The No. 7 Volt Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 team has strung together three consecutive top-two finishes and finds itself with a 130-point cushion atop the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) standings.
But is there a tripwire ahead as this high-flying team heads into Watkins Glen International later this week for the Tioga Downs Casino Resort 120?
Last year in back-to-back racing weekends at The Glen, drivers Trent Hindman and Alan Brynjolfsson finished eighth then seventh over the challenging, hilly course. Both drivers answered a resounding “no” to the question of whether The Glen could derail their championship aspirations.
“Watkins Glen is historically a very good track for the Aston Martin,” Hindman said. “It’s a really good car in medium- and high-speed corners. We get great power so we get great runs over the steep inclines there.
“Last year in those back-to-back weekends at Watkins Glen, we had a super-fast car, especially in the four-hour race. We had a mistake as a team and got a drive-through penalty. It was just miscommunication and took us out of the running.”
Brynjolfsson said the team called Hindman to the pits on a quick strategy decision and the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 entered the service alley in an incorrect manner. The ensuing drive-through penalty in the last 30 minutes wiped away the team’s 20-second lead on the GS field.
“We kind of threw that one away,” Brynjolfsson said. “The Aston Martin is good in high-speed corners and there’s a lot of that at Watkins. I feel very confident about the car and driver at Watkins.”
Lessons learned from 2021 are being put to effective use in 2022. After a top-10 finish at Daytona International Speedway to open the season, the No. 7 Aston Martin has sandwiched a victory at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca at the end of April between second-place results at Sebring International Raceway and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
“At Daytona we got seventh but we were literally an 18th-place car because we were so slow on the outer banking,” Brynjolfsson said. “We didn’t have a chance, so we feel like we hit way above our weight at Daytona. When we followed that up with a second, first and second, it was like, ‘Wow!”
Both drivers credit Wright Motorsports owner John Wright for this quick dash of success to start the season.
“I’m fortunate to be working with Wright Motorsports,” Hindman said. “John has one of the best minds in the business. He’s just really good at keeping everybody in check, in line and focused on what the overall goal is – a championship. He’s added a bunch of confidence. We are seeing the result of that leadership and that direction playing out on the racetrack.”
Brynjolfsson, who starts every race before handing the car to Hindman, echoed the thought.
“This is my sixth year in the series, always with the goal to win the championship, and for the first time it feels great – for my first time – to be in first place,” he said. “Nothing beats experience. Every year we’re getting better and better. The biggest change was moving with Wright Motorsports and a top team. All the little things make a difference, like getting the drivers in the right frame of mind psychologically.”
So, 2021 Watkins Glen be danged. This time around Volt Racing is going for another podium and maybe a triumph.
“Watkins Glen is the epitome of a takes-courageous-driving American racetrack,” Hindman said. “You’ve got tons of elevation change. You’ve got some really, really high-speed corners. The walls are close – that bright blue kind staring you right in the face the whole time. It keeps you on your toes. There is really nothing else like it. I love it there and look forward to going back with a strong car, strong co-driver and strong team.”
Brynjolfsson, Hindman and the No. 7 Volt lead Eric Foss and the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4 by 130 points in the GS standings. Foss is driving with Kenton Koch this week in a 28-car GS field.
The Touring Car (TCR) class continues to see reigning class champions Michael Lewis, Taylor Hagler and the No. 1 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR atop the points, also by 130, over Rory van der Steur, Tyler Gonzalez and the No. 19 van der Steur Racing Hyundai Veloster N TCR. Neither of those entries has won a race this year, though the No. 1 has finished second in three of the first four races. There are 16 TCR entries this week.
The Michelin Pilot Challenge schedule at The Glen calls for practices Thursday afternoon and Friday morning ahead of qualifying on Friday afternoon. The two-hour race streams live on Peacock in the U.S. and on IMSA.com/TVLive internationally starting at 3:45 p.m. ET Saturday.