Hexis AMR: A Super Top 10, A Mega Top 5

Monday, August 02, 2010


Unlike its rivals, the HEXIS AMR team had never tackled the daunting Spa-Francorchamps circuit before. Nonetheless, one of its Aston Martins came seventh in qualifying, and the other DB9 finished in the Top 5 in the main race! Both cars scored points in Belgium, so the French team was able to keep its place in the top half of the FIA GT1 World Championship ratings.

First taste of the daunting Spa-Francorchamps circuit

Spa is a town associated with taking the waters, and rain is part of the Francorchamps myth: it poured down during the free practice sessions and prequalifying on Thursday. On the HEXIS AMR team’s first outing at Spa, its two cars got into the top ten, but were unable to test any dry-weather setups for qualifying. And as luck would have it, the session took place in sunny weather on a dry track. A quick reminder of the system in force in the world championship, which consists of three sessions of 20, 15 and 10-minutes. At the end of each one, a third of the 24-strong field is eliminated. With so few reference points on such a demanding circuit, getting through Q1 would already have been a real feat. Frédéric Makowiecki not only did so, but he also set the fastest time in the first session, which was to remain the second-best time of the whole weekend! Jonathan Hirschi also got through. In Q2, Thomas Accary gave no. 9 twelfth place on the grid, which was satisfactory taking into account the circumstances and the quality of the field. Clivio Piccione put no. 10 among the 8 cars qualified for Q3. His team-mate Jonathan Hirschi then got back in the car and set the seventh-fastest time overall.

A glum Friday evening and a joyful Saturday afternoon!

The FIA GT1 World Championship rewards strategy and team work. Throughout the weekend, it is necessary to make the most of each driver’s potential and optimize tyre management, and there can be no errors when defining the setup or carrying out the obligatory pit stops. The timing of the fifth round of the world championship was special as it was part of the Total Spa 24-Hours meeting, and the qualifying race was scheduled for Friday afternoon. It ended in disappointment for the two HEXIS AMR driver line-ups. Thomas tagged another car on the exit from La Source hairpin, which caused a broken suspension joint, and the Accary-Makowiecki duo had to retire. No. 10 in the hands of Piccione-Hirschi did not manage to repeat its excellent qualifying performance and finished thirteenth.

The whole team got down to work to reverse the trend in the all-important 60-minute championship race. And it did so in style by bringing both its cars home in the top 10. Fred and Thomas in the red Aston made the best comeback of the event storming up from twenty-first to fifth, a gain of 16 places! After a fierce mid-field scrap, Jonathan and Clivio in the blue car scored the final point by moving up from thirteenth to tenth position.

“On our first outing at Spa, I think we can be proud of our performance,” summed up Philippe Dumas, the team manager. “Fred dialed in a super lap in Q1, and I’m sure that if Thomas had been able to run in the dry in free practice he’d have qualified for Q3 like Clivio, so Fred wouldn’t have been too far off pole. But our performance over a lap is the tree that hides the forest of the loss of performance of our tyres over the long runs. That’s the root of our problem, and we saw it during the qualifying race. It’s linked to the weight of the car and the performance balance, which doesn’t do Aston Martin any favours at the moment. It’s all the more flagrant as we were on a quick circuit, which, in theory should have given us an advantage. Luckily, thanks to everybody’s hard work we were able to fight back. The best solution was to be aggressive in qualifying and to sacrifice Friday’s race to achieve our objectives on Saturday.” And the cherry on the cake was the fact that HEXIS AMR repeated its Paul Ricard exploit: namely, the quickest pit stop for changing tyres and driver with Mako-Accary!

Results at a glance:

Aston Martin #9 Frédéric Makowiecki (F) Thomas Accary (F): 5th Overall
Aston Martin #10 Clivio Piccione (MON) Jonathan Hirschi (CH): 10th Overall
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