Race Weekend Central

HTP Winward Motorsport Moves Up to GT Daytona; Turner Motorsport, The Heart of Racing Confirm 2021 Plans

HTP Winward Motorsport announced Friday (Jan. 8) that they will move up to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Daytona class in 2021.  The team will campaign the No. 57 Mercedes-AMG GT3 with primary sponsorship from Techemet.

Drivers for the team are generally known quantities to the team either here in the United States, or in Europe.  Russell Ward will continue to drive with his teammate from the past couple of years in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, Indy Dontje.  They will be joined by Philip Ellis and Maro Engel.  Ellis has previously raced for the team in Michelin Pilot Challenge, partnered part-time with Bryce Ward, Russell’s father.  Engel has not previously driven for the team in IMSA.  However, he does have experience in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Naturally, the team is quite excited about their new plan for 2021.

Originally, HTP and Winward were two separate entities, HTP Motorsport and Winward Racing.  However, the Wards purchased a stake in HTP Motorsport and merged the two organizations together.

In Europe, the team is known as a longtime competitor in GT3 competition with a number of different manufacturers.  They were once part of Bentley’s factory program before joining up with Mercedes.  Meanwhile, the American wing of the team has not raced a current-spec Mercedes-AMG GT3 to this point.  They had a previous generation Mercedes-AMG GT3 that raced part-time in GT World Challenge America powered by AWS in 2020, shared by Dontje and Russell Ward.

In 2020, the team ran two Mercedes-AMG GT4s in Michelin Pilot Challenge’s Grand Sport class.  Russell Ward ran the full season in the No. 4, but had to miss three races due to ADAC GT Masters responsibilities.  Billy Johnson (Road America) and Nico Bastian (Road Atlanta No. 2, Laguna Seca) drove in his place.  Bryce Ward ran full-time in the No. 57, joined by Ellis and Alec Udell.  Russell Ward ended up seventh in points with two third-place finishes, while Bryce Ward was 10th on the strength of a second-place finish in the season opener in Daytona.

The team also doesn’t plan on fully abandoning Michelin Pilot Challenge either.  SportsCar365.com is indicating that Dontje and Russell Ward will also compete in the season-opening BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona the day before the Rolex 24 at Daytona.  Additional plans for the remainder will be announced at a later date.

Turner Motorsport Returns For 2021, With New Faces

Turner Motorsport announced Friday that they will be back in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021 full-time.  IMSA’s all-time winningest driver Bill Auberlen will be back for the full season, along with Robby Foley.  They’ll be joined by Aidan Read for the four Michelin Endurance Cup races, while INDYCAR veteran Colton Herta will join up for Daytona.

For Read, Daytona will be his very first time racing in IMSA competition.  He comes to the series after competing full-time in the ADAC GT Masters in 2020 for Schubert Motorsport.  Read ended up 37th in points with eight points for the season in the very competitive series.  It should be noted that ADAC GT Masters races in 2020 had roughly 30-35 cars and only the top 15 finishers earned points.

In addition, Read drove for Eurasia Motorsport in the 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series in the LMP2.  Driving the No. 36 Ligier JS P217-Gibson, Read, along with teammates Nick Foster and Roberto Merhi, finished third in LMP2 points with three second-place finishes in four races.

For Herta, Daytona will be his first appearance in the GT Daytona class.  For the past two years, Herta has competed in the three longest endurance races each year for BMW Team RLL in the GT Le Mans class.  In those six starts, Herta won on debut in the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona.  He also finished third in class in the 2019 Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.   Herta is also coming off of a strong season in the NTT IndyCar Series, winning at Mid-Ohio, finishing on the podium twice and earning 11 top 10 finiishes en route to finishing third in points.

The team’s overall effort for 2021 will be bigger than this past season.  Previously, the team announced that they will also field a full-time entry in GT World Challenge America powered by AWS in 2021.  They are currently seeking additional employees to help field that effort.  No drivers have been announced for it as of yet.  Also, no word on whether the team will continue their two-car program in Michelin Pilot Challenge for the upcoming season.

The Heart of Racing Returns for 2021

Finally, The Heart of Racing confirmed Friday that they will be back for the 2021 season with their Aston Martin Vantage.  Ian James and Roman DeAngelis will once again be the team’s full-time drivers.  Darren Turner will also be back for the four endurance events.  The only change here is that Ross Gunn has been drafted into the team for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.  He replaces Nicki Thiim in this role.

In 2020, The Heart of Racing was originally going to run with Alex Riberas as their endurance driver.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic effectively trapped Riberas in New Zealand, where he still resides.  Turner was brought in to replace him.  The team skipped the replacement races at Daytona and Sebring in July before returning to the championship in August at Road America.  The team’s best finish was second in the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in November.  They also earned a third-place finish at Charlotte.  Missing the two July races dropped DeAngelis and James to 15th in GT Daytona points.

Gunn has only one previous start in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.  That came in last year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin Racing.  Paired with with Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Andrew Watson, Gunn finished 17th in class after crashing out early.

Outside of IMSA, Gunn is full-time in the FIA World Endurance Championship.  He shared the No. 98 Aston Martin with Paul Dalla Lana this past season, finishing seventh in GTE-Am points with four podium finishes.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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