Traveling to the northern hills of California, The Heart of Racing (HOR) completed the first rounds of Pirelli GT4 America competition for the 2023 championship. The No. 25 Aston Martin returned to competition after starting the GT America powered by AWS season in St. Petersburg in March.
The first Pirelli GT4 America race did not go as the HOR team had hoped. Starting second in class, Hannah Grisham was taken out on the first lap of the race after being hit on the right side before she could make any meaningful progress. The HOR team worked late into the night to get the No. 26 Aston Martin ready for the second race of the weekend.
“Saturday’s race was definitely a difficult one for us,” said Grisham. “We had a pretty decent starting position and just ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time. I got hit by somebody else and there wasn’t much I could do and unfortunately it took me out of the race. But the team recovered really well and I think for our first weekend we did pretty good overall and we can only go up from here. The whole Heart of Racing squad did a great job and worked really hard to get the car ready for us from Saturday’s incident. I really can’t thank everyone enough.”
Rianna O’Meara-Hunt was first behind the wheel of the No. 26 machine for the second race of the weekend. Starting twelfth in class, O’Meara Hunt worked her way to eighth when she passed the Aston Martin off to Grisham. Grisham ran just two green flag laps before another caution rang out forcing the field to finish under yellow. The two new teammates earned a seventh place finish.
“We had a bit of bad luck in race one, but for my first race on Sunday I think it went well,” said O’Meara-Hunt. “I was being a bit hesitant at the start with it just being new drivers and a new track and maybe a bit too cautious, but overall it was a really good race. The team has been awesome to work with and we’ve got the car in a really good place and quality.”
The first race of the weekend also proved challenging for the No. 24 Aston Martin Vantage entry of Grey Newell and Ian James. After having to serve a penalty early in the race, Newell turned the car over to James to take to the finish in eleventh.
James started the second race of the weekend from the back of the field, but made rapid forward progress before handing the car to Newell with 20 minutes remaining. Newell saw just two green flag laps before the race ended under caution.
“Unfortunately our first race didn’t go well,” said James. “Gray got a penalty for contact in our race, which was a snap decision by the stewards. If they watched our in-car camera they might have done something differently, but unfortunately we had to stop for 60 seconds and then start Sunday’s race from the back. Both of these made for a pretty bad day for us Saturday and Sunday, but that’s racing, we’ll look ahead to NOLA.”
The first GT America race saw a full 45 minute green flag race. Newell rolled off sixth in GT4 competition, but fell back to seventh early on in the race. He battled with the No. 253 with Rob Walker behind the wheel and made the pass for sixth just three minutes before the checkered flag flew.
Sunday morning Newell started the second GT America race of the weekend in fifth. Early on Newell fell back to sixth, but continued to battle for position. After a mostly green flag race, a caution slowed the field with four minutes remaining, the field took the checkered under yellow where the No. 25 Vantage finished fifth.
“Tough weekend for us,” said Newell. “The car wasn’t how we wanted it and we dealt with contact in two of our races and a wholly unjustified penalty. Fortunately the team was relentless and we kept coming back for more. Our two new drivers, Rianna and Hannah, performed more than admirably. I’m very impressed with them and excited to be racing with them going forward. Lots of good to come.”
The Heart of Racing SRO program will be back in action April 29th and 30th at NOLA Motorsports Park located just outside of New Orleans.
Source. Sunday Group
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