Ian James will sub for Alex Riberas at the wheel of the The Heart of Racing’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3 as the team makes its return to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition next weekend at Road America.
James, who serves as team principal for the newly-formed GT Daytona class operation, will share driving duties of the No. 23 Aston Martin with Roman De Angelis, forming a double Silver-rated lineup.
Travel restrictions for Aston Martin Racing North America driver Riberas, who is currently in New Zealand working on a The Heart of Racing-related project, has prevented the Spaniard from rejoining the team at Road America, according to James.
Riberas was due to be the team’s full-season driver alongside Canadian rising star De Angelis.
“We have to see how everything works out but I’m sure he will be back,” James told Sportscar365. “We just don’t exactly know when. If you leave New Zealand you can’t go back in right now.
“We’re working on something over there so he can’t really leave.”
James, the reigning Pirelli GT4 America Sprint champion, said he’s confident in the strength of the lineup.
“I can deal with that role pretty well,” he said of being both team principal and driver. “Roman was very impressive in Bathurst in the Aston, so definitely, short-term, it seemed the easiest fit was for me to to to drive again for a a little while.”
Road America will mark only the team’s second race outing after electing to skip IMSA’s Florida races due to COVID-19 concerns, which James said been alleviated after seeing IMSA’s strict protocols.
The Sebring race would not have been on the team’s agenda in the first place, as it was not a registered WeatherTech Sprint Cup entry.
“The only real reason not to go there was that Florida seemed to be a bit of a hotbed for COVID-19 and we took a health-forward approach to it, just to make sure the protocols were satisfactory,” James said.
“IMSA seems to be doing a good job on that so we decided it was time to to re-enter the fray.”
James said the team is scheduled to test at Mid-Ohio on Tuesday, with the crew having remained unchanged since the program’s debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.
“It was kind of a false start for us because just as we started to go testing and started to figure some stuff out it got stopped,” he said.
“The extra couple of months in the shop we’ve had the chance to refine a lot of stuff so I’m excited to see it back out on track.
“The plan is to do the rest of the season. If things change drastically, pandemic-wise, we don’t have to do anything.
“It’s a nice position to be in. If we think it’s a bad [health] situation for everybody, we wouldn’t do it. But our plan is to continue.”