HEXIS AMR: From endurance to sprint racing

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

And from sprint to endurance racing with the same aim – victory! At Monza for the first long-distance race in HEXIS AMR’s history, one of the team’s two Aston Martins led the race for a long time, and the second DBRS9 was in with a chance of a podium finish with ten minutes to go to the flag. In both cases, the team’s hopes were dashed by mechanical problems, but this performance said it loud and clear - the French squad, the current FIA GT1 World Championship leader - is not in the Blancpain Endurance Series just to make up the numbers. HEXIS AMR is starting a 3-week journey that will see the team travelling from its base in France to Portugal and then Germany for two rounds of the world championship, before tackling the second Blancpain endurance event of the season at Navarra in Spain.

Monza: HEXIS AMR fights at the front in its first endurance race!

In qualifying for the inaugural round of the new Blancpain Endurance Series, the Aston Martin DBRS9 driven by Swiss Henri Moser and Frenchmen Fred Makowiecki and Gilles Vannelet set the third-quickest time. Yann Clairay associated with Pierre-Brice Mena and Julien Rodrigues put the team’s second car in fifth place on the grid. On lap 5, Clairay took the lead of the 32-car field. Seventeen laps later, Stéphane Ortelli nipped past him to take first place. However, the Audi driven by the former Le Mans 24-Hours winner punctured, and the no. 3 Aston Martin went back into the lead before its first refueling stop, which the HEXIS AMR team carried out with its customary brilliance! Once the round of refueling stops had finished, Mena was back in front with a lead of 25 seconds. Unfortunately, just as he was about to hand over to Julien Rodrigues, he saw the warning lights flashing on the dashboard and he was forced to stop with an oil leak in the radiator. This dashed the French team’s hopes of victory after 1h 45m racing.

The no. 4 Aston Martin driven by Moser and then Vannelet held its own in the top ten during the first two-thirds of the event. Several of its nearest rivals were hit with problems, which put the French Aston in the running in the final hour for a much-coveted place on the podium. Makowiecki upped the pace and took third on lap 69 out of 94. A ding-dong battle raged between the Aston, the Porsche of the future winners, a Ferrari, an Audi and a Ford GT. But no. 4 failed to come round at the end of lap 89 after ‘Mako’ went off in the Parabolica due to defective brakes.

Philippe Dumas, the team manager, sums up after this eventful race: “We did a lot of work this winter on the GT3s to make them as good as new and to adapt them to endurance. The regulations don’t leave us much room for manoeuvre, but we concentrated on a host of small details, in particular concerning the driving position. Given the number of points that still have to be improved, I’m fairly satisfied with the way things have gone during the first weekend in this very tough championship. We didn’t score a result but the cars are 100% reliable apart from that glitch with the oil radiator, which keeps recurring on these cars, and for which AMR has to find a solution quickly. Concerning the problem that led to Fred going off, we knew that Monza would be very hard on brakes. The solution we tested in practice was not the right one and both cars started the race with different pads. The ones on the car driven by Yann, Pierre-Brice and Julien was the best. I’m happy with the performance of our six drivers who all listened to our advice, and whose comments we also took into account. We’ve managed to become as professional as we are in GT1, and the two lead drivers, Fred and Yann, were impeccable both in the car and outside. We still have to continue working on the setups and fine-tune wheel changes, but the key point is refueling. No. 4’s third stop went on forever because of a problem with the refueling rig. We can gain time for free in the pits. Overall, it’s better to be positive as we got to within sniffing distance of the podium after good qualifying performances and very promising lap times in the race.”

Crisscrossing Europe!

Here follows the schedule of the next three weekends’ racing, which the HEXIS AMR team will have to cope with almost without time to draw breath in this merry month of May!

3rd round of the FIA GT1 World Championship in Portimao in the Algarve (7/8 May): At last HEXIS AMR is going to find itself on a circuit where it can use the date gathered last season, as the Abu Dhabi layout was modified between 2010 and 2011, and the team had only raced in GT3 at Zolder. The Aston Martin isn’t really at home on bumpy surfaces although HEXIS AMR scored a sixth place in Portugal last year. But the no. 3 DB9 driven by Clivio Piccione and Stef Dusseldorp, currently lying second in the world championship, will have to carry 25 kilos of ballast. Third-placed drivers Christian Hohenadel-Andrea Piccini will have 10 kilos in no. 4.

4th round of the FIA GT1 World Championship on the Sachsenring (14/15 May): In the extreme south east of Germany, HEXIS AMR can rely on the experience of a round in the ADAC GT Masters (German GT3 Championship), which the team won in 2008 thanks to Frédéric Mackowiecki and Christian Hohenadel.

2nd round of the GT3 Pro Cup –Blancpain Endurance Series at Navarra (21/22 May): Unlike the Sachsenring HEXIS AMR is entering its Aston Martin DBRS9 GT3s on a circuit that it knows from GT1. In 2010, Fred ‘Mako’ and Yann Clairay finished second in the world championship round on the Spanish track, and this year the latter has become part of the team’s endurance squad. “Navarra will once again be a great test session for the team, which is competing in its first season in endurance,” says Dumas. “Our aim is to see our two cars at the finish after three hours’ racing.”
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