Generation AMR: Winning start to season!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The first round of the Aston Martin GT4 Challenge of Great Britain was held on the National Circuit at Silverstone, Saturday 29th April 2011. The team had carried out intensive testing prior to the meeting but utilised the Friday to carry out some final preparations and pit-stop practices, which would prove beneficial due to an unexpected brake issue that would have severely impacted on our chances had it occurred on the race day. The JCAM backed pairing of Mark Poole and Richard Abra were well prepared for their first race of the year in their brand new 2011 specification Aston Martin Vantage GT4 race car, so with scruitineering and sign-on out of the way on the Friday, and the driver’s brief held first thing in the morning, the drivers prepared themselves for qualifying on a sunny but cold day at Silverstone.


The team and drivers had a dedicated strategy for qualifying and started the session at 0903hrs for the first run. Mark Poole had the most of the traffic in the early part of qualifying but continued to warm the tyres on a very cold track. On lap 8 he put in a very respectable time of 1:02.334, putting us on a provisional pole at that time. Mark knew that with a clear track he would be in the low 61’s but for now his job was done and we knew that the times would continue to fall, so Mark came in and handed over to Richard.

Richard took over with all systems fully warmed and a good set of tyres on the car. He soon brought himself up to speed and tried to attack the clock, with pole now set at a low 61 second lap. His first 2 attempts were hindered by traffic. The Vantage Racing pairing of Tom Black and Alan Bonner set a very respectable time of 1:00.820, so it was now time to attack. Richard stepped up to the challenge brilliantly, with the team spotting a gap in the traffic and he posted a time of 1:00.692 to take pole with 6 minutes of the session to go. With a quick change of tyres, Richard set-off again to gently circulate while others chased his time as hard as they could. In the end, no one could beat his time and so the team went into its first race of the season in pole position – a perfect start as front row was our target to avoid any possible issues when it came to the race.

Mark was nominated as the starting driver, so after a relaxed lunch break and with plenty of fluids on board, the team pushed the car into the pit lane on time and prepared for the race start. The Aston Martin GT4 Challenge of Great Britain has a quick start procedure, unlike some endurance series, where the cars proceed to the grid, form up, and then go straight into a green flag lap behind the safety car before the rolling start. Mark focussed on warming his tyres and settling down as quickly as possible so that come the start he was a ready to go. In endurance racing, unlike sprint racing, it is rarely the car that leads through the first corner that wins the race – after all you’ve got 90 minutes to go and anything could happen! So on the start, Mark gave way to both the Vantage Racing car and the Aston Martin Racing Team car, being driven by Christian Horner, Team Principal of Red Bull Racing F1 fame! In doing so, Mark avoided any potential damage and slotted nicely into P3 for the first lap. From this position the lead 3 quickly built a gap from the rest of the grid, with Mark reporting on the radio “Horner’s an animal!” So it was a case of sit tight and wait for the race to unfold.

As Mark kept pace with the leading pair easily, the team watched the timing monitors and waited for the flags to come out for what was predicted to be a “good one” when the lead pair took each other off! Thankfully, this didn’t occur but in pushing so hard at the start, we knew that our competition would suffer early on, while we conserved the car for the bigger game. Sure enough, having taken the lead, Christian Horner suffered from hot brakes and tyres, soon falling off the front pace whilst he waited for his tyres to stabilise. So it was that Mark capitalised on the moment, over taking Horner with a beautiful move that saw us back to 2nd place. As Mark began to push and chase the leader, so his tyres began to degrade as expected. This is always a tricky moment for a driver as it is a fine balance between pushing too hard and maintaining a good race pace. So whilst Mark’s pace fell away for a couple of laps as the tyres came back to him, he entertained the crowds with some expert “rallycross” manoeuvres around Luffield! However, it wasn’t long before the tyres stabilised and Mark was back on the same lap times as the leaders and then began to catch them. With Mark now reining the leaders in, the Team Manager, Jeremy Doncaster, analysed the best window to carry out the mandatory pit stop. On Lap 35, Mark came to box and the team did what it does best – another perfect pit stop! We refuelled the car, cleaned the windscreen, changed 2 tyres and carried out the driver change in 1 min 32 seconds, leaving us plenty of time to check the in-car radio link and we released the car after 2:01.128 minutes of stationary time, just 1.128 seconds over the minimum time and the car did not exceed the overall pit time of 140.1 seconds. So Richard headed out for the second part of the race, slotting perfectly back into a track position of 2nd place, with others yet to stop. The lead No.24 car from Vantage Racing pitted after us, and so when they returned to the track, Richard was just 4 seconds behind them, as we had taken over 4 seconds out of their lead in the pit lane – that’s how important a good pit stop can be. Richard saw his target and reeled in the leader within 4 laps; then with pure class out manoeuvred them to take the lead.

From there on, Richard steadily extended his lead, keeping clear of some excellent battles further down the order, to finish the race with a winning margin of 13.577 seconds after 90 minutes of superb racing. Second was Vantage Racing and the Aston Martin Lagonda Team an excellent 3rd.

The team as a whole performed superbly throughout the day, with Mark and Richard showing great potential in their first ever race as team mates. No performance is without scrutiny, so a full debrief has been carried out to make sure that we continue to improve in all areas possible. The next round takes place at Snetterton at the end of May with a 3 hour race on the new 300 Circuit, so the team will prepare for this while working on those areas that will give us the optimum performance in this important race. The season has started; we’ve set a standard – now we aim to exceed that standard at all the remaining rounds!

Generation AMR
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