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Heinrich: Laguna Long Runs Were “Exactly Our Strength”

GTD Pro winner Laurin Heinrich felt few yellows and a focus on long runs helped first “Rexy” IMSA win…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

AO Racing driver Laurin Heinrich said that the extended green flag stints in Sunday’s Motul Course de Monterey presented by Hyundai N were “exactly our strength” and helped propel the No. 77 ‘Rexy’-liveried Porsche 911 GT3 R he shared with Seb Priaulx to its first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship class victory.

Heinrich and Priaulx claimed top honors in the GTD Pro class, following a commanding second half of the race for the PJ Hyett-owned team.

“The race was without many full course yellows so it was more about long runs and I think that was exactly our strength,” Heinirch told Sportscar365 post-race.

“That’s also what I focused on in the practice sessions and this was also my mindset going out of pit lane today.

“We were purposefully focusing on having a car to follow other guys, now that we knew we were starting from the third row, so we had to overtake some cars.

“I think our engineer, Chaz [Cleland] and the whole team at AO Racing did a great job to give us exactly the car we needed.

“We made some great moves at Laguna Seca, where it’s not easy to pass so I’m really happy.”

After starting fifth in class, a consistent stint from Priaulx in the opening stages allowed Heinrich to make up ground when he got behind the wheel for his double-stint to put AO contention for the win.

With just over an hour remaining, Heinich edged past the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports McLaren 720S GT3 Evo and into the GTD Pro lead.

“I think we just had great momentum going into my stint,” Heinrich said. “We did an earlier pitstop to the others so I had a clean out lap.

“Seb did a great job of placing us ahead of all the GTD cars which was crucial for us to stay in our GTD Pro game. He did a good start and kept the nose clean and overtook the Heart of Racing Aston Martin.

“Then halfway into his stint I could he that we was starting to be faster than the car ahead of him so I knew we had something in our hats here.”

After its WeatherTech Championship debut in the 2023 season in GTD, AO Racing moved up to contest the GTD Pro class this year with Priaulx and Heinrich.

The team’s maiden win in Monterey followed strong early season pace at both the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Cadillac.

“We were there in Daytona and finished second,” Heinrich said. “We were there in Sebring leading most of the race, and now we’ve brought it over the line,”

“AO Racing showed that it’s capable of competing in GTD Pro which is a big step coming from last year in GTD in out fist year in IMSA, and now already getting the first win in GTD Pro.”

With Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet claiming the overall win in Monterey, AO helped record Porsche’s 600th and 601st IMSA wins, extending the German brand’s historic benchmark.

“Especially for me, being a Porsche-contracted driver, it’s a big honor to be part of the 600th. To be part of that great achievement in Porsche history. It was just great to bring it over the finish line,” said the 22-year-old German driver.

“I’m thankful for the trust the team is giving me. There’s much more to come from AO Racing in the future.”

Jonathan Grace is the host of Sportscar365's Double Stint Podcast and a contributor to the web site's IMSA-sanctioned race coverage.

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