Something for the weekend

Something for the weekend

Just as we count down from the middle of the week and towards the weekend, here's just a quick look of all the news that we have heard from the world of #TeamAMR just as the North American, European and UK racing scenes look like getting back on track (literally) following the enforced COVID-19 lockdown.

Over at the Virginia International Raceway on the eastern side of the USA, we have the SRO's GT4 America Series reconvene for their now second round of their 2020 season having completed the opening round over at CoTA in mid March only to be stopped in their tracks at St Petersburg just a week later.

As previously posted HERE, four Aston Martin Racing customer teams take their new V8 Vantage GT4 hardware over to one of the most picturesque circuits in North America to do battle within the Sprint and Sprint X races over both Saturday and Sunday. The only downfall here is that race fans are NOT permitted entry into the circuit for the event as part of the SRO's on-going CV-19 preventative measures.

This week we have also seen confirmation from the SRO in regards to their full season entries into this years GT World Challenge Europe Series (nee Blancpain GT Series) and their Sprint and Endurance programmes that start at Imola with the Endurance Cup in just over a weeks time.

With this weeks sad news that Swiss based R-Motorsport confirming their immediate withdrawal from all of their previous race intentions for what's left of 2020 leaves just the British based Garage 59 team to 'fly the flag' within the headline GT3 European series with another two car effort in both Pro-Am and Silver Cup classes of the Endurance Cup.

We understand that the driver crews for these cars will be officially confirmed next week.

That news from Switzerland also impacts upon the supporting GT4 European Series with the withdrawal of the Vantage GT4 effort in that series with only one AMR team so far confirming any entries into that series in the form of French team AGS Events Racing (see HERE). Although confirmed by the team nearly two weeks ago, this news has only just been ratified by the series as officially complete in their announcement today.

Also missing from the series are the two potential entries from Maxime Martin's new MRT Racing Team as the Belgian AMR factory driver defers his new dream until next year at the earliest as a direct result of the CV-19 global situation.

Next up we see the Nurburgring Langstrecken Series race a double-header weekend from the Nordschleife as the German series crams in as many rounds as possible between the opening round last weekend and the end of their revised season in mid November (weather permitting of course).

Entered again into round 2 is the PROsport Racing AMR Vantage GT4 of Guido Dumarey and Alex Walker, again racing in the SP10 class for SRO GT4 homologated cars. They raced the first round with Nico Verdonck before a puncture mid lap ruined a good inaugural GT4 outing for the PROsport customer drivers. The same pair is also entered into VLN 3.

Finally (race wise anyway), and more local to us at least, we have the opening rounds of the UK's GT Cup Championship from the Snetterton racetrack in Norfolk where Chris Murphy's Whitebridge Motorsport team again enters two older 2016 iteration Vantage GT4 into the GTH class for himself and new customer driver Steve Birt. This domestic championship was due to have the return of the Optimum prepared 2019 Vantage GT4 for drivers David Holloway/Piers Johnson but that deal sadly fell by the wayside over the winter months.

Last but certainly by no means least we will have the #98 AMR European Le Mans Series Vantage GTE take a quick shakedown test tomorrow before it heads down to the Paul Ricard Circuit in the south of France ready for next weeks ELMS Official Test and the first round of that Series for drivers Paul Dalla Lana, Ross Gunn and Mathias Lauda.

Photo credits - Garage 59 / GT4 America / GTWCE / R-Motorsport / VLN / FFSA GT4

Wednesday, July 08, 2020 |
R-Motorsport hit hard by the continuing CV-19 restrictions

R-Motorsport hit hard by the continuing CV-19 restrictions

Taking yesterday's confirmation that Swiss based Aston Martin Racing team, R-Motorsport would pay no further part in what is left of the 2020 season as a simple statement of fact was nothing short of a complete disaster for all those involved with the team, the series they were due to compete in and for us fans.

Since stepping up from their early days of 'simple' ad-hoc VLN participation for both team partners (plus supporting network of customer drivers) in on of their AMR Vantage GT4's racing under their St Gallen name, 2020 was due to see the team again enter two of their new AMR Vantage GT3 cars into both of the World Challenge Europe Sprint and Endurance rounds as well as an additional Vantage GT4 in the supporting GT4 European Series.

Those series were in addition to the worldwide Intercontinental GT Challenge that the team had already started by taking the new turbo charged Vantage GT3 to Bathurst for the first time in early February 2020.

The team also had ambitions, although there was never to be any further word on this from the team of their Vantage Cup Series concept beyond that of its launch announcement with Florian Kamelger, Andreas Baenziger and Dr Andy Palmer from Aston Martin.

Of course, the tail end of the 2019 came with significant cost for the team as they abandoned their German DTM efforts even before the end of the season after suffering from persistent performance issues that simply left them uncompetitive against their BMW/Audi/Mercedes peers - that must have left a large hole in the balance sheet of the team that the current COVID-19 pandemic only served to exaggerated this year.

As with all professional race teams, racing is a business working to a proven business model and when that model is affected by circumstances beyond their control (no spectators/corporate guests/shortened season/unpredictable situation moving forward) all of that leaves you with a simple decision with regards to moving forward or not!

Clearly the business heads on the team bosses outweighed that of their hearts.

These guys are not the first to be affected in the world of motorsport by the ongoing worldwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic - they certainly will not be the last either as we know of a few other national and European programmes going back under the spotlight by their paymasters ahead of any final go-no go decision but for us AMR fans, they are the biggest - and it hurts!!

For us, our only glimpse of their 2020 efforts came in the form of the Official Test for the GT World Challenge Europe at the Paul Ricard circuit in southern France back in mid March. For some of their confirmed eleven drivers, this news has allowed them to concentrate on other programmes whilst many others have been sadly left with few options right now.

"The required access restrictions at race events prevent us from offering our exclusive R-Experience hospitality to our customers and partners, which is vital not only for R-Motorsport but for the business of our entire group of companies."

"Irrespective of the decision not to race this season we are already fully committed to our programme in 2021 and beyond” said Kamelger.

All we can hope for is to see them back at a circuit near us in 2021.

Photo credits - GTWCE / R-Motorsport

Tuesday, July 07, 2020 |
Dalla Lana takes new AMR Vantage GTE into European Le Mans Series

Dalla Lana takes new AMR Vantage GTE into European Le Mans Series

Not since the year of Beechdean AMR's unsuccessful GTE Class title defence and TF Sports series audition back in 2017 have we seen an Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GTE compete in the European Le Mans Series and then, it was the older normally aspirated engined fan favourite.

Thinking back to when the original 2020 full season entry list was first announced way back in mid February do we recall just how disappointed we were not to see any AMR representation in that series so todays news is most welcomed, particularly with the global situation as it also confirms the first outing of the 2019 specification Vantage GTE in the feeder series to the World Endurance Championship.

Then obviously since the entry list announcement came the COVID-19 pandemic and all of the fall out that such a monumental global event presents.

As a direct result of this global situation however has come todays announcement from AMR that confirms a two round entry for their long term customer Paul Dalla Lana who will, with the mixed help of drivers Ross Gunn, Mathias Lauda and Augusto Farfus, be using the ELMS as something of a training exercise before the World Endurance Championship reconvenes after its COVID-19 enforced sabbatical at Spa Francorchamps in mid August.

Such is the separation between the two ACO rules series revised race dates that the #98 crew can fit fit both the Official Test (15th July) and opening round of the ELMS (19th July) at Le Castellet in southern France as well as the next round at Spa Francorchamps (9th August) before the 6hrs of the WEC in Belgium just the week later.

Todays news also confirms a revision in the driver line up for the #98 car within the remaining WEC races as Darren Turner steps aside to concentrate on his Aston Martin Valkyrie development duties (that have also been delayed by COVID-19) to be replaced with the former BMW racer Farfus in those rounds.

We have of course seen WEC AMR and Am class competitor, Salih Yoluc take on a similar line of thought by entering the International GT Open Series to hone in his racing skills in-between WEC rounds with Charlie Eastwood in a TF Sport supported AMR Vantage GT3.

Photo credits - AMR

Tuesday, July 07, 2020 |
AMR confirm Dalla Lana's new ELMS programme & new WEC drivers

AMR confirm Dalla Lana's new ELMS programme & new WEC drivers

Aston Martin Racing returns to action this month when it contests the opening rounds of the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) with the Aston Martin Vantage GTE. It will be the first time a works Aston Martin has been on track competitively since the team’s victory in the 6 Hours of COTA in February and will act as preparation for the final three rounds of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) season.

Paul Dalla Lana will drive the #98 machine with Mathias Lauda (A) with whom he won the 2017 WEC title, and his regular team-mate Aston Martin Racing works driver Ross Gunn (GB) in the 4 Hours of Le Castellet on 18-19 July. This will also mark the ELMS series debut for the works team with the Vantage GTE. For the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (8-9 August), the second round of the ELMS, Gunn will make way for BMW works driver Augusto Farfus, a long-time family friend of Dalla Lana’s, so he can take his turn to prepare for the WEC races ahead.

Refreshed and ready to race, Dalla Lana, Farfus and Gunn will pilot the #98 car for the remainder of the FIA WEC GTE Am campaign in Spa (15-16 August), the 24 Hours of Le Mans (19-20 September) and Bahrain (14-15 November). Gunn and Dalla Lana currently lie third in the standings, just 12.5 points away from the lead.

Three-time Le Mans class winner Darren Turner meanwhile has been asked to further step up his already significant involvement in the development of Aston Martin’s Valkyrie hypercar programme as testing ramps up prior to going on sale in 2021. The Briton’s focus will remain on this through 2020, while staying on standby to assist in the GTE and customer racing programmes ahead of a full return next year.

“Like all of us, I’ve really missed competing on the track and getting the opportunity to put in extra competitive miles in the ELMS is really exciting,” said Dalla Lana. “I’ve been friends with Augusto [Farfus] for a long time, and we’ve wanted to race together for a while, but it’s only now that a break in his programme has allowed us to do this. The ELMS presents a tough challenge and the races are long enough to test our skills and our systems as we prepare to return to WEC. And as we look towards Le Mans and the world championship challenge, I think it gives a good chance to fight at the front. It’s going to be fun!”

Aston Martin Racing Managing Director John Gaw: “This is the longest break from active motorsport that we have ever had at Aston Martin Racing but we’ve used the time wisely to ensure we’re in the strongest possible position to resume the WEC season. The ELMS is a strong series where we have historically had good success with our partner teams – in fact, works driver Darren Turner won the series with Beechdean AMR back in 2016 – and it presents exactly the kind of challenge we want to refresh our systems ahead of our WEC return. Paul has chosen to recruit Augusto Farfus to race with him and we look forward to welcoming him into the team.”

The 4 Hours of Le Castellet begins at 1100, local time, on Sunday, 19 July.

Source material - AMR

Tuesday, July 07, 2020 |
Second round of SRO GT4 American from VIR next weekend

Second round of SRO GT4 American from VIR next weekend

With mainstream GT racing now thankfully back underway in North America with the IMSA Weathertech Championship getting back down to business at the weekend at Daytona, this coming weekend sees the SRO's GT4 America Series do likewise at the very picturesque circuit of Virginia International Raceway in North Carolina.

Having opened their season from the Circuit of the Americas way back in early March, another heavily revised calendar was forced upon the Series soon after as COVID-19 struck down the United States, forcing many States into lockdown. Since then, only a small amount of private testing has been undertaken by some of the teams.

Looking forward to this weekend's second round see a combination of four Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4 teams enter cars into both of the Sprint and Sprint X races - three cars amongst the fifteen car grid of the single driver, fifty minute race with another four cars in the longer, mandatory pit stop and driver change Sprint X races alongside the sixteen other expected entries.

Rearden Racing come back with the most cars as Paul Terry returns with his #59 car whilst it appears that Jeff Burton comes back with his now two AMR car collection as he races in both classes, this time being joined again by his long time co-driver Vesko Kozarov for the Sprint X races.

Next on the list is the Flying Lizard team as they return with their customer driver Michael Dinan and his two cars as he again races race one car in Sprint and then another car in the Sprint X alongside his Pro co-driver Robby Foley.

The balance of the AMR grid is made up of the BSport Racing Vantage of Bryan Putt and Kenton Koch and the Rennsport One Aston of Joe Dalton and Pat Gallagher. The only car missing from the VIR entry list from that who competed in the opening round is that of Fred Roberts is finds himself sadly locked away back home in Canada, unable to travel into the USA without having to spend two weeks in self isolation at either end of his journey south.

Last time out, Rearden's Paul Terry and Flying Lizards Michael Dinan shared the Am Class podiums after some fantastic racing between them in race one before swapping positions after some more action and late passes in race two. For Dinan, there was an additional podium for him and Foley in the Pro/Am class of the second Sprint X race.

Whilst that is obviously bad news for him, we hear that he will also be extending his coaching relationship with a UK based driver as the season progresses through August to October. All teams will again be supported by AMR's North American partner in CSJ Motorsport.

Track action starts on Wednesday with the first of the Free Practice sessions before the races in both classes spears over both Saturday and Sunday. We understand that the whole event will be conducted behind closed doors!

Photo credits - GT4 America
Sunday, July 05, 2020 |
Time to get North America racing again

Time to get North America racing again

After too many weeks of isolation and lock down to care to remember, this weekend sees the planned restart of the North American IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship take place from the scene of the series opening gambit into 2020 season way back in January at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida.

Sadly, the ongoing COVID-19 state of play within the continental United States has left some teams no option but to sit things out with the start of the revised calendar this weekend (maybe more) with one of those teams absent from Daytona being the Heart of Racing team and their Seattle Children's Hospital fundraising Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GTD (GT3) that drivers Roman de Angelis and Alex Riberas were due to drive.

After their disappointment at the Rolex 24 in January where the #23 car suffered race ending damage during the night after a bizarre incident near pit in, the team have placed the continued safety of the team personnel above all of their desire to return to the racetrack.

Whilst we hope that they decide to make a return at the next round at Sebring in just a couple of weeks time, that is yet to be confirmed particularly as many counties within the State of Florida continuing to experience dramatic rises in their CV-19  infection rate.

For the IMSA supporting Michelin Pilot Challenge Series, we will have to wait until the weekend of the 17-18th July at Sebring to see the colourful collection of the four expected full season Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4's return to the track.

Then next weekend we have the SRO sanctioned GT4 America Series restart their 2020 calendar at the picturesque Virginia International Raceway after their last round was dramatically cancelled with cars on track during Free Practice at St Petersburg.

No entry list has yet been confirmed but we do expect to see most of the seven teams that enter an AMR Vantage GT4 in both the Series Sprint and Sprint X races to attend. Most teams in this series haven't raced since the opening rounds from the Circuit from the Americas back in early March where both the Flying Lizard AMR of Micheal Dinan and Rearden Racing AMR of Paul Terry diced things out over both races for the top step of the Sprint podium.

Whilst we will obviously miss the bigger Vantage GTD from the IMSA proceedings this weekend, we can't wait to see the many AMR Vantage GT4's get back to business at both Sebring and VIR over the next couple of weeks.

Whilst IMSA at Daytona will be restricting public access to low numbers of residents of Florida only and the GT4 America Series at VIR will have no public access permitted - its a start so let's get back to racing!!

Photo credits - IMSA / GT4 America

Friday, July 03, 2020 |
FFSA GT4 conclude Nogaro test

FFSA GT4 conclude Nogaro test

Today saw the conclusion the SRO sanctioned FFSA GT4 Series' two day Official test from the Nogaro circuit in south-west France with French team AGS Events Racing fielding their four brand new Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4's that will be entered into that and the parallel GT4 European Series.

Clear blue skies, warm track temperatures and great looking liveries made for a very picturesque test from what we could see thanks to the shots generously provided by the series.

Run over two sessions per day but bearing in mind that collective tests like these never really show the true levels of performance, that its probably going to be something of a three way battle between the Mercedes, BMW and Aston Martin runners if the last two days of running can be believed. We also realise that that statement will probably be blown out of the water at the first round!!!

Obviously, and as reported earlier this week, the Valentin Hasse-Clot/Theo Nouet AGS Events GT4 car present at this weeks test will only compete in the GT4 European Series which starts its revised 2020 season in Milano in just under four weeks time and should be (by all accounts) not the only AMR Vantage GT4 there present in that series. Their car claimed the fourth fastest lap time after the 14 hours of available testing.

The FFSA GT4 Series meanwhile starts their season proper again at Nogaro in the middle of August and should field at least the three AGS Events Racing cars that tested this week.

Photo credits - FFSA GT4
Wednesday, July 01, 2020 |
Two yellow cars to brighten your day with......!

Two yellow cars to brighten your day with......!

After the sad news earlier this week with the immediate withdrawal of both of TF Sport's Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3's from this years British GT Championship, here's a quick look at both of the team's remaining Vantage GT4's testing this week under the Leicestershire sunshine at Donington.

With this weeks test being at least the team's fourth such test with these drivers, Mondays news of the withdrawal of their two GT3 cars didn't really come as too much of a shock really considering both GT3 cars had only been out once (at Silverstone) since the resumption of testing after the COVID-19 lockdown and then only with team Pro drivers Jonny Adam and Charlie Eastwood behind the wheel.

Ahmad Al Harthy was unable to travel in and out of the UK without first serving any long period of self isolation as well as calendar clashes and then Graham Davidson was rightly concentrating on his businesses back home in Scotland. That sadly left 2019 AMR Driver Academy winner and GT4 Champion Tom Canning without a drive.

For the GT4 driver pairings Connor O'Brien/Patrick Kibble and Jamie Caroline/Dan Vaughan, they had each seen at least two days of testing at each of the Snetterton, Oulton Park and Silverstone circuits before this week's test at Donington since Media Day at Snetterton back in March as team boss Tom Ferrier looks to retain the GT4 crown won by Canning and Ashley Hand last year.

All eyes within the team now firmly focus towards the opening double header in the national Championship at Oulton Park at the beginning of August as (hopefully) there will be more known in regards to public access into the circuit for that round by then.

Many thanks again to Steve Jackman at Eat my Pixels for these images.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020 |