The Imbalance of Performance

Monday, September 21, 2015

Anyone tuning into the start of Saturday's six hours of the Circuit of the America's would have been mistaken to believe that Aston Martin Racing had overcome their apparent 'blib' in performance at the previous round of the World Endurance Championship at the Nurburgring, Germany and had regained their racing 'high ground' from their competitor's going into Round 5 in Austin, Texas.

After all, the #99 Velero liveried Pro car of Fernando Rees, Richie Stanaway and Alex MacDowall was sitting on the grid proudly at the head of the GTE field with the #97 Hanergy liveried car of Darren Turner and Jonny Adam just two cars behind and the #95 Young Driver Pro just behind them again.

Even in GTE Am there was a Vantage close to the head of that class in P2 - this time it was the #96 car of Stuart Hall, Francesco Castellacci and Benny Simonsen pipping the #98 to the leading Aston Martin Am car honour.

So, what was all the fuss about?

Unfortunately it only took a handful of laps to become evident.

Despite a superb move by Turner in the #97 car to take the #91 Porsche and the #99 car to lead the class out of the first corner the two chasing Porsche 911 RSR's would soon be able to exercise their now superior performance as offered to them by the series technics panel post Le Mans and not only catch them all but pass the heavily defending Aston's with obvious ease before making their escape into the sunset with the silverware.

It transpired that the Porsche's and Ferrari's were all on differing strategies and set up's compared to the Aston's in qualifying and were all not necessarily able to pick up the mantle from where they left off in Free Practice during the twenty minute qualifying session thus allowing the V8 Vantages to pick up the metaphorical scraps.

Looking at the timing data available from the WEC the simple statement of fact remains -  that the Aston Martin Racing Vantage is still the slowest car on the track across the GTE Pro and Am class in Free Practice and race format in terms of maximum speed - they were in Nurburgring and probably will be in Fuji in three weeks time as well unless something changes.

So and not surprisingly the trophy cabinet at Aston Martin Racing didn't get any bigger again following the conclusion of Saturday's race in either class, the #99 lead the #95 and #97 home in the Pro class in a distant fourth.

What is difficult to understand is how the supposed balancing of performance carried out by the FIA can lead to such a exaggerated and opposing levels of performance across two marques. The Porsche's were at first lagging (artificially) behind the rest for the first three events of the year but now post Le Mans they have now been given a weight break that now sees them further out front than the Aston's ever were. The Aston's were in mitigation for their early form given a reduction in air restrictor size post Le Mans in an attempt to slow them down. This virtually strangles the life out of the V8 leaving a now visual difference between the performance of all GTE marques out of any slow corner and onto a long straight where the Ferrari and Porsche's simply cruise away.

Something obviously isn't right here and it harming the sport the very measures are designed to protect. With three rounds of the 2015 championship remaining surely the FIA needs to re-evaluate its restrictions and off set them so that the cars can race on a level track?

It would be sad to see the remnants of 2015 peter out into oblivion for Aston Martin Racing because of such a small (5mm) but very significant adjustment in performance imposed onto them. They already have much work to do to rekindle any chance of a championship success following their dreadful Le Mans experience - especially in GTE Am without the series inflicting further insult to injury in such a manner as no set up or driving manner can possibly compensate for!

But then they, like the others, now have a heavily revised 2016 variant that they need to get up an running ready for the Prologue in March so minds may already be moving to next year?

Only time will tell.

Photo credits - Aston Martin Racing

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes