2023 is a huge year for sportscar racing, as the latest hybrid cars - including those from BMW, Porsche and Cadillac - take to the track in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, ahead of the whole new Hypercar era for them in the World Endurance Championship in 2024. This year’s IMSA season kicked off at Daytona over the weekend with the Rolex 24, with an Acura of all cars winning the race overall in the GTP category, and it was a great 24-hour race for the British teams involved, with both McLaren and Aston Martin claiming GTD podiums.
The Vantage GT3s took a one-two in the class, the first time an Aston has won at Daytona in 12 attempts. The winning #27 car of Roman de Angelis, Marco Sorensen, Ian James and Darren Turner was actually the highest-place GT of all the finishers, coming home in 16th, just a couple of seconds ahead of a GTD Pro AMG GT3. The second-placed GTD, the #44 Magnus Racing Vantage driven by Andy Lally, John Potter, Spencer Pumpelly and Nicki Thiim were the third GT car home. Some way to kick off the 110th anniversary year…
Heart of Racing Team Principal (and driver of the winning car!) Ian James said: “Words can’t do justice to how proud I am of this team and what they’ve achieved this weekend. To win the Rolex 24 at Daytona is the crowning glory for anyone involved in IMSA and it means the world to all of us to have finally done it.”
Following a few spots down the road from the #44 Aston was a McLaren 720S, taking third place in the GTD class and making a good weekend even better for those supporting Team GB in Daytona. Amazingly, the first seven GT cars home were all on the same lap (729) for some idea of how close the running is. The #70 Inception Motorsport entry of Brendan Iribe, Fabien Schandorff, Oliver Millroy and Marvin Kirchhofer were only 17 seconds off the class winner after a full day of racing. No mean feat for a GT3 car now in its fifth season of competition.
There were more reasons to be cheerful for McLaren, with a successful debut for the new Artura GT4. The first two cars built, which will be campaigned by Motorsports In Action and Crucial Motorsport in the 2023 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, both finished the four-hour Daytona race. Notably, the #58 Crucial Motorsport car, piloted by Michael de Quesada, Henry O’Hara and Aurora Straus started the race in 30th and came home sixth, an auspicious start for the new race car.
McLaren Automotive’s Director of Motorsport, Ian Morgan, said of the performance: “This was a fantastic weekend that began with a very strong result for the Artura GT4 in the IMSA Michelin Pilot challenge at Daytona this weekend. The nature of GT4 regulations and competitiveness of the field means that we were realistic with our expectations, and this is great reward for the development team’s hard work over the last 18 months in building a great race car for our customers.”
One more bit of great Brit news from Florida over the weekend - Jenson Button is going to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. It gets better, too, as he’s going to be racing with Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller, in a NASCAR. You read that right. It’s this year’s Garage 56 entry, which has previously allowed wildcards like the Nissan Deltawing, with the project first announced in March 2022. A collaboration between Chevrolet (the car is a Camaro ZL1), Goodyear, Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR, it ought to be an incredible way to mark the 100th running of the 24 Hours and 75 years of NASCAR.
“As a lifelong racing fan, I have always dreamed of racing certain cars, with and against certain drivers and competing in certain events,” Button said. “In June, a number of those dreams will come true in one event when I get to bring NASCAR to the world stage alongside my pals Jimmie and ‘Rocky’ for the 100th anniversary of the most prestigious race in the world. I’m really looking forward to sharing this journey with NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and current and future NASCAR fans from around the world.” Always good for a soundbite, is Jenson. But in case this year’s Le Mans didn’t sound exciting enough already, what with the centenary plus new cars from the likes of Peugeot and Ferrari, consider anticipation now off the charts. June can’t come soon enough.
1 / 8