The Heart of Racing car set as Porsche’s lone GTD entry at VIR

Photo: The Heart of Racing

With four poles and a win this season, the No. 23 The Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R run by Alex Job Racing has been the standard bearer for Porsche’s success within the GT Daytona category in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this season.

But at this weekend’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway, the car driven by Alex Riberas and Mario Farnbacher will be under the microscope for a different reason: it’s the lone Porsche entered in the GTD class.

The sister AJR entry, the WeatherTech-backed No. 22 car driven by Cooper MacNeil and, until Road America, Leh Keen, pulled the plug on its entry for the rest of the season citing Balance of Performance (BOP) concerns. A day later, Park Place Motorsports pulled its entry for VIR only for the same reasons. That follows on from Black Swan Racing pulling out of the championship after Lime Rock Park, before Road America, with team principal/driver Tim Pappas mourning the shock loss of his father and tending to family business commitments.

Porsche declined comment on the WeatherTech AJR and Park Place withdrawals, saying both were team decisions.

“To Porsche, BoP conversations are internal between the manufacturers and the sanctioning body. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for us to make any public declaration on the process or where it currently stands in regards to the GTD class,” a statement from the manufacturer supplied to NBC Sports read.

Incidentally, Porsche wasn’t actually assessed any BOP changes for VIR in GTD. Per IMSA’s latest technical bulletin (16-37), dated August 17, changes occurred to Audi, Dodge, Ferrari and Lamborghini. Audi’s refueling restrictor was increased while the other three manufacturer’s restrictors were all decreased.

Farnbacher and Ian James finished third at VIR last year in the previous generation Porsche 911 GT America.

Farnbacher, who has track experience while Riberas doesn’t, says he thinks it will be an uphill battle this weekend.

“I like VIR a lot,” Farnbacher said in a team advance. “It’s a very technical track where you have to be very precise. In terms of BOP (Balance of Performance) we will again have a lot of hard work to do behind the wheel as well as get a few lucky breaks. The entire track is important as far as set-up of The Heart of Racing Porsche goes. There is a mix of tight corners, with the fast esses and turns where you have to use a lot of curb. We try to make everything work the best and maximize the performance of our 911 GT3 R.”

Team principal Job added, without making any mention of BOP, “We will have our work cut out for us this weekend. Alex and Mario have done a great job all season working together to get Alex up to speed on all these tracks that are new to him. There are a couple of long straights at VIR where we will be a bit behind with the GT3 R in top speed compared to the competition, so we will be focusing our set-up on the twisty sections.”

Riberas has three poles, Farnbacher one this season and the two combined to win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca back in May. The pair sit fifth in points, 36 back of class leaders Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan (No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3). Porsche enters the weekend second in the GTD Manufacturer’s Championship, seven back of Audi for the class lead (248-241).

This will likely be the car to watch in GTD this weekend because if they perform well enough on outright pace, it will make the BOP argument look a silly one.

Both Farnbacher and Riberas are top-level drivers though, so if they aren’t on pace, that could validate the concerns expressed elsewhere, or it could lead to that other less-than-favorable word emerging in the paddock: sandbagging.

Of course, the potential always remains there could be a further BOP adjustment in GTD after VIR.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.