Johnathan Hoggard showed exactly why he is the 2020 Sunoco Whelen Challenge winner, delivering a sterling performance on his Daytona debut despite having an injured knee.
The 19-year-old came into the weekend on the back foot having had to switch teams, moving to Precision Performance’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3, after Rick Ware Racing had to withdraw their Multimatic Riley LMP2 chassis from the 58th running of the world famous 24-hour race.
Getting his first experience of driving the Italian GT car during Thursday’s Free Practice session, Johnathan demonstrated why he won the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award, with his ability to rapidly adapt to any racing car evident from how quickly he got comfortable, not only with a new car, but also a new team and team-mates.
With regular driver Brandon Gdovic qualifying the car in 14th place in the GTD class he was back behind the wheel as the flag fell at 1:40pm local time to start the historic twice around the clock race. Before the hour was out Johnathan was behind the wheel for a double stint and quickly set fast times, moving up to P6 when he handed the car over to bronze driver Mark Kvamme. His pace all the more impressive after sustaining a knee injury during driver change practice on Friday afternoon, requiring him to right foot brake.
Sadly, the car would sustain heavy damage when Eric Lux was hit from behind whilst entering the pits by the 98 Aston Martin during the sixth hour of running. With a large part of the Aston lodged in the Lamborghini’s rear suspension, a lengthy pit stop was required to repair the damage.
The car rejoined four laps down with the right hand side of the rear diffuser missing as a result of the incident, severely affecting the car’s aerodynamics. With Johnathan back behind the wheel for a second stint at 9pm, he once again impressed as he set a time of 1:46.660 to record the team’s fastest lap of the race.
Excellent strategy and some solid drives from Brandon, Eric, Mark and Johnathan allowed the team to regain a lap, but the car ground to a halt after 608 laps as Johnathan was in the closing stages of his third double stint. After investigating the problem in the garage, the team quickly diagnosed the gearbox was the cause and had no choice but to retire the car with four hours of the race left to run.
“I was very excited to come to the ROAR, unfortunately it didn’t really go to plan and there was a last-minute switch to the PPM Lamborghini for the race. We started off well, but I had a knee injury which put another spanner in the works, which meant we had to figure out a new way to do driver changes and then I also had to learn to right foot brake.
Overall, it’s not the result the team wanted or deserved. It has been a great experience, racing during the night-time is mega, I’ve really enjoyed it. I need to say a massive thank you to Whelen and Anglo American Oil Company for giving me this opportunity, it has been great.”
Anders Hildebrand, Managing Director – Anglo American Oil Company
“At the ROAR we were in the LMP2 car but the pro driver had an accident, and the bronze driver left, so we tried to find a quick bronze driver with some money but we couldn’t, so we then went to PPM who ran Linus Lundqvist last year and they had a seat available for Johnathan. Of course, they knew the performance of our winners, so they said ‘yeah, we want him!’
“We were running tenth, unfortunately we lost a number of laps due to the shunt with the Aston Martin. That said, the lap times Johnathan was able to put in, despite all this damage, was just fantastic. He’s a very special driver and it’s just amazing to be involved at such an early stage with these guys.”