When Frank Gannett took delivery of the Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 that he co-drives with Drew Stavely in Fanatec GT4 World Challenge America, they and the G3 Racing / Ian Lacy Racing squad did some initial testing at their home track of Utah Motorsports Campus and were thrilled with the results. When the team went to the first event of the season at Sonoma Raceway, the outcome was rather different.
“There is so much more potential and adjustability in the GT3 car and trying to understand what we need to make the gains has really been a challenge,” explains Stavely, the pro in the Pro-Am equation. “We got the car right off the airplane and it drove great. This is an amazing car to drive and it felt good at our home track; then we took it to Sonoma, and we were significantly off the pace — two or three seconds — and it didn’t feel so good anymore.”
The team is coming from running Sprint in GT4 America, most recently in Ford Mustangs, and in Ginettas before that. Stavely won the Am championship in 2019, and finished second behind Michael Cooper in the Pro division last season. With the Sprint format in GT4 America going away, and the drivers wanting more seat time than GT4 SprintX offered, they felt it was time to go to GT3.
“As a team we won two championships, and I’m not getting any younger so I wanted to experience GT3; we felt like it was a good time,” said Gannett. “We had a lot of the major components…of course, not knowing what we were going to get into with GT3, there were a lot more major components. We just recently got the [refueling] boom and the gas tank and it had to be outfitted and everything. It’s a big step. We went from taking a Mustang and one mechanic and one engineer to having two engineers, a mechanic for the front and a mechanic for the rear.”
The fifth round at Virginia International Raceway was a bright spot for the team, where it finished eighth overall and fifth in Pro-Am. And while Gannett and Stavely have finished all six races so far in 2021, the results haven’t exactly been what they had hoped for. It turns out there is much to learn in moving from GT4 to GT3.
“There is so much more potential and adjustability in the GT3 car, and trying to understand where we need to make the gains has been really challenging,” Stavely said. “The GT3 format is very different from a GT4 car, with the downforce, the adjustability and the style of getting speed out of the car; it’s something we haven’t figured out yet, but we’re learning a lot every time we race. Setting it up properly to manage that over the course of a stint has been our biggest challenge; that’s what we’re immediately working on, trying to figure out why we can’t produce that outright lap time consistently.”
The team will be using the long break between VIR and the next rounds at Road America in August to try to figure out how to hit the setup earlier in the weekend, keep the car consistent though the race, and, of course, make it faster. It’s getting a lot of help from Aston Martin as the only team running the car in GT World Challenge America, despite its popularity in the GT4 ranks.
If there’s been a plus for Gannett, it’s that he can read the Vantage much more than the Mustang GT4, a heavier car much closer to its road car roots. That’s helping he and Stavely work on making the car better together.
“It’s amazing how much it changes from front to rear; we never felt that kind of stuff in the Mustang. I’m not good enough to make those feels; Drew could feel it, where I’m just driving this big, heavy car. But you get in a lighter car with more horsepower and I’m able to feel the changes,” he says.
Gannett did some Skip Barber racing in his younger days, but he’s only been at it for about six years in this current iteration of his racing career. It started when the bug bit again and he went to the Ford Performance School at what was then Miller Motorsports Park. That’s where he met Stavely. Gannett made the jump into pro racing, bringing Stavely on as coach and driver, and the pairing has proved a good one, even in this latest challenge. It’s been a new experience for the crew as well, but Gannett says they’re enjoying going from being paddock support to a racing crew.
“It’s fun, and I think all the guys are enjoying it,” adds Gannett. “We dragged them into this and now they’re tire changers, not just unloading the truck and putting the awning up. They’re out there and bringing us in and talking about it. It’s just kind of energized everybody and I think it’s been a good thing across the board.”