Heart of Racing Team Gunning for Championship with Win at The Glen

By Jeff Olson and David Phillips

IMSA Wire Service

The situation called for a mix of patience and aggression. Ross Gunn delivered equal amounts of both.

Knowing the No. 4 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Corvette Z06 GT3.R, being driven by Tommy Milner, was low on fuel on a restart with 16 minutes remaining, Gunn patiently pressed him from second place. As he came to the white flag for the final lap, Milner was forced to pit for fuel and Gunn’s approach turned to victory for the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo in the Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class Sunday in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International.

“It was really important not to take any unnecessary risks,” Gunn said. “It was always a case of if there was a chance, take it. I could see that whenever (Milner) had a tiny gap, he was lifting and coasting in Turn 8 and Turn 1. I just made sure I pressed him as hard as I could. In the end, it was enough.”

The victory was the first of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season for Gunn and co-driver Alex Riberas. It was the eighth IMSA victory of Gunn’s career, and the seventh for Riberas.

“It’s without a doubt one of my proudest wins because it was such a big team effort,” Riberas said. “We were down for a bit. We made some mistakes. That really is a test for a team. It’s never the first mistake that’s the costly one, it’s the second and third mistakes. Today, we didn’t let the first mistake dictate our fate for the rest of the race.”

The race was delayed for 40 minutes because of standing water on the track following a heavy downpour. Once the red flag lifted and the class leaders pitted under yellow, Gunn found himself running second behind Milner’s No. 4 Corvette.

When the green flag waved with 16 minutes, 20 seconds left, Milner had gone more than 30 laps since his previous pit stop. That’s when Gunn applied the patience and aggression.

“We were down but never out,” Gunn said. “I think that’s the key to these races. You always have to be giving it everything but never giving up. … Coming on to the home straight with him pitting off on the last lap is definitely something I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life.”

As Milner, Gunn and Marvin Kirchhoefer in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports McLaren 720S GT3 Evo waged a stirring battle for the GTD PRO lead, they had to contend with passing Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) cars.

After the last-lap pit stop, Milner finished sixth in the class with co-driver Nicky Catsburg.

“Tommy did an amazing job late in the race in holding off the Aston Martin,” Catsburg said. “I knew he had it and we were hoping the fuel would work out, but then that got snatched away. It’s tough. This style of racing makes some of these races a lottery.”

Kirchhoefer and co-driver Oliver Jarvis claimed second place in the No. 9 McLaren, 1.340 seconds behind Gunn. Antonio Garcia scored a third-place finish in the No. 3 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R he co-drives with Alexander Sims.

The victory helped Gunn in his pursuit of a GTD PRO driver’s championship, unofficially putting him within 11 points of No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 co-drivers Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth for second place. AO Racing teammates Seb Priaulx and Laurin Heinrich, in the No. 77 Porsche 911 GT3 R, lead the Lexus duo by 49 points after five of 10 races.

“It’s nice to be close, but we’re really taking it race by race and one step at a time,” Gunn said. “I think that’s the key. Today proved that so many things can happen. You can be high one moment and low a split-second later.”

Winward Keeps Winning with Fourth GTD Triumph of 2024

The No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 may not have been the fastest of the 21 GT Daytona (GTD) competitors for most of Sunday’s race. But not only was the GTD championship leader fastest when it counted most, Philip Ellis was in the right place at the right time to make the most of it.

So, after a topsy-turvy race in which nearly everything that could happen did happen, Ellis found himself in the class lead at the final restart with 16 minutes to go and promptly steered the Winward Mercedes to its fourth win of the season in five outings.

“It was a very chaotic race,” Ellis said. “A lot of mixed weather conditions, very heavy rain coming down at times, then just a bit of drizzle. But for the most part we were always on the right tires at the right time. To be honest, we were a bit lucky with the red flag coming out when it did, and we rolled the dice that we’d have enough fuel to make it to the end. Then it was just up to me to keep the other cars behind.”

Not that he had an easy time. Aboard the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus RC F GT3, Parker Thompson harried Ellis from the wave of the final green flag and made a bold move on the Mercedes approaching the Inner Loop with about seven minutes remaining. Neither driver blinked. The cars swapped paint. Ellis made the corner, Thompson did not and fell down the order as a result.

“I think he wanted to make the first opportunity he had being next to me count,” said Ellis. “He tried to pass me around outside. We had some passes there during the race that worked, sometimes for the lead and sometimes not. But with three or four laps left, neither one of us was going to give the other room – just enough to survive. It was just a good, hard fight and it was unfortunate for him that he lost so many positions.”

Ellis took the checkered flag 0.884 seconds ahead of Jan Heylen in the No. 120 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, though the No. 120 was later moved to the rear of the finishing order for a minimum drive-time violation. That promoted Conquest Racing’s No. 34 Ferrari 296 GT3 shared by Manny Franco, Albert Costa Balboa and Cedric Sbirrazzuoli to second place, with the No. 44 Magnus Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo of John Potter, Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly in third.

With the win, Ellis, co-driver Russell Ward and the No. 57 Winward Mercedes built a commanding 315-point lead in GTD over Robby Foley, Patrick Gallagher and the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3, which was credited with a fifth-place finish at Watkins Glen. What’s more, with wins in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac and Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, Ellis, Ward and endurance driver Indy Dontje are three-for-three in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events.

“It’s a testament to the group of people we’ve put together,” observed Ward. “The drivers just kind of did our jobs today. We didn’t bend the car; we didn’t go off the track. Like I said, it’s just a testament to the group of people we’ve put together.”

The next race for the GTD PRO and GTD classes is the Chevrolet Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park from July 12-14.