Aston Martin Racing: Le Mans 9 hour update

Sunday, June 13, 2010

After nine hours: Aston Martins maintain a strong pace at Le Mans

Le Mans, 13 June 2010. As midnight came and went, the two Works Aston Martin drivers who started the race were back behind the wheel of the Gulf-liveried LMP1 cars. Aston Martin 007, guided through the darkness by Stefan Mucke, held seventh place while Darren Turner maintained eighth in the 009 machine.

Both cars have demonstrated exemplary reliability, unlike many high-profile LMP1 rivals who have encountered problems.

The 008 car, run by French team Signature Plus, is holding onto 11th, now with Frenchman Franck Mailleux behind the wheel -- who also started the race when the tricolour fell a full nine hours ago.

All the drivers have now experienced some stints behind the wheel of their cars, and with cooler temperatures, better grip, and greater familiarity with the circuit, the lap times are falling as expected.

As daylight turned to darkness, Harold Primat was at the wheel of 007. He had no problems throughout his run although he had to endure a period behind the safety car. "I had a good run," he said after he finished his stint and headed off for a well-deserved rest until the early hours of the morning when he is due to take over the car again. "I sat behind a safety car for part of my stint and had some trouble with oil on my windscreen, but overall the car seems to be running very reliably and it's comfortable to drive. I had a little contact with another car but there was no damage. Visibility is always difficult as the sun sets, but we continue on."

At 21:27 he handed over to Mucke -- who continues to make excellent progress, having climbed as high as fifth after one of the top diesel runners hit trouble.

Juan Barazi soon settled into a rhythm in the 009 car, handing over to Turner at 21:46. It was the first time that Barazi had driven the Aston Martin LMP1 car in earnest, but even in the fading light he stuck to a safe pace and experienced no problems; "We've been trying to keep a good constant pace and our aim is to be the fastest petrol car here, so my main objective was to continue without any dramas," he commented. "I'm pleased to say it went very well. This is my first race in this car so I am just adjusting myself to the different weight compared to the LMP2 machine I was used to, but it's pretty easy to drive."

Signature's 008 car lost eight minutes when Pierre Ragues was driving, due to a power steering pump change just before 22:00, but it has been back on the pace ever since.

Aston Martin has put in a strong performance in the GT1 category too, with the AMR Young Driver DBR9 climbing back to fourth in class despite a delay earlier due to a broken driveshaft. The experienced Peter Kox, who was part of last year's Works LMP1 squad, is now back in the driving seat.

Sadly the retirement of the GT2 Vantage run by JMW Motorsport has been confirmed. American driver Bryce Miller reported that he lost the back end of the car on the exit of the Porsche curves just before 21:00. The resulting impact broke the suspension upright and radiator, making it impossible for the car to continue.

Le Mans, 12 June 2010. Aston Martin has continued to make progress as the first quarter of the Le Mans 24 Hours draws to a close. Harold Primat (CH) is now at the wheel of the 007 car, which has climbed to sixth place overall thanks to another fast and incident-free run.

The 009 car, now in the hands of Juan Barazi (DK), is running eighth. Two places behind him is the 008 car run by French team Signature Plus, which is 10th with Pierre Ragues (FR) driving. The classification has been once more compressed by a safety car, which came out just before 21:00.

AdrIan Fernandez (MX) completed a triple stint at the wheel of 007, making up one more place to climb from seventh to sixth. The Mexican's first experience of the LMP1 car in competitive conditions at Le Mans went extremely well, with him stopping only for fuel and tyres as scheduled.

"It's been really good: maybe the handling of the car was not completely perfect but you adapt to it and we've been totally reliable, which is the main thing here," said Fernandez. "Obviously I wasn't taking any risks at all because we still have a long way to go. I was actually quite pleased with our pace though: we can stay close enough to the diesel Audis in the corners but then on the straights they blow us away. Still, this is what we expected so now we just have to get on with it."

Just before 20:00, Fernandez handed over to Primat. The Swiss driver struggled with visibility after his windscreen was sprayed with oil by another car that had hit problems, and he also had a small contact against a fellow competitor while overtaking. However, Primat reported that his Aston Martin was still steering straight so no serious consequences are anticipated as the sun sets over Le Mans.

Sam Hancock enjoyed his first stints in the 009 car and showed impressively consistent pace during his opening run. "It was good, although I probably didn't feel quite as comfortable behind the wheel as I did during practice and qualifying," he said. "The most important thing though was that I had the time to settle myself into it and that we had a completely incident-free run. That makes me feel quite confident as we head into the night."

Juan Barazi also used his first time in the car under race conditions to play himself into the action. Shortly after taking over, he reported a vibration from the wheels, so he made an extra stop for a precautionary tyre change. Afterwards he ran with no problems as the race headed into its seventh hour.

Vanina Ickx, the daughter of six-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx, took over Signature's 008 car after Franck Mailleux's mammoth opening stint and also enjoyed a trouble-free run, underlining the Aston Martin LMP1 car's reputation for strong reliability.

The AMR Young Driver Aston Martin DBR9 that qualified on GT1 pole hit a setback when a driveshaft had to be changed, dropping it out of the lead battle. When the car re-joined, Christoffer Nygaard took it out for his very first experience of the Le Mans circuit in race conditions.

Unfortunately the GT2 Vantage of JMW Motorsport went off the track just before 21:00, with American Bryce Miller driving, and seems set to play no further part in proceedings.

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