Richard Heistand has confirmed that he will be taking up his Bob Akin Award invitation to compete in 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time this year.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competitor earned an auto invite into the 2020 edition of the race as the top Bronze-rated driver in last season’s GT Daytona class.
Heistand, who shared a Lexus RC F GT3 with Jack Hawksworth in 2019 but is now racing in the Michelin Endurance Cup with Lamborghini, told Sportscar365 that he has accepted the entry.
It’s understood that the entry will come with European Le Mans Series stalwart and long-time Ferrari customer JMW Motorsport.
“I had a deadline with the ACO for my entry. I had to write down a team name and select a team on December 20th,” Heistand told Sportscar365.
“They had to have an agreement that we’re going to execute it the way that it was agreed upon and their name’s written down on the piece of paper and submitted to the ACO.
“It’s as definite as something can be.”
Heistand, who returned to professional racing in 2018 after a decade out, explained that his continuation as a Bronze-rated driver for this year helped sway his decision to go forward with the Le Mans bid.
“I’m still rated Bronze – a function of me being away for a long time and now racing in my 30s,” he said.
“I was close to being upgraded and I was fine with that because I’ve never really done any Bronze racing, but then I realized that maybe there’s a chance to go to Le Mans and a chance to be competitive.
“This is probably the last year that I will be rated Bronze, but I have the entry. I went to every team and said that I want to go and try to win and put together a competitive lineup.
“There was a team that said we don’t care what the budget comes to be, we’ll put together a fast silver and a fast gold and you and we’ll try to win.
“I heard what I wanted to hear from that one person, so I’m excited about that. We’re still working on who everyone’s going to be [in the driver lineup]. That’s the other big thing.”
Heistand admitted that the costs of operating a GTE-Am car will reduce opportunities to test extensively before Le Mans.
“I would love to do the [Lone Star Le Mans next month] but it all comes down to budget – WEC is a very expensive sport,” he said.
“I would like to do a warmup for Le Mans, but we might just have to go to the test and put it together.
“I could do a test day after COTA, but I might not end up testing at all until the Le Mans test.”
IMSA’s second invite, for winning the Jim Trueman Award, has gone to Cameron Cassels, who has also confirmed a program around Performance Tech Motorsports in LMP2.