New Orleans, LA (1 May 2023) – The Heart of Racing (HOR) team battled hot, humid bayou weather over the weekend as it competed at NOLA Motorsports Park in SRO Pirelli GT4 America and GT America powered by AWS. Heavy rain on Saturday forced Pirelli GT4 America to reschedule Race 1 from Saturday afternoon to Sunday and Race 2 to a separate race weekend that has yet to be announced.
Rianna O’Meara-Hunt and Hannah Grisham made their debuts at NOLA Motorsports Park and both delivered strong performances on the weekend. O’Meara-Hunt was first to qualify, setting a fast time of 1:44.753 – seconds earning a fourth place starting position for Sunday’s race in the No. 26 Aston Martin Vantage.
O’Meara-Hunt started the Sunday morning race but a full course caution came on the first lap. After getting just two green flag laps in, the pit window opened for a driver change. Grisham was next up, but a full course caution button issue kept her from remaining in podium contention. Once the issue was diagnosed and fixed, Grisham focused on hitting her marks for the remainder of the race, crossing the finish line thirteenth.
“Having just one race this weekend is a bit of a shame,” said O’Meara-Hunt. “Saturday we qualified in the morning and then got dragged out until six waiting to hear if we were going to race or not. It was a bit of a long weekend, but I felt good in the car. I did some work before coming here and it really made a difference. I felt at one with the track, not like I did at Sonoma. Overall for me, it was a really good step forward and I really enjoyed the track.”
Grisham was second to qualify on Saturday morning, laying down a 1:44.981 – second lap time. Grisham will start from the fifteenth starting position for the rescheduled Race 2.
“Well, it was an improvement from our first race at Sonoma, at least we finished,” said Grisham. “We as a team are still learning and this weekend was another good learning weekend. I think we will continue to learn who we are racing against, the series, our car, and each other. I believe we will just improve throughout the year. I’m really looking to take it a step farther. As always, a huge thank you to the Heart of Racing team for this amazing opportunity.”
Gray Newell and Roman De Angelis teamed up for the duo’s first Pirelli GT4 America start together. Newell was first to qualify, placing the No. 24 Aston Martin Vantage at the top of the PRO AM leaderboard with a 1:43.939 – second lap time.
Newell was first up behind the wheel of the No. 24 Aston Martin machine, due to full course cautions he was only able to get two full green flag laps in before handing the car to De Angelis. On lap 16, De Angelis had moved to the lead when the third full course caution came out. Holding station on the restart, De Angelis continued to lead the field all the way to the checkered flag to score Heart of Racing’s first 2023 SRO win.
“I’ve been working a lot on my outright pace,” said Newell. “This was also my first race weekend with Roman in SRO and it has been great to look at him as a co-conspirator and coach. He’s been giving me some really good theories to apply. I’ve also been lucky enough to have quite a bit of time in the car the last few months. We’ll just keep moving forward and pushing harder.”
De Angelis qualified after Newell on Saturday morning setting a fast lap time of 1:42.855 – second lap time earning a fifth place starting position for the rescheduled second race.
“You always hope the weekend goes this way,” said De Angelis. “It would have been nice to race yesterday, but the weather prevented that for us. This is a good way to start the season, I’ll take a good result any day. This style of racing is a bit different than what I’m used to, but I should have plenty of time to do that this year in SRO.”
Newell pulled double duty competing in GT America as well as Pirelli GT4 America. Newell qualified Saturday morning with a lap time of 1:44.389 – second lap, but due to a technical infraction he was forced to start at the back of the field for the first race.
Starting at the back of the GT4 class, Newell made his way through the field lap by lap. On the first lap Newell quickly passed by two cars to sit eighth. Within 10 more laps, Newell made a pass for sixth and just a few laps later claimed fifth place. Newell almost immediately went to fourth place due to a car pulling off track with just over five minutes remaining. There was 13 seconds between Newell and the Porsche sitting in third. Newell closed the gap and went for the pass in the last corner of the last lap. It came down to a drag race to the checkered flag, unfortunately Newell was beat by 0.002 of a second.
Due to his run towards the front of the field in Race 1 – Newell was awarded the SUPERFUEL Hard Charger award.
Newell started the second race from the sixth starting position which is determined by the fastest lap of the first race. Unfortunately on the first turn of the first lap Newell was involved in an off road excursion with two other cars which forced him to the back of the pack. Newell quickly passed for ninth place then began the attack on eighth. After closing a gap and planning his pass, Newell passed for eighth on lap 18 where he remained to take the checkered flag.
The Heart of Racing SRO program will be back in action May 19-21 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.