Richard Westbrook says it “feels so good” to return to the IMSA paddock, as the Englishman makes his GT Daytona class debut with Grasser Racing Team.
The ex-Ford Chip Ganassi Racing ace has joined the Austrian Lamborghini squad for this weekend’s six-hour enduro at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, subbing for Lamborghini factory driver Franck Perera in the team’s No. 11 entry.
It marks Westbrook’s first series start since the four-year factory Ford GT Le Mans program came to an end at Motul Petit Le Mans in 2019,
“Gottfried [Grasser] and I were texting over the winter,” Westbrook told Sportscar365. “He always said he would love to get me in the car when the opportunity was right.
“Obviously he’s connected with Lamborghini so they take Lamborghini factory drivers. But there was an opportunity for me because they couldn’t take their normal factory driver.
“It’s really nice. Gottfried is a racer. You can see that. It’s the first time I’ve worked with him and we’re looking forward to a good weekend.”
While boasting experience in the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo in NLS competition with Phoenix Racing, Westbrook said the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, which had initially been built on the same platform, has been distinctly different.
He got his first laps in the car in Friday’s opening practice session, in a compact weekend that only offers two hours of track time prior to qualifying.
“A lot of people said it would be similar and there are similarities, particularly in the cockpit and the steering wheel and all of the functions. That’s been easy to get up to speed with,” Westbrook said.
“But it definitely has a different aero and a different way the engine performs, maybe a little bit less horsepower but more torque.
“It’s adapting your driving style to get the most out of that.
“It’s not ideal as I didn’t realize there’s only two hours of practice and we obviously have three drivers.
“Steijn [Schothorst] is very quick in a Lamborghini but he’s never been here so he needs time. Richard [Heistand] hasn’t driven here since Daytona.
“We’re up against it but the team is really good. They put out a good car. There’s no problem there. I think we’ve got a competitive car and that’s all you can really wish for.”
Westbrook Targeting Full Time IMSA Return
While missing out on a full-season program this year, Westbrook said it’s his top priority to return to the WeatherTech Championship full-time in 2021.
“I’m doing quite a bit in Europe now with Phoenix [Racing] and it’s been pretty busy with Aston [Martin] getting ready for Le Mans, especially working on the low aero kit,” he said.
“Things are getting busy in Europe but my main goal is to get back to America next year; there’s no doubt.
“Having gone back to Europe this year has been great. But I miss racing here. The goal is definitely DPi next year but if that’s not possible, I would definitely look at GTD.
“For me the most important thing is that I’m out racing, week-in, week-out in IMSA.
“This has been my home for more than ten years, racing-wise and this is where I feel at home.
“When Gottfried called me, it took me two seconds to say yes.
“Even with the difficult situation with the paddock; there’s not so much interaction, it still feels so friendly and so good to be back.
“It’s made me realize that this is where I need to be next year.”