TF Sport overcomes adverse conditions to finish on ELMS debut

Monday, October 19, 2015

A battle scarred TF Sport overcame adverse weather to finish fifth in class during its maiden European Le Mans Series (ELMS) outing at Circuito do Estoril in Portugal (17-18 October).

Strong winds and downpours lashed the Estoril track on Saturday morning and the organisers were forced to cut the first of two ELMS free practice sessions short as cars span and debris was blown onto the track.

As a result, the entire field was placed on the back foot and the reduction in track time was particularly costly for two of TF Sport’s three drivers, Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey, who arrived in Portugal with no prior experience of the former Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit.

Mercifully, the high winds and heavy rain subsided for FP2. Richie Stanaway, who has tested in Estoril twice before, spent most of the session on the sidelines to give Yoluc and Hankey as much seat time as possible during the build-up to qualifying and the main event – the 4 Hours of Estoril – on Sunday (18 October).

However, ‘Kwik Kiwi’ Stanaway was elected to qualify the #77 entry and recorded the fourth fastest time – 1m53.180s – but it was up to Hankey to start the race later in the day and the London-domiciled driver did a storming job to head the class midway through his stint while being lapped by the overall leaders from the headlining LMP2 division.

Hankey found himself in among the main GTE and LMP3 battles, some three places ahead of his nearest GTC rival, AF Corse’s Giorgio Roda, approaching the first driver-change, when he handed the reins of the TF Sport-prepared Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 to teammate, Yoluc.

The Turkish driver immediately found himself in the thick of a three-way fight for top honours in GTC with the TDS Racing BMW Z4 in the hands of Dino Lunardi and Roda’s Ferrari and he made good use of traffic to put up a valiant defence, but ultimately lost track position prior to two short, sharp downpours.

TF Sport reacted quickly to the change in climactic conditions, switching to Dunlop’s intermediate tyre, but there were two costly delays when Yoluc span on the slick surface and collided with the wall, before receiving a stop/go penalty for crossing the blend line at pit exit.

Carrying severe cosmetic and aerodynamic damage, TF Sport was relatively down on pace. Yoluc gave way to Aston Martin Racing factory driver, Stanaway, but Hankey returned to the fray for the final 35 minutes and the Englishman was relieved to bring the ailing V12 Vantage home fifth in class.

“It was our first time in the European Le Mans Series and we didn’t really know what to expect, but, on the whole, it has been a very positive experience,” said Hankey. “Circuito do Estoril was completely new to me and Salih (Yoluc) and a few unfortunate mistakes cost us time and track position, but that’s how you learn.

“We saw how quick the TF Sport Aston Martin, Salih, Richie (Stanaway) and I were in the dry, but we have to perform in the sort of changeable conditions we experienced this weekend. It was very tough with the weather and we were carrying splitter damage at the end, so the front wheels and windscreen were vibrating terribly and it was quite difficult to control the front end. It’s important that we take this experience and learn from it – I certainly have.”

Source material - TF Sport
Photo credits - Adrenal Media/ELMS
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