Dinosaurs Aren’t Extinct! ‘Rexy’ Wins GTD PRO at WeatherTech Raceway

By Jeff Olson

IMSA Wire Service

“Rexy” showed his teeth victoriously Sunday.

The No. 77 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, nicknamed “Rexy” for a toothy wrap design resembling a tyrannosaurus rex, ate up the field Sunday en route to a dominant victory in the Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class at the Motul Course de Monterey Presented by Hyundai N at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Laurin Heinrich and Seb Priaulx combined to win by 9.074 seconds in the two-hour, 40-minute race. It was AO Racing’s first victory – and the first for both drivers – in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition.

For Heinrich, who anchored the victory, the fifth-to-first performance delivered on a promising start to the team’s first season in the GTD PRO class. The No. 77 started from the pole position and finished second in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, then finished ninth in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac in March.

Those results along with Sunday’s victory at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca vaulted the No. 77 team into the WeatherTech Championship GTD PRO point standings. The team now holds an unofficial lead of 56 points over the defending champion No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, co-driven by Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth, who finished fourth Sunday.

“It’s an honor for me,” Heinrich said. “It’s awesome to be part of it. I’m thankful to AO Racing for their trust to bring an IMSA rookie and two young guys like us into a GTD PRO program against many experienced teams and drivers. I think today we proved that certainly that AO Racing is capable of winning in the category.”

The victory, coupled with Porsche Penske Motorsport’s victory in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class, provided the 600th and 601st IMSA victories for Porsche.

“We still have to figure out who gets the 600th and 601st,” Heinrich joked. “We’re part of a great achievement in Porsche history long into the past. It’s just great to bring it over the finish line.”

Second place went to the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports McLaren 720S GT3 EVO co-driven by Marvin Kirchhoefer and Oliver Jarvis. Third was the pole-winning No. 4 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Corvette Z06 GT3.R co-driven by Tommy Milner and Nicky Catsburg.

In the end, Rexy wasn’t the only one smiling.

“I’m really proud of the team,” Priaulx said. “Not just today, but the whole year. They’ve been improving over time, and it’s just absolutely great to see. They’re really hard-working guys. … It’s absolutely awesome to win our first race.”

Winward Prevails in Mercedes vs. BMW Battle

Philip Ellis took the lead with five minutes remaining in the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class and brought the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 home for a comeback victory with co-driver Russell Ward.

Ellis got past Robby Foley in the No. 557 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 when Foley was caught in a fight with GTP cars and momentarily slipped off track.

“I didn’t have anything more than what we showed – that’s all we had,” Ellis said. “If we were out in front, we might have been a little faster than them, but it’s just not our track. We don’t have the car to overtake people.”

Ellis’ duel with Foley was settled by a 3.458-second margin at the checkered flag, with Foley and co-driver Patrick Gallagher finishing ahead of the No. 120 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R co-driven by Adam Adelson and Elliott Skeer.

After previously winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Winward’s third win of the season also extended the team’s lead in GTD standings to 213 points over Foley, Gallagher and the Turner BMW, which Ward credited to consistency.

“We have a consistent group of guys, a consistent car and consistent drivers,” Ward said. “You don’t want to get ahead of yourself. It’s not even halfway through the season yet. Anything can happen.”

The WeatherTech Championship season resumes June 1 with the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix for the GTP and GTD PRO classes. GTD teams return to action at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on June 23.