After taking its second consecutive GT3-AM class win of the season at the 2023 Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, The Heart of Racing by SPS is the new leader in the in the 24H SERIES’ GT European Trophy standings.
Words – James Gent
Images – SPS automotive / Nico Mombaerts
A second consecutive GT3-AM class win has leapfrogged The Heart of the Racing by SPS to the top of the 24H SERIES’ GT European Trophy standings.
Fresh from its GT3-AM class win and overall podium finish at the European season-opening Hankook 12H MUGELLO, The Heart of Racing by SPS secured a second commanding class win at this past weekend’s Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS. The American team also led 72 of the completed 250 laps, more so than any other team bar 2nd-placed Herberth Motorsport (79), and even led the field away on Sunday morning’s restart.
It’s a performance for which the Heart of Racing / SPS automotive performance collaboration, has praised “well-timed pit stops” and “almost flawless stints by all drivers.”
“A great weekend here in Spa, although the conditions weren't always ideal,” explains Heart of Racing team principal, and driver, Ian James. “It was a lot of fun and we are very happy with this result. It's a very successful partnership with SPS and we're looking forward to racing together again in the future.”
“An incredibly strong result,” SPS automotive performance team principal Stephan Sohn continues. “As in Mugello, we finished 3rd overall and P1 in our class, except that the competition was much stronger here in Spa. This makes me even more proud of the whole team and shows again that we can deliver a strong performance even under tough conditions. The result makes us very optimistic for our tasks here in Spa-Francorchamps.”
Though rain proved a factor during qualifying, the second fastest GT3 lap by Heart of Racing team principal Ian James during the opening 15-minute Q1 session ultimately proved crucial to the #27 Mercedes-AMG GT3 banking 4th on the grid, just 1.356s shy of the pole-sitting Haas RT Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II.
The decision to keep Ian James on-track during the changeable opening conditions proved equally as crucial, as the #27 Mercedes-AMG GT3, still in the top seven as several frontrunners opted to pit early, was ideally placed take advantage of the second Code 60 of the afternoon, thrown to recover Wolf-Power Racing’s #117 Audi RS 3 LMS. Following the first driver change, Gray Newell consequently found himself at the front of the pack after the second hour, a position he held until being overhauled by JP Motorsport’s Christian Klien 20 minutes into his stint.
Deft pit work though, plus an additional pit stop for the JP Motorsport McLaren and a severe vibration for reigning GT European Trophy winner Scherer Sport PHX that forced the Audi R8 to pit from the lead, meant the Mercedes dutifully held the lead through to the end of ‘part one.’ Tellingly, while James and Newell pitted ‘only’ six times collectively during the wet-dry-wet conditions, then-2nd placed Saintéloc Junior Team and 3rd-placed Herberth Motorsport pitted eight times apiece.
Heart of Racing’s decision to preserve PRO driver Roman de Angelis’ drive time to Sunday proved similarly inspired: the young Canadian set the car’s fastest lap – a 2m 21.012s – four laps into his opening stint, and quickly pulled half a minute clear of Herberth and Saintéloc. Only a poorly-timed Code 60 and resultant pit stop ended up shuffling the #27 Mercedes-AMG back to 3rd, and while the American team was unable to recoup the lost lap, James, Newell and de Angelis were nevertheless able to hold off 4th-placed JP Motorsport for the final overall podium spot and GT3-AM class victory for the second consecutive 24H SERIES weekend.
Both results mean The Heart of Racing by SPS is now 20 points ahead of Land Motorsport in the GT3-AM Teams’ standings, and four ahead of Spa winner Saintéloc Junior Team in the GT European Trophy standings.
The Heart of Racing by SPS has shown interest in continuing its 24H SERIES title campaign at next month’s Hankook 12H MONZA, and is likely to enter the #27 Mercedes-AMG GT3 at the 2024 Hankook 24H DUBAI on 12-13-14 January.