10 Nov Event Preview: Hankook CoTA 24
The next step in the development of Houston’s Winward Racing begins this weekend at its home venue, the Circuit of the Americas, with the Hankook 24 Hours of CoTA. The Texan team has joined forces with European GT powerhouse, HTP Motorsport to run the brand new AMG GT4 in the final two endurance events on the North American calendar, this weekend’s event in Austin followed by the gruelling 25 Hours of Thunderhill in early December. Both of these races are the key components in an extended test program to give the team a thorough preparation prior to a two-car assault on the 2018 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Championship.
The CoTA 24 is the final event of the season for the Dutch based promoter, Creventic, the group responsible for some of the most prestigious endurance events throughout Europe and Asia. The format of the event is somewhat team, crew and driver-friendly as it is broken up into two parts. The first fourteen hours will take place on Saturday, November 11th with the final ten hours taking place, after an overnight break, on Sunday, November 12th.
The #84 Mercedes Benz of Sugarland backed car will be driven by Winward Racing drivers, Russell Ward and Damien Faulkner with both HTP Motorsport and AMG putting their considerable weight behind the effort with the addition of the German team’s regular driver, Dutchman, Indy Dontje and Maximilian Gotz from the Mercedes factory squad. HTP Motorsport will also bring a significant level of technical and engineering support this weekend as the car continues to develop under full race conditions.
Having just completed his first full season of professional racing, Russell Ward is itching to get back into the car for this event. “The time has finally arrived! I’ve only been out of the car for a month, but it feels like an entire season. I’m ready to leave for COTA and show what this GT4 can do with Damien, Max, and Indy.”
His regular race partner and driver coach, Damien Faulkner shares Ward’s excitement and is excited about facing the unique challenges of endurance racing for the first time with Winward/HTP Motorsport. “Not only are we driving the all new AMG GT4, but also marks the first endurance race for us as Winward/HTP Motorsport. It will be really exciting for us to start work with our European partners too. And to top it all off; it’s a 24-hour event at COTA! That’s a home race for us. The team have done a massive amount of preparation, and we hope to reward their efforts with a strong finish.”
AMG factory driver, Maxi Gotz has been heavily involved in the test and development process and while he is new to the Circuit of the Americas, he has a huge amount of experience already under his belt with the AMG GT4 platform. The car is a logical extension of the incredible AMG GT3 program that has dominated GT racing across the globe. For Gotz, the GT4 shares almost too much DNA with it’s big brother. “We raced at the last VLN race at the Nordschleife and it went very well. Driving the GT4 car for the first time was a bit weird as it felt like I was driving a GT3 to be honest. I was approaching one of the corners and I realised I wasn’t braking hard enough because it felt like I could go much faster as everything about it makes you feel like you are driving the GT3 car!”
Young Dutchman Indy Dontje also raced at the VLN event and he has already noticed some similarities between the legendary Nordschleife and the venue for this weekend’s race. “I’m really excited, the track looks really cool and really tough. It will be hard initially to get into a rhythym. I was slightly surprised how much elevation it has, it’s a bit like the Nordschleife, actually.” As an F1 fan, recent events at CoTA have not passed him by either. “CoTA is not a typical Dutch circuit because look what happened the last time a Dutchman raced here Max Verstappen finished P3 at the US Grand Prix but then lost it because of track limits, so I think I’ll have to watch out for that.”
For Winward/HTP Motorsport team owner, Bryce Ward, competing in Texas with a chance to win the SP2 category is something to relish. “I am really excited to see all the hard work put in by the Winward/HTP Motorsport racing team finally coming to fruition. I want to thank Mercedes Benz AMG for putting their trust in our program and look forward to a lasting relationship. With Maxi, Indy, Russell, and Damien we have a fantastic driver lineup and I can’t wait for the green flag on Saturday.”
The Green Flag for the Hankook 24 Hours of CoTA will be on Saturday, November 11th at 9am CST. The first section of the race will finish at 11pm CST that day before continining at 8am on Sunday, November 12th.
You can follow the entire race live via www.24hseries.com and you can get live lap-by-lap updates via Twitter at @Winwardracing as well as photos and video on our Instagram feed @Winwardracing.