Splitting its Aston Martin Vantage GT3 entries between GTD Pro and GTD “doesn’t change anything” according to The Heart of Racing team principal Ian James, who is optimistic on their chances in both categories.
The Aston squad, which expanded into a two-car effort mid-season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship last year, will take on a dual class operation this year, running an all-pro lineup for the first time in the new-for-2022 category.
Its GTD Pro entry will feature longtime HoR driver Alex Riberas and Aston Martin Racing factory driver Ross Gunn, who claimed the WeatherTech Sprint Cup title alongside Roman De Angelis, with the Canadian rising star remaining in GTD and being joined by AMR factory ace Maxime Martin for the majority of the season.
Martin, meanwhile, will join the GTD Pro crew for the three long-distance races starting with next weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“With Ross, Alex and Max I think we have as strong of a driver lineup as anybody else,” James told Sportscar365.
“The car had good pace at the end of last year, it will just come down to what the Balance of Performance is and some of these new cars coming in and see where they rank.
“That’s a strong field and the GTD field is mega as well.
“Having 30-plus GT3 cars in IMSA is really what they dreamed of. Hopefully that will be more of the focus, in the broadcasts and all of that, which it really deserves.”
When asked about its split approach, as one of two teams to field entries in both GT3 classes this year, James indicated that its ramp up to a two-car operation mid-season last year served as a stepping stone.
“It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “When we ran the two cars [from mid last year] that was a gear-up for this year.
“We’re not going to neglect either one of the cars. We’ll put our best foot forward with both.
“We need to back up [our championship-winning season] now this year. I think we have everything in place. Where the car fits in pace-wise, that will be up to the organizers.
“We’re very happy with how it’s been done and we’re excited to go racing.”
Second Driver in GTD Entry for Enduros To-Be-Determined
The second driver in the GTD class No. 27 Aston alongside De Angelis and James, who is the team’s nominated Michelin Endurance Cup pilot, has yet to be determined according to the team principal/driver.
While Martin is confirmed as De Angelis’ co-driver for the WeatherTech Sprint Cup races, the Belgian will move into the No. 23 Aston alongside Riberas and Gunn for the enduros.
Tom Gamble and Darren Turner will complete the No. 27 car’s lineup for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, meanwhile.
“We have a younger lineup in the GTD car,” James explained.
“I wanted to give another youngster a chance in Tom Gamble who was pretty impressive in WEC last year. Him and Roman and me and Darren to to support those guys and see where we end up.”
When asked who could fill the seat in the No. 27 car for Sebring and Motul Petit Le Mans, James said they have a number of options on the table.
“Maybe Darren, maybe Tom,” he said. “There’s a couple of other factory drivers that will be available. We’ll just see how Daytona pans out and take it from there.
“I’m not too worried. There’s plenty of good options.
“The good thing about having the two cars is that I want to use the [GTD] car as a bit more adventurous in terms of being a bit more braver in our decisions in giving people opportunities and maybe we can find our next Ross and Roman and Alex.”