Bitter sweat outcome for AMR at Spa spectacle

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Starting todays race under continuing clear blue skies and increasing temperatures Aston Martin Racing knew that they would have a battle royale on their hands if they were to have any chance of securing decent championship points. The pace of the two new Ferrari 488's remained incredible and despite the positive break in BoP (30kg weight reduction) awarded to the team prior to the event the chase would certainly be on.

With the two Ferrari's locking out the front row of GTE Pro in qualifying it would be down to Kiwi Richie Stanaway to head the AMR charge from P3 on the grid with Marco Sorensen starting from behind the two ever improving Ford GT's in sixth. In GTE Am the #98 with Pedro Lamy would lead that class from the start.

With a track temperature of 45deg C and raising the 34 car field would complete two formation laps behind the safety car before being unleashed into the ever tightening La Source first corner where a spinning LMP2 car was narrowly avoided by the chasing GTE field. By the end of only the second flying lap the two Ferrari's had already developed a clear lead from the remaining cars in their class with over a 5 second gap back to the #97 Stanaway Vantage.

It was clearly going to be a long day for the chasing Astons, Fords and Porsches at that rate!

Having lost its class lead at the first corner because of the avoiding action necessary for the Manor P2 car Lamy was also already several seconds down to the class leading #83 AF Corse Ferrari before the Ferrari managed to tangle and spin out harmlessly with the #67 Ford GT at Les Combs only for Lamy to retake the lead!

At the top of the hour the expected first round of GTE pit stops began - the #97 Stanaway car was first in and he swapped with Jonny Adam for his first WEC race of the year after a full service. Just behind, Sorensen swapped with Nicki Thiim in the #95 Dane Train and Paul Dalla Lana in for Lamy in the #98 car respectively. Following that stop all three AMR cars were apparently reported to Race Control for allegedly speeding in the pit lane but fortunately the team was able to prove a technical fault on the equipment belonging to the FIA and as such no penalties were awarded.

Drama struck the AMR team coming to the end of their lap 40 with an over impatient Simon Dolan in his #38 G-Drive Racing Gibson forcing his way onto the inside of a committed Thiim coming out of Stavelot and into Courbe Paul Frere, making contact with the #95 car that forced it into a spin and backwards (fortunately) into the tyre wall with one complete roll over to land again in a smouldering heap on all four wheels. With marshals quickly in attendance Thiim was able to extract himself from the remants of his car and walk off circuit unaided. It was a close call but again proved the new for 2016 safety features that were applied to these cars over the winter. Indeed, a  few more metres around the corner the resulting spin out would have had no significant consequence other than the loss in time!

The #95 was out of the race after only 1hour 40 minutes and due to the location of the incident the race's first Full Course Yellow was issued whilst the debris was cleared and tyre wall repaired.

Come the next round of pit stops towards the top of the second hour a pivotable moment occurred for their then third placed #97 car. Delaying the cars pit stop during the FCY inadvertently allowed most of the GTE Pro field to 'pass it' in the pit lane when it did eventually make its stop which by then was under green flag running. That left Fernando Rees back in P5 and struggling to make any headway to either of the two Ford's ahead of him - the good work of Stanaway had been lost!

Way ahead of the bulk of the GT field the #51 and #71 AF Corse Ferrari's were still pounding in laps at least 1.5 seconds faster than the chasing pack - with the big question being whether the chasing packs pace was by design or the best that they could do? The biggest fear for all the teams was a negative BoP adjustment in time for Le Mans just 40 days away!

At the four hour marker both of the Ferrari's were able to make their full service stops without loosing track position to those who had yet to do so such was their dominance in the race. For only the second time in the race the #98 relinquished the GTE Am race lead, again to the #83 Ferrari but that would only last until that car pitted a few laps later such was the dominance of the #98 AMR in that class!

At the top of the final hour of the race former AMR racer Stefan Mucke suffered a mechanical incident coming out of Eau Rouge and into Raidillon that ripped his ailing Ford GT apart across the brow of the hill and was luckily narrowly avoided being hit by at least two cars behind him. Again, due to the location of the incident a Safety Car was effected so that the driver and wreckage could be safely cleared. After the incident the Chip Ganassi team confirmed that Mucke received no significant injuries but would be assessed at the local hospital.

On one hand this Safety Car period benefitted Stanaway in the chasing #97 who was at least able to close the gap to the remaining Ford ahead of him but on the other hand it also allowed the other Am cars to close up on the back of class leader Pedro Lamy in the #98 so the final half hour of the race could have been decisive either way.

If this race hadn't been barmy enough with the trials and tribulations of the leading LMP cars, the final ten minutes of the race saw the two domineering Ferrari's being allowed to race with each other for the win - a risky business considering the possibility of any race ending contact.

Then came the final twist of fate for others that would positively benefit the AMR team. During this strictly unnecessary 'racing' from the Ferrari's the #51 James Calado 488 unexpectedly entered the pits to be trolleyed back into the garage with apparent terminal engine/powertrain failure with only nine minutes left on the clock! Obviously gut raunching for him but that promoted the #97 car back onto the podium position for the first time since the start of the race just behind the #67 Ford come the chequered flag.

The result of this race proved many things - the Ferrari's were still really quick and there remains a question a bouts their BoP status but there's no point being the quickest if you don't have reliability. It also proved that as long as you can keep yourself in contention there is always the possibility of a result and for the second time this season an AMR car has benefited from the failing of another ahead of them to gain a valuable podium position!

Additionally, this race clearly proves that if anyone had any doubt the #98 driver line up are only in it to win it this year with their second podium finish of the year to lead the GTE Am class from Ferrari by virtue of their pole position bonus point.

Over in GTE Pro class however the race non finishes by each of the #97 and #95 cars over the opening two races sees them tied in fifth place in the championship with 15 points which is a long way behind the championship leading #71 AF Corse who now have 52 points.

The WEC circus now prepares itself for the third round of the 2016 season with the 24Hours of Le Mans over the 18-19th June with the single day test two weeks before on the 5th June. The double championship points that are available at Le Mans WILL shape the balance of the remainder of the 2016 season - only time will see if that is in a positive or negative light fro TeamAMR.

Photo credits - AMR / Adrenal Media

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