Aston Martin Racing’s #98 Vantage GT3 will take part in this year’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, with Andrew Watson added to the driver-crew in place of the injured Paul Dalla Lana.
AMR WEC regular Dalla Lana, who injured himself skiing before the Roar test, is unable to compete at Daytona, which threw the #98’s status for the race into doubt.
The #98 missed much of the running at the Roar, including the garage Qualifying, because Dalla Lana (the amateur driver in the car) wasn’t present to drive.
Andrew Watson, an AMR Junior driver (pictured below), will stand in for Dalla Lana and race the works-run car alongside Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Ross Gunn in what will be the first appearance for the current Vantage in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“This is such a great opportunity for me,” said Watson. “I am very grateful to Aston Martin for the chance to continue to prove what I can do. I know the Vantage GT3 well, having raced it in Europe last season.
“It’s all come about quickly but my focus is on preparation to ensure I do the best job possible and deliver a result for the team. I’ve never raced in America before so for the first event to be the Rolex 24 is mind-blowing. We’ve got a great line-up and we should be competitive.”
The confirmation that the #98 will race at Daytona means the GTD entry for the race stays at 18 cars (the biggest category in the field) and ensures that Aston Martin has two Vantages on the grid for the Rolex 24.
The other Vantage is being run by the Heart of Racing team, which is making a return to IMSA competition this year, with the British brand as a new customer team.
Heart of Racing’s line-up will feature two Aston Martin drivers for Daytona. Spaniard Alex Riberas, a newly-named AMR North America driver, and Nicki Thiim current FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Pro championship leader.
“I am extremely excited about joining Aston Martin, one of the strongest organisations in endurance racing. I have had a glimpse of their professionalism and their ambition to achieve great results, so to be a part of such an effort is definitely a dream come true,” said Riberas.
“During the 2020 season, my main focus will be in IMSA, where I will have the honour to represent AMR in their comeback year in the series. With the latest Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and the new AMR partner, Heart of Racing, we have everything we need to compete at the front of one of the most competitive fields in GT3 racing. The Rolex 24 simply cannot come soon enough.”
Riberas will join Aston Martin works driver and current FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Pro championship leader Nicki Thiim in supporting Heart of Racing drivers Ian James and Roman de Angelis at the Rolex 24.
Riberas and De Angelis will then form the regular season line-up for the rest of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they will be joined by James for the other three endurance races at Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta.
The WeatherTech Championship-supporting Michelin Pilot Challenge series entry also features multiple (GT4-spec) Aston Martin Vantages once again. Long-time customer team Automatic Racing will continue to race with Aston Martin in 2020 with two cars, joined by Cameron Racing with another Vantage GT4.
Images courtesy of Aston Martin Racing