Nicholas Mee Racing: victorious in Aston Martin GT4 Challenge 3 Hour race at Snetterton

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Nicholas Mee Racing took a well-deserved victory in the second round of the 2011 Aston Martin GT4 Challenge series at Snetterton on 28th May. This marks the 2009 AM Challenge-winning team’s first ever outright race win and, following its 4th place in the first round at Silverstone in late April, takes NMR to the top of this year’s Challenge standings.

NMR’s regular driver Karsten le Blanc was first out during qualifying on the Saturday morning and set some very competitive times before handing over to Dan de Zille who had to contend with damp track conditions. Despite a slippery track, de Zille managed to set the second fastest qualifying time for a front row start.

Le Blanc started the 180-minute race and, by the second corner on the first lap, had taken the Talent Works-sponsored NMR V8 Vantage GT4 into first position. But it was to be an eventful race; on lap 3, journalist Andrew Frankel attempted a bold overtaking manoeuvre in the factory-entered V8 Vantage, left the circuit, damaged the sump and, leaking oil, returned to the pits on the racing line, all of which brought out the safety car.

Other incidents followed and these prompted NMR’s Team Manager Giles Dawson to bring in le Blanc earlier than anticipated for the first mandatory pitstop during another safety car period. At half distance le Blanc pitted while in 4th position for the team’s second stop, and handed the car to de Zille who immediately returned fast and consistent lap times. NMR’s third compulsory pitstop occurred at roughly 2/3rds distance, again under the safety car, and from there de Zille continued in similar vein, taking the NMR from 4th place to 1st.

De Zille maintained his pace and, with half an hour remaining, held a 25 second lead over the 2nd-placed Generation AMR car piloted by Richard Abra and Mark Poole. NMR’s lead was further consolidated when Richard Abra had to make a late pitstop which dropped Generation AMR down to 4th and gifted NMR with a one-minute lead over Stuart Hall and Chris Kemp in the Stratton Motor Co. car.

With just three minutes remaining the heavens opened and, despite torrential rain, NMR’s de Zille maintained position to take the chequered flag over a minute ahead of the Hall/Kemp car in second.

After the race a delighted de Zille commented, "What an amazing day! While it was disappointing to miss out on a shot at pole, Karsten did a great job keeping us in contention at the front. It was great racing through the pack and the guys behind ensured I could never let up the pace, pushing hard to the end. As a first outright race win it's brilliant and to it in an Aston Martin, and by such a margin is the icing on the cake. It's a terrific boost before my next Formula Ford round at Brands Hatch and I'm hoping I can get back in the Aston later in the season."

Karsten le Blanc added, “I couldn’t have hoped for better – a great car, smart strategy, a fantastic team effort and the best possible result. What’s more, I see no reason why we shouldn’t be at least as competitive in the next round at Donington Park on 25th June”.

Image: Gary Parravani
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