In its first collaborative race, Heart of Racing and SPS automotive performance secured 3rd in GT3-PRO/AM at the 2023 Hankook 24H DUBAI, the first race for the American team with its new Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Words – James Gent
Images – Petr Frýba Photography / Racing Pixels / SPS automotive
America’s Heart of Racing secured a class podium finish on its debut with a new Mercedes-AMG GT3 at the 2023 Hankook 24H DUBAI.
In a collaborative effort with SPS automotive performance, Heart of Racing secured 3rd in the GT3-PRO/AM class and 8th overall after a strong run at the Dubai Autodrome. Having competed previously with CREVENTIC both in Dubai and the inaugural Hankook 24H SEBRING with an Aston Martin Vantage AMR (cornerstone of the team’s IMSA campaign in North America), the Hankook 24H DUBAI marked the first competitive outing for Heart of Racing’s Mercedes.
Impressively, the #27 Mercedes-AMG GT3, driven by Heart of Racing team boss Ian James, as well as team regulars Gray Newell, Roman De Angelis and Ross Gunn, was the highest placed of the AMG GT3 runners, finishing one place ahead of GT3-AM winner, and long-time Mercedes customer, CP Racing.
The result also marks the fourth class podium at the event for SPS automotive performance, the German having also taken a class win in A6-AM (2018) since its maiden event appearance in 2015.
“What a race!” Ian James explains. “A podium finish is more than I could have dreamed of at the first race with our new car. But the whole team and also the car was fantastic. It was also important to bring the car home alive. It was a great collaboration between The Heart of Racing and SPS. We look forward to future projects that will hopefully be just as successful.”
“We are very happy with the result,” SPS team principal Stephan Sohn continues. “This is the first time we have worked with Heart of Racing. The cooperation was really great. I'm very proud of everyone. We brought the car home without a scratch, set the fastest race lap, scored a podium finish and are the best Mercedes-AMG overall. A great start to the new season.”
Issues for Newell during his own 15-minute qualifying session were offset when teammate De Angelis set the fastest GT3 lap during his own qualifying run, guaranteeing the #27 Mercedes 7th on the overall grid. The Canadian’s 1m 59.313s was the fastest GT3 lap set across all qualifying sessions.
Despite steady progress during James’s opening stint – ironically, the Mercedes finished the first hour just eight-tenths of a second behind eventual outright winner Team WRT – two prolonged Code 60 caution periods, plus a heart-in-mouth moment across an oil-slick at turn six, saw the Heart of Racing by SPS Mercedes drop back to 11th during the second hour, and as low as 15th at hour three. Consistent pace thereafter though meant the Mercedes was back into the top 10, and back on the GT3-PRO/AM podium, by one-third distance.
At the halfway point, Heart of Racing by SPS was battling for 8th and 9th overall with Team GP-Elite and CP Racing, the #27 eventually pulling clear of the American team as the race entered its closing stages. Though the team could not catch GT3-PRO/AM rivals Herberth Motorsport – the Bavarian team eventually finished 1-2 in-class – Heart of Racing by SPS was nevertheless pleased to secure the final spot on the GT3-PRO/AM podium, as well as the overall fastest race lap, a 1m 59.444s set by Ross Gunn.
The result marks the second consecutive year that Heart of Racing has finished on the class podium, following its 2nd in GT4 on its event debut in 2022.
“We finished the race in P3 in-class and in the top ten overall – a great result for SPS and The Heart of Racing at the first appearance with the Mercedes-AMG GT3,” Roman de Angelis continues. “I really enjoyed the whole weekend. We worked great together and I'm looking forward to more races this year.”