Elkhart Lake, Wisc. (21 August 2023) - The Heart of Racing (HOR) team saw both the peaks and valleys of motorsports this weekend. The No. 24 Aston Martin raced to the top step of the podium in Pirelli GT4 America while its sister car the No. 26 Aston Martin was forced to retire for the weekend after an incident on Saturday.
Thursday and Friday saw all three team entries show impressive pace during two days of test sessions.
Last to qualify Saturday morning was Pirelli GT4 America, as the qualifying session was split into two fifteen minute segments with Hannah Grisham and Gray Newell behind the wheel first. Grisham set the fastest AM lap time of 2:15.709 seconds, landing fourth overall. Newell scored the fifth fastest lap of the PRO-AM category.
The second fifteen minute qualifying session had Rianna O’Meara-Hunt and Roman De Angelis in action. Unfortunately, a wreck caused a lengthy red flag, leaving less than four minutes to complete a flier on the over four-mile circuit. O’Meara-Hunt caught a bit of understeer going into the kink forcing her into the wall. Due to time running out before any driver could get a flier lap, all qualifying times were voided.
The first of two Pirelli GT4 America races took place Saturday evening. Grisham was first behind the wheel to start the race from the back of the field on board the No. 26 Aston Martin entry after the qualifying incident saw the team move to a replacement chassis. Almost immediately Grisham jumped up three spots to sit tenth, before a caution came out on the second lap. After going back green Grisham was able to make it up to eighth before turning the Aston Martin over to O’Meara-Hunt with 35 minutes remaining.
A caution came out as soon as O’Meara-Hunt started on her opening lap, the team was able to make up an additional three spots on pit road. O’Meara-Hunt was sitting sixth when the track went back green. Unfortunately, she was squeezed between two cars with nowhere to go, another car made contact with O’Meara-Hunt sending her into the wall and ending the weekend for the No. 26 Heart of Racing team.
“We were super quick this weekend,” said Grisham. “The car was on rails, the team did an amazing job putting a car together for us this weekend. We were able to place the car P1 in class and P4 overall during qualifying, I’m really excited about that. I think that’s where Rianna and I belong, we have the speed and the pace we just need to be there consistently for the rest of the year. Overall we made another great step forward. Racing just wasn’t in our cards this weekend, but we are extremely thankful that Rianna is alright. We’ll see what Sebring brings us.”
Newell started the first Pirelli GT4 America race for the No. 24 Aston Martin team from fifth in class. Newell moved up a position before the first caution came out and was able to maintain the position until De Angelis took over. The first set of laps for the Canadian driver was under caution, however when the track took the green flag once again De Angelis quickly passed for third. Right before the final caution came out, De Angelis passed two cars on the outside going into Turn 5 for the lead. The first race did end under yellow flag conditions, where De Angelis and Newell scored the duo’s second win of the season.
The second Pirelli GT4 America race qualifying times were disqualified, so the starting grid was determined by practice two fast lap times. Unfortunately, the No. 24 Aston Martin didn’t make a full lap during the second practice and had to start the race from eleventh in class. De Angelis was first behind the wheel going through a ten minute caution period towards the start of the race. De Angelis was able to make his way to seventh before Newell took the reins. Newell started his stint under yellow flag conditions, but the track went back to green with 13 minutes remaining. Newell crossed the finish line in seventh.
“Gray and I had a good weekend with a win on Saturday,” said De Angelis. “It was an unfortunate weekend for the No. 26 car having a couple of accidents this weekend that ultimately led to them not being able to race today. Today’s luck was a bit different than yesterday’s, we had a poor starting position after starting from the back, but we were able to make up some spots and finish seventh. Hopefully we can put it all together again for Sebring.”
GT America powered by AWS qualified first thing Saturday morning with cool temperatures where Newell set the second fastest lap time of 2:15.972 seconds in the No. 25 Heart of Racing Aston Martin.
GT America’s first race took place on Saturday under the midday sun, Newell started on the front row and was forced to defend his second place position very quickly into the race. Unfortunately Newell eventually had to give up his position and fell back to fifth when a caution rang out with just 14-minutes remaining in the race. The track went back to green flag conditions with just nine minutes left of the 40 minute race, on the first lap back green two cars wrecked in front of Newell forcing him to go off the racing line and giving up another position. The race ended under caution with Newell bringing back a sixth place finish.
The second GT America powered by AWS race took place Sunday morning where Newell started seventh. As the green flag waved, Newell picked up one spot placing him in sixth for most of the race. Unlike Saturday’s race, the full 40 minute race remained under green flag conditions. With just 11-minutes to go Newell made a pass for fifth and began chasing another Aston Martin for fourth. Newell passed the Aston Martin for fourth with five minutes remaining in the race. Newell defended his position to cross the finish line fifth.
The Heart of Racing SRO team will be back in action September 22-24 at Sebring International Raceway.