Both Ross Gunn and Jack Hawksworth believe their respective team’s title chances are “out of sight” despite there still being three races to go in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD Pro class.
The Heart of Racing’s Gunn and co-driver Alex Riberas enter this weekend’s IMSA Fastlane Sportscar Weekend at Road America fourth in the category standings, 271 points away from leaders Mathieu Jaminet and Matt Campbell of Pfaff Motorsports.
Hawksworth’s co-driver, fellow Vasser Sullivan Lexus factory driver Ben Barnicoat, meanwhile, sits third in the standings, 11 points closer, but still the equivalent of 26 points in IMSA’s previous scoring system that awarded 35 points for a class win.
“It’s been a pretty strange season, really, one of two halves,” said Gunn. “We had a really tough start to the season with two DNFs straight away, which really hurt our championship chances.
“For those races, there was a big entry in GTD Pro so we got points for 13th and 11th.
“Since then we’ve picked up momentum and recently in the last three or four races we’ve had really, really solid performances.
“For sure we got very fortunate in Watkins where we had the fuel strategy luck with the red flag. But other than that we’ve had a pretty solid pace and we’ve been able to perform close to the top guys in the class.
“It’s been a very good last two months, I’d say. Now we’re really hoping and pushing to end the season on a high.”
While on the heels of three consecutive podium finishes, Gunn said the Ian James-led crew hasn’t been thinking about the championship for nearly the entire season.
“Since Sebring the championship hasn’t been on our thoughts at all,” he said. “It’s always been race by race and trying to make the most of every opportunity we’ve had every race this season.
“For sure I think the Pfaff Porsche has been super strong. Those guys have really been the benchmark all season. They’ve run a very consistent year. I think for sure they’re out of sight.
“We’re very close to Lexus and the Corvette so I think that will be a really interesting fight to the end of the season. Still we’re taking it race by race. We’re going to make sure we make the most of every opportunity that we get.
“We have a solid car and a solid team. Let’s see what presents itself in front of us in the last three rounds.”
Hawksworth, who missed two GTD Pro rounds due to his recovery from a motocross accident, said Vasser Sullivan’s focus is on finishing runner-up in the new-for-2022 class.
Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor, who currently sit second, are only 45 points ahead of Barnicoat.
“I think points-wise, the 9 car has a pretty hefty lead,” said Hawksworth. “It will be very hard to overturn that for anyone, I think. Our mindset going forward is the close battle for second.
“We’re doing everything we can really to get as many points as we can from these last three races and hopefully that will be the target, to finish up as the bridesmaid.
“The other thing we can use the rest of the season is to keep strengthening the team, keep trying to get some good results and improve every weekend and hopefully win some races and catapult ourselves into next season on the back of a strong finish to the year.”
Heart of Racing Looking to Put “Difficult” 24H Spa Behind Them
Gunn and Riberas are coming off a challenging European debut for The Heart of Racing, which finished 38th in last weekend’s TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.
The duo teamed with Charlie Eastwood in the TF Sport-supported effort to finish 38th after multiple delays in the Belgian endurance classic.
“Spa was a pretty difficult week for us,” said Gunn. “We started on a pretty good foot in Free Practice and our qualifying pace was good. Unfortunately we had track limits issues in one of the qually sessions and that kind of put us a little bit on the back foot for the race.
“Unfortunately in the first two hours I had two punctures in pretty quick succession, which put us a lap down. Then we had a shunt with the car three hours in.
“From then on, when you’re 40 laps down and you haven’t got much to gain in terms of position, it’s pretty tough to continue but I’m super proud of the guys at Heart of Racing and TF Sport that run a great operation to keep going to the end.
“It was a very good showing to keep pushing all the way to the end. It’s a race we definitely want to go back to one day and try and get back on the podium. I had a really good time there last year when we had a little more pace than we did last week.
“We’re very proud to get to the end and hopefully we can put it behind us and focus on a better weekend this weekend in IMSA.”
Davey Euwema contributed to this report