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Heart of Racing readies for next step to GTP/Hypercar

Heart of Racing has already sealed its place in North American sports car racing history, but the team could be on the cusp of creating a worldwide motorsports dynasty.

Heart of Racing returned to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition with Aston Martin in 2020, starting with a single Vantage GT3 in the GTD class. Since then, the team has expanded to a second car in IMSA running GTD PRO, into SRO Pirelli GT4 America and GT America, the FIA World Endurance Championship, and even the 24h Series, drifting, and Fun Cup.

Next year, however, is when the team will make its mark in the top level of sports car racing, running Aston Martin Valkyrie Hypercars in WEC and the WeatherTech Championship GTP class.

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“I’m living my dream,” says team principal and driver Ian James. “Even when we started and we had one GT car, that was an amazing feat. It was just an amazing realization of getting a team up and running and competing. To have two cars here, to have one car in WEC this year, to have the GT4 program — and I’m very proud of our female initiative — running some Creventic races … and in all those arenas, typically running towards the front with some of the mainstays of GT racing. So I’m very proud of the men and women of the team that that make this happen. And to be breaking into the top line, it’s just an amazing feeling. I feel very honored and proud and lucky to be able to spearhead that effort.”

In its four years of IMSA competition with Aston Martin, there have been numerous wins for the Phoenix-area-based team, including double GTD PRO and GTD victories at Watkins Glen in 2022 and Lime Rock Park in 2023, and wins in the big bookend races of the season, the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Motul Petit Le Mans. HoR secured the GTD team championship and the driver championship for Roman De Angelis in 2022.

In 2024 it introduced the Vantage GT3 Evo to competition, and while the transition to the new car hasn’t been flawless, the team took a strategy-fueled victory for Alex Riberas and Ross Gunn in last month’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen. Gunn and the team are solidly in the GTD PRO championship fight — Riberas is doing double duty in WEC and has missed some IMSA races — sitting third in the points ahead of the race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

“I would say it’s without a doubt one of my proudest wins, because it was such a big team effort,” said Riberas after the Glen victory. “We were down for a bit. We did some mistakes. And I would say that that really is a test for the team. It’s never the first mistake that is the costly one. It’s always the second and the third mistake, and today we didn’t let the first mistake dictate our fate for the rest of the race. We stayed together. We didn’t point fingers or panic. We stayed focused on controlling what we could control and making the most out of it. Ultimately, that ended up leading to making a decision that had a big impact in the outcome of the race. And with the luck on our side, we ended up in in victory lane which is really amazing.”

Heart of Racing’s GTD PRO victory at Watkins Glen with its Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo was a testament to the team’s character, says Riberas. Richard Dole/Motorsport Images

In other arenas, Riberas, James and Daniel Mancinelli were running second in LMGT3 at Le Mans when Mancinelli had to go off the dry line on Sunday morning to avoid contact and ended up sliding off track and into a tire barrier at Indianapolis corner, ending their chances. Hannah Grisham and Hannah Greenemeier have an Am victory in Pirelli GT4 America in 2024, although that series changed driver rankings mid-season and moved them to Pro-Am, where Gray Newell and De Angelis are third in the points.

And then there’s the VW Fun Cup, where Grisham and Greenemeier recently ran a four-hour race at Le Mans. Based (loosely) on the Volkswagen Beetle, the Fun Cup has become quite a phenomenon. The series runs it own 25-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps, and Heart of Racing has used that race to provide a unique experience for guests.

“Last year we did the Fun Cup, the 25 hours and we run the two seater car there. It’s a chance to move 30 to 35 guests through a car and actually participate in a race in the passenger side,” says James. “So we’re familiar with that that car and then when the Fun Cup race came up at Le Mans, it was a chance to get the two Hannahs in there. Our goal is to try and promote them as far as we can, so as long as they keep delivering, which they are and they’re doing a great job. I’d like to think one day we can get get them to Le Mans.”

And in all this, the team has continued to pursue what team founder Gabe Newell envisioned from the start, raising money for Seattle Children’s Hospital. That amount is somewhere north of $10 million.

The Valkyrie is a natural next step for HOR’s partnership with Aston Martin.

The future certainly holds a host of unknowns for Heart of Racing as it expands into GTP and Hypercar. The short term future, though, is going to be quite busy as the team and Aston Martin try to form the Valkyrie into a fast and reliable race car, and on-track testing is expected to begin this month, first in Europe out of its base in Brackley, UK and later in the U.S. as the weather changes.

“We’ve gone through the mule testing stage and verification of a lot of the systems. The design is basically finalized. All the wind tunnel and CFD work is is complete. I believe most of the sign-off stuff is done with the ACO and FIA and we should have the first car on the ground in July for its for its rollout,” James says.

When the Valkyrie makes its competition debut, Aston Martin will be one of the few manufacturers to have nearly every level of sports car racing covered. For James, its a source of pride that Heart of Racing is representing them on the worldwide stage.

“If you look at Aston’s commitment, they are one of the only manufacturers that has every tier of sports car racing covered when the Valkyrie comes online — GT4 all the way to Hypercar,” he says. “It’s a small brand, but motorsport is a big part of their identity. So I’m grateful that the leadership there has that, and with Gabe’s help we’re managing to race all around the world and represent them.”

Story originally appeared on Racer