IMSA WeatherTech Championship

Flawless Performance Puts No. 23 Aston Martin in Victory Lane

Error-Free Stints Make the Difference for The Heart of Racing
Sellers, Snow Take BMW M4 to First Win in GTD

April 9, 2022
By David Phillips
IMSA Wire Service

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The Heart of Racing’s No. 23 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 may not have been the fastest GTD PRO car in today’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. But drivers Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas never put a wheel wrong and, in contrast to some of the competition, the Heart of Racing crew was flawless in the pits. As a result, Riberas took the checkered flag 1.4 seconds clear of Ben Barnicoat in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 to claim the first GTD PRO win for Aston Martin and the Heart of Racing squad.

“We had a very clean race,” said Gunn. “We just chipped away at it and made no mistakes, then this guy (Riberas) was awesome and brought it home.”

Riberas had his work cut out in the final stint, as a series of full-course cautions repeatedly negated any advantage he had been able to eke-out over the second placed Lexus.

“It’s hard not to have your rhythm disrupted with all those yellows,” said Riberas, who posted the best lap of the race for the winning car at 1 minute, 19.010 seconds. “I just had to focus on not overthinking things and get back in my rhythm on the restarts.”

Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth drove a similarly clean race and the Vasser Sullivan Racing crew executed their lone pit stop to perfection, enabling the No. 14 Lexus to come home 1.4 seconds adrift of the winners.

Things weren’t as smooth for the third place No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R GTD. Having started from pole and led the first third of the race, Jordan Taylor brought the ‘Vette into the pits for fuel and tires on Lap 29. In a strange sequence of events during the tire change, one of the Corvette’s wheel nuts rolled into pit lane into the path of Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche GT3 R which was running third in class at the time. The wayward nut punctured the Porsche’s radiator, knocking the car out of the race and resulting in a drive-through penalty to the Corvette Racing entry.

Setting fastest lap of the GTD PRO race at 1:18.807 and aided by the succession of full-course yellows, Antonio Garcia closed the Corvette within striking distance of the two leaders before settling for third place.

Corvette Racing wasn’t alone in losing a chance at victory in pit lane. Connor De Phillippi had assumed the top spot in the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M4 GT3 when the Corvette, Porsche, Lexus and Aston Martin all pitted on Lap 29. The BMW went until Lap 46 before pitting, only for the driver’s door to work loose during the driver exchange between De Phillippi and John Edwards.

Understandably perhaps, De Phillippi set to re-attaching the door while the Team RLL mechanics changed tires and re-fueled the car. In effect, De Phillippi became extra personnel “working” on the car, thus IMSA penalized the team for having an extra team member over the pit wall during the pit stop, putting paid to Team RLL’s hopes for a win.

What’s more, Edwards took over in the car with less than 35 minutes remaining, which was the required minimum drive time for GTD PRO in this race. As a result, the No. 25 BMW was classified last in GTD PRO, promoting the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to a fourth-place finish.

Sellers, Snow Take BMW M4 to First Win in GTD

By Mark Robinson

Paul Miller Racing had lots of ground to make up, changing manufacturers in the offseason and not taking possession of its BMW M4 GT3 until February. It mattered not on Saturday as Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers drove the No. 1 BMW to the GT Daytona (GTD) class victory at Long Beach in the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup.

Starting from the pole position that Snow earned in qualifying on Friday, the No. 1 led throughout, surrendering the point only briefly during the pit-stop sequence midway through the 100-minute race. Sellers crossed the finish line 1.886 seconds ahead of Mario Farnbacher in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3.

“You have to make sure you win on days like today,” said Sellers, who picked up his 13th career IMSA victory. “When they’re right in front of you, you have to win and that’s when it really comes down to everyone: the team, the drivers and everyone putting it together. That’s what I’m most proud of. You get the opportunity, and you don’t give it away because you don’t get them very often.”

It also gave PMR, Sellers and Snow a second straight Long Beach win. The 2021 triumph came in a Lamborghini Huracán GT3. Team owner Paul Miller made the move to BMW and its brand-new M4 for 2022, but it forced the team to miss the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January waiting on the new car.

A positive sign came in the No. 1 BMW’s debut last month at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, when the car led 33 early laps before being caught in an incident when another car spun. Additional confirmation came in the dominant drive to victory on Saturday, though Snow knows there’s much more knowledge yet to acquire with the BMW.

“It definitely adds confidence,” Snow said after gathering his eighth career win. “With Lamborghini, we started in 2016 so we had years of that experience. Now we’re in our second race with BMW. It’s a great car, we just will learn a lot as time goes.”

Both of the winning drivers benefitted by having a GTD PRO car between them and the rest of the GTD field throughout the race. Sellers was especially happy to see Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette between him and the hard-charging Farnbacher in the No. 66 Acura as the clock wound down.

“Mario is extremely strong,” Sellers said. “Anytime you get into the last 15 minutes of a race, he’s not a guy that you really want behind you trying to hold him off for the win, so Antonio provided us a great buffer.

“It’s our second race with BMW and I think it’s the M4’s first win in WeatherTech racing, so it’s exciting for us,” Sellers added. “I’m really proud of what we were able to do with virtually no time in the car.”

The race was the first of eight non-endurance events counting toward the Sprint Cup, putting Sellers, Snow and the No. 1 BMW atop those standings. Saturday’s GTD race did not award points toward the season championship.

Both WeatherTech Championship GT classes will be in action next along with Daytona Prototype international (DPi) and Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) at the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship Presented by Motul on May 1. The race airs live at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock and IMSA Radio.

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