TF Sport's steep Blancpain learning curve

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TF Sport took a lot of lessons away from its exploratory one-off outing in the final round of the 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series – the GT500 – at the Nürburging (19-20 September).

The team tackled its Blancpain and Nürburging debuts with a sole Aston Martin V12 Vantage for Salih Yoluc, Euan Hankey and Bradley Ellis and the Redhill, Surrey-based outfit performed admirably in entirely unfamiliar territory and against a bumper field of more than 90 of the world’s most formidable GT drivers.

Red-flag stoppages curtailed its testing programme and placed it on the back foot going into qualifying, as its drivers had a very narrow window in which to complete both high and low-fuel race and qualifying simulations on new and used Pirelli tyres.

As a result, the car was an unknown for the TF Sport trio – particularly Ellis, who returned to the cockpit of a modern GT3-spec racecar for the first time since 2011 – but the pace was strong, despite suffering in traffic and changeable weather conditions and failing to maximise the tyres' grip during their peak operating window.

Some skilled and controlled driving from Ellis ensured the TF Sport Aston Martin emerged unscathed from a typically frenetic start to the Blancpain Endurance Series’ GT500 on the 3.19mile Nürburging Grand Prix circuit.

Ellis gained track position overall and in class on the opening tour and his pace was strong until he was baulked by a pair of battling Pros, although Yoluc took the next stint and a drive-through for crossing the white line at pit exit was the first real blow to TF Sport’s challenge.

The three-hour endurance race was a hard and aggressive affair and Yoluc did himself justice while competing at a much higher level than he's used to, and TF Sport threatened for a top-five result in class until the team suffered a significant time loss due to a decision not to carry out the second driver-change under Safety Car conditions

Almost a lap down on the class leaders at the start of the final hour, Hankey had it all to do to reduce the deficit, but the Somerset-born racer did a superb job in lifting the team from 22nd to 16th on the run to the chequered flag, completing a steep, but enlightening learning curve for all.

“We had some ups and downs, but, on the whole, the weekend was a very positive experience,” said Ellis. “Of course, the race didn’t go to plan. I feel we had good pace in what was a fiercely-fought contest and I have no doubt that we would have been at the sharp end of the pack without those two small errors.

“The car was a big unknown for me and the changeable conditions meant it felt new and unfamiliar in each and every session. But we need to remember that it was a learning weekend. We raced against 90 of the world’s greatest GT drivers and they don’t give an inch, but the Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 never missed a beat and TF Sport was very strong. We came away with all the information we need to be better and we know where we could have improved this time around.”

Source material - TF Sport
Photo credits - Blancpain
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