and going toe-to-toe with the WeatherTech Mercedes-AMG and the Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3.
Just before the start of the final hour, Engel beat Hawksworth into the Le Mans Chicane for what would turn out to be the deciding overtake of the Pro race.
The No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S of Marvin Kirchhoefer, Ollie Millroy, Frederik Schandorff and Brendan Iribe,who completed the GTD podium, finished behind the Corvette and Lexus in the combined running order.
Kirchhoefer held off Gradient Racing Acura driver Mario Farnbacher and Vasser Sullivan’s Aaron Telitz to secure the top-three spot for the Optimum Motorsport-run Inception outfit.
Older GT3-spec cars came to the fore in both classes, beating the new-for-2023 cars from Ferrari and Porsche, plus the updated Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2.
The best of the new machinery was the No. 63 Iron Lynx Lamborghini that finished fourth in GTD Pro and ninth in the overall GT order.
RESULTS: Rolex 24 at Daytona