Ian James said a second GT Daytona class entry for The Heart of Racing was “always on the radar” if team regular Alex Riberas was able to travel back from an extended stay in New Zealand.
Riberas, who made a single start in the team’s debut in the 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona, has been based in New Zealand since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March of last year, helping establish a satellite race operation that led to multiple national championships with an Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
More than 18 months later, the Spaniard is set to join team principal James behind the wheel of a second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entry beginning with next weekend’s round at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
It comes in addition to the team’s season-long No. 23 Aston Martin of Ross Gunn and Roman De Angelis, who currently sit second in the class championship.
“It was always on the radar if Alex came back from New Zealand,” James told Sportscar365.
“Obviously Ross and Roman are doing such a great job we were never going to split them up. They both deserve to be going towards having a chance at the championship.
“We wanted to find a place for Alex and that was the best option.”
James said he “pulled the trigger” on the effort “a couple of months ago” once realizing Riberas’ availability.
While set to utilize the team’s spare Aston Martin chassis for the effort, the championship-winning driver turned team boss admitted the biggest challenge has been finding capable crew and other resources for the increased effort during the middle of the season.
“The biggest thing is finding the people, getting the right resources in terms of pit equipment and stuff like that, transportation,” he said.
“All of the GT4 [America] crew will help. Also we’re bringing in people from the paddock that I know and think will do a good job.
“It’s a hard year to do it. But we’ve got some quality people.
“There’s really not much cross-over in running two cars as opposed to one. It’s really two times the effort.
“There’s not a lot of resources out there that are not being used right now. It’s going to take us a little while to get our feet but I’m sure we’ll enjoy it and have fun.”
With the No. 23 Aston in the GTD title fight, James said it’s his priority to make sure the additional car does not come as a distraction in terms of Gunn and De Angelis’ championship prospects.
“None of the resources or people involved with that are going to be taken off of that,” he said.
“Like any team, sometimes you find something with a second car. We can be a bit more risky in terms of setup and strategies and stuff that may be beneficial in the team.”
“Nothing Set in Stone” for 2022 Despite GTD Pro Explorations
While having a “good picture” of what the team’s program could look like next year, James said they have yet to fully confirm plans for 2022 beyond committing to at least one GT3-spec car in the series.
James has also acknowledged discussions with other GT3 manufacturers.
“Obviously a lot of manufacturers have seen [our success], so there’s some interest there,” he said.
“We’re very happy with Aston as well. They’ve done a great job and have supported us very well.
“I’d like to think it will be Aston [in 2022] but until everything’s done you can’t really say it’s a done deal.”
James said he’s also been keeping an eye on developments in GTD Pro class and whether there’s a potential to run a car in IMSA’s new-for-2022 category.
“I’m looking at it just from a perspective that in the future if it’s something we want to do or can try and do,” he said.
“I 100 percent think the BoP should be [the same] in Pro and in GTD. I don’t think you should have outliers.
“For example if the factory BMW is there and there’s a BMW in GTD, it should be under the same BoP. You shouldn’t have these false BoPs to make one car quicker than the other.
“We could have someone like Ross Gunn in a GTD car and he’s going to be as fast as the GTD Pro cars. There’s no reason that car can’t win a race now and then and that’s what sports car racing, especially in America, has always been about.
“The underdog can come through and steal one. Why would you have a different set of rules for identical cars? That never made any sense to me.
“I think IMSA is trying to move in the right direction. It’s just putting all of the pieces together to make it happen.”
James added: “Because the rules are identical, it actually takes the time pressure off us [deciding for 2022]. Literally you could decide a couple of weeks before Daytona. [But] we’re not going to do that.
“I like the fact that there could be 20-25 GT3 cars all running under the same rules.
“When you see what’s happening around the world in Le Mans in the future and stuff like that, it will be a good place to be racing. You can be racing your car essentially anywhere.”