IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team NTE Sport is starting the 2022 race season off in style, switching to a new Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo for a full season in the GTD class. The team’s new car will make its debut in the Roar Before the 24–the first test and qualifying event of the season–with a familiar lineup, bringing back Don Yount, Benjamin Hites, Jaden Conwright, and Markus Palttala as drivers of the No. 42 entry. The team will announce its full-season plans and lineup at a later date.
“I’ll be very excited to get the race season officially started,” said team owner Paul Mata. “We’ve had a lot of moving parts over the course of this short off-season, and I’m proud of the program we’ve put together. We’re thrilled to get to work with Chris Ward and everyone at Lamborghini Squadra Corse, and can’t wait to see what we can do with such a strong lineup. It’ll be a great season!”
With the championship ending a month later than normal in November, the shortened off-season was a busy one for the Dallas-based team as they switched manufacturers and put together a full-season effort for 2022. Using a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo provided by Star-Spangled Racing, the team hustled to assemble their 2022 programs. Building on a strong four-race debut in the IMSA WeatherTech 2021, NTE Sport will waste no time finding stride in the new machinery.
As the sole NTE driver to compete in the team’s four races last year, Don Yount has become a pillar and strong supporter of the GTD team as their reliable gentleman driver. With one win and ten podiums to his IMSA resume, Yount has earned his place in the GTD class, a field dedicated to a mixture of professional and amateur drivers racing together in professional competition.
“I’m looking forward to my seventh Rolex 24 At Daytona in a row,” said Yount. “This might be the strongest lineup I have been involved with for the 24 Hour and I’m excited to see what we can do with the NTE Lamborghini. It’s good to be back in the car with Markus after our fourth place Watkins Glen run and Benjamin had a very strong Petit Le Mans. Jaden will be ready as always for extra-long stints. It’s a strong lineup with a new car and we have a lot to prove.”
Twenty-two-year-old Chilean driver Benjamin “Benja” Hites made his NTE Sport debut two months ago at the season finale event, Petit Le Mans. He put in an impressive qualifying performance in his first-ever IMSA WeatherTech event, setting a fast pace to secure second place in a field of fifteen cars. In an exciting qualifying session, Hites came within 0.001 seconds of pole position, secured by the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini. This year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona will be another first for the Chilean racer, though he has ample experience in endurance racing in Europe. Recently recognized for his impressive on-track performance, Hites has been selected as a Lamborghini GT3 Junior Driver for 2022, a program created by Lamborghini Squadra Corse’s commitment to the growth of young drivers.
“I’m very happy that I will take part in the Rolex 24 At Daytona for the first time,” said Hites. “It is a great effort and I’m thankful to the NTE Sport team to give me the chance to drive with them again. I know Jaden and Don, and I’m convinced that with Markus Palttala, our No. 42 Lamborghini will be a podium contender.”
Quickly earning a name for himself in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Jaden Conwright made his IMSA debut last season at Watkins Glen International and quickly established himself as a rising star to watch. In his first IMSA WeatherTech qualifying session, Conwright put the No. 42 Audi R8 LMS in a third-place starting position, grabbing the attention of his fellow GTD competitors. Conwright’s strong performance in 2021 paid off, and on January 6, IMSA announced the 22-year-old not only became the first recipient of the IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship, but he also is joining his co-driver Hites as a Lamborghini GT3 Junior Driver for the approaching season.
“It’s definitely a big deal,” Conwright said. “I’m super grateful and happy to be the first recipient of this scholarship. I’m just looking forward to working with everyone and trying to create something that will be long-term and something that will help introduce more people into IMSA. I can’t thank everyone from NTE Sport enough for the opportunity to race with them again in 2022. Participating in my first Rolex 24 at Daytona and the first 24-hour race of my career is something I anxiously look forward to. It’s been a busy and productive off-season, working with IMSA and Lamborghini for the first time, but I can’t wait to finally get the season started at one of the world’s most premier endurance sportscar races! We had amazing pace at both Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta, and I look forward to sharing the car with Don, Benjamin, and Markus again, all together at Daytona.”
Markus Palttala will complete the driver lineup, returning after first joining the team last summer at Watkins Glen International. The team put in a strong run to the podium only to be thwarted in the final 15 minutes when contact from a faster DPi class car resulted in a narrow fourth-place finish. The Finnish race car driver holds 24 wins and 68 podium finishes, bringing his veteran knowledge to the newer race team.
“I’m very happy to rejoin NTE Sport after a positive first weekend together at the Glen last June,” said Palttala. “Daytona is one of the biggest sportscar races in the calendar and the best part is to start the season already in January when everything in Europe is still hibernating. I’ve never driven a GT3 Lamborghini before but I’ve raced against it enough times to know that it is a very competitive race car. It’s fairly similar to the Audi the team was running last year, so although we are surely facing a steep learning curve, hitting the track for the first time at the Roar, I’m confident we can target a top result. It’s the first time the four of us are sharing a car, but all of us have already worked with the team. I’ve already had a bunch of good results with Don, Jaden was super at the Glen and the team really appreciated Benjamin at Petit, so I believe we have a strong driver line-up in GTD. I can’t wait to head to Florida and get the project started at the Roar!”
The Roar Before the 24 will begin on-track activities on Friday, January 21 with two test sessions, followed by two practices and a qualifying session on Saturday. The 15-minute qualifying session will set the grid for the Motul Pole Award 100, a one-hour, forty-minute race that will determine the starting grid for the Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 29-30.
Source. KBru Communications