The Heart of Racing (HOR) team returned to SRO action this weekend at the F1-grade Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Though the team ran into some bad luck in Pirelli GT4 America competition, Gray Newell was able to score two podiums in GT America powered by AWS.
Saturday saw Hannah Grisham qualify first in Pirelli GT4 America where she landed a second in-class starting position for Saturday’s afternoon race. Rianna O’Meara-Hunt qualified next for Sunday’s race from eleventh in class.
The first one hour race was on Saturday afternoon, Grisham started behind the wheel of the No. 26 Heart of Racing GT4 entry. As soon as the track went green, the safety car was summoned back on track to slow the field after a turn one incident. Grisham was able to maintain her position when the green flag waved once again. O’Meara-Hunt took the wheel with just 28 minutes remaining where she crossed the finish line in fifth.
“We had a good weekend overall,” said Grisham. “On Saturday I was able to qualify P2 in class, which tied for my best qualifying position. We went on to have our best finish of the season so far with fifth that afternoon. Unfortunately on Sunday, I only had one green flag lap and finished the race under yellow. This weekend we just continued to progress and learn the car more. We are starting to work as a team better as well as with each other. I think overall we have a positive take away from this weekend. Thank you to Heart of Racing for the opportunity and bringing a great car.”
O’Meara-Hunt was first up behind the wheel of the No. 26 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 during Sunday morning’s race. O’Meara-Hunt was dealing with a handling issue causing her to fall back in the AM field. With just 30 minutes remaining in the race, Grisham took over the Aston Martin machine. Unfortunately Grisham had just one green flag lap and was able to make up a few spots, but the remainder of the race remained under yellow flag conditions. Grisham crossed the finish line in eleventh.
“We had a positive weekend here at COTA,” said O’Meara-Hunt. “I was able to personally improve. We had our best finish yet in Saturday’s race, we started in second and finished fifth, but it’s still just a bit frustrating because you are so close to that first podium. It was a good weekend and we’ve both made good steps of improvement. We’re showing that we can fight with these guys and that we are meant to be here. It’s been really cool to run a Formula One track as well! I didn’t realize until I got here how big the elevation was in turn 1, it’s been a fun track to drive.”
Gray Newell and Roman De Angelis were back behind the wheel of the No. 24 Aston Martin Vantage GT4. Newell was first to qualify for the duo, earning an eighth place starting position for race one. De Angelis qualified for Sunday’s race next where he captured a seventh place starting position.
Newell started first for the Prelli GT4 America race, gaining four positions in turn one. Unfortunately a car spun Newell in turn 11 forcing him back to eleventh. Newell handed the Aston Martin over to De Angelis halfway through the race, De Angelis finished tenth in class.
De Angelis wheeled the first stint of the one hour race on Sunday. De Angelis was able to maintain a top ten position throughout his stint. Just before handing over the Aston Martin to Newell another car made contact with De Angelis which led to an oil leak. The No. 24 Heart of Racing entry retired with just 30 minutes remaining.
“The weekend didn’t end as we had hoped,” said De Angelis. “I had a rough qualifying session on Saturday and then in race one Gray got spun which put us towards the back of the field. Then today we had contact with another car where the damage caused an oil leak. We ended up having to park the car before Gray could take his turn. We head to VIR next, I think we’ll be able to rebound there.”
Newell was on double duty this weekend as he also competed in GT America powered by AWS. Newell started from the third row in Saturday’s race one. The Washington state native was able to work his way up through the field placing himself in great position when he noticed cars battling it out in front of him. When two cars in front of Newell wrecked each other, Newell was there to take a third place finish.
Starting from the third row once again during Sunday’s race, Newell made the most out of the off and on rain. The Heart of Racing team decided to run the race on slick tires in a field mixed with rain tires. Newell quickly made his way to podium contention as the field made the first turn. The final sixteen minutes of the race was plagued with cautions, but Newell maintained his position taking the checkered third.
“COTA was a big up and down weekend for us,” said Newell. “Unfortunately our GT4 America car was hit in both races, taking us out of contention for points. My races in GT America went well with two third place finishes, but I felt that I had more performance that I left on the table. Still it is good to be racing at the front and showing I can go toe to toe with the series leaders. We’re still there in the championship, but I have to step up my consistency to take wins.”
The Heart of Racing SRO program will be back in action at VIRginia International Raceway June 16-18 over Father’s Day weekend.