Aston Martin recorded its best-ever finish in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, on Sunday, thanks to a brilliant performance by new-for-2022 IMSA team partner Magnus Racing, which charged through the field to second place in the highly-contested GTD class of the US endurance classic.
Four competitive Aston Martin Vantage GT3s were entered for the 60th running of North America’s most important endurance race – the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – by Aston Martin Racing regular teams The Heart of Racing and NorthWest AMR as well as Magnus Racing. But in the end, it was the Utah-based outfit that came away with a hard-earned podium after a bruising, fast-paced race that remained on a knife-edge throughout.
Driven by US trio and team regulars John Potter, Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly, and joined for Daytona by Aston Martin Racing works driver and two-time Le Mans class-winner Jonny Adam (GBR), the Magnus Racing Vantage calmly established itself in the top ten early on. As a two-time Rolex 24 class-winning team, it knows how to succeed at Daytona. But progress was stymied in the fifth hour by an unscheduled pit stop and a time penalty that dropped the Vantage two laps off the lead.
Then a sequence of strong stints from Potter, Pumpelly, Lally and Adam, along with a combination of smart strategy, pass-arounds (a mechanism where lapped cars can be given a lap back to the class leaders) and excellent pit stops, not only brought the car back into contention but actually gave it the GTD class lead by the 14th hour. After that the #44 Vantage was always a contender, even though it was punted off the track by a prototype and glanced the barrier at the Le Mans chicane in the 16th hour.
The exciting nature of IMSA racing, where races are neutralised and gaps reset during Full Course Yellow periods, means that the final 30 minutes of the race were tense. Five-time Rolex 24 class-winner Lally held his nerve however and climbed to second place in the final run to the flag, just 12s away from victory.
Aston Martin has been represented at Daytona sporadically since 1964, and while it has frequently led its class, until 2022 misfortune had denied it podium glory. The marque’s previous best result was fourth place in GTD with Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Richie Stanaway in the V12 Vantage GT3.
Jonny Adam said: “This was an amazing result for Magnus Racing in this big IMSA season opener. It’s a tough race and it means a great deal to be one of the drivers who stands on the podium for Aston Martin for the first time at Daytona. The Aston Martin Vantage GT3 provided us with a strong package all weekend and was competitive throughout the race. I have to say a massive thank you to the whole team and my superstar team-mates John, Spencer and Andy. This is the perfect start to a new partner team programme with Magnus Racing.
Magnus Racing team owner John Potter said: “It’s exciting to be on the podium. It’s a great achievement. This is our first race with the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 so we are still learning and understanding it and to be able to take it to second from the top step is quite an accomplishment. And, of course, it’s a tribute to the car itself, to our crew and everybody at Aston Martin Racing that helped us, that we were able to get this far so quickly.”
The Heart of Racing’s GTD entry, driven by team principal Ian James (GBR), Darren Turner (GBR), Roman De Angelis (CDN) and Tom Gamble (GBR) staged a gallant recovery to finish ninth after technical issues in the first half of the race. Meanwhile the team’s highly anticipated GTD Pro assault began strongly for Ross Gunn (GBR), Alex Riberas (ESP) and Maxime Martin (BEL), but was eliminated in a crash before nightfall.
Huw Tasker, Head of Customer Racing, said: “We’ve had to wait for too long to see an Aston Martin finish on the podium at Daytona, and Magnus Racing knows what it is doing when it comes to top class GT endurance racing in the US. That the team decided to race with Vantage in 2022 is further evidence of its growing reputation and the overall success of the GT3 programme. The level of competitiveness for Magnus Racing throughout the race is proof that Aston Martin can contend for victory in the biggest endurance races around the world, and we look forward to working with them through 2022. The Heart of Racing showed immense promise in what looks set to be a highly-competitive GTD Pro field, and I think we can expect to see them contend for the podium in the Sebring 12 Hours in March.”
Magnus Racing will contest the remainder of IMSA’s long distance endurance events; the Sebring 12 Hours, the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen and the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in 2022. The Heart of Racing meanwhile takes on the full season with a two-car multi-class line-up.
The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship takes place at Sebring on, Saturday, 19 March.