Fuji - one to forget for Aston Martin Racing

Monday, October 16, 2017

It wouldn't be far wrong to suggest that the best things to come out of the 6 hours of Fuji as far as Aston Martin Racing were concerned would be just a cracking set of photographs for the family album!

Having arrived at the Fuji Speedway already as rank outsiders to retain their GTE Pro titles, the void between their venerable V8 Vantage and the newer Ferrari's, Porsche's and Ford's with their superior Michelin full wet tyres was all too evident again as the six other cars within the GTE Pro all left the #95 and #97 cars languishing at the foot of the Free Practice sessions timings screen.

With each of the Free Practice sessions being wet, a wet Qualifying going into an expected very wet race wasn't looking very good for the team already suffering from grip and traction problems and it came as no real surprise to see their two Pro cars qualifying in P6 and P8 - split only by the #71 Ferrari who had issues of their own on track.

Over in Am class, the performance of the team's championship leading #98 car wasn't fairing much better either with the usually reliable trio of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla-Lana and Mathias Lauda all struggling to keep up with their own advisories in class, but would at least be starting the race mid way in their group.

Sunday was again a very wet affair with the opening 15 minutes of the race spent behind the Safety Car. Early radio traffic from some of the drivers in the GT pack commented on the poor visibility available to them even at those lower speeds - comments clearly earmarked for Race Control.

With all having had to hold station behind the Safety Car, such were the handling issues for the AMR's that the Pro cars quickly found themselves amongst and being passed by the leading trio of Am cars - notably the two Ferrari 488's and by the end of the first half hour of racing they were down to P7 and P8.

With a near zero wind speed, all the moisture being catapulted into the amphitheatre of the Fuji circuit left a lingering cloud/fog base leading to significant visibility issues going into T1. Indeed, after just 40 minutes of racing Race Control effected an elongated Yellow zone for most of Sector 1

Unfortunately for the race that proved insufficient and that track restriction was soon escalated into a full Safety Car period for the next thirty minutes before the race was then suspended under a red flag with 4hours 40mins still to go. With the race clock still running a further half an hour of race time would be lost to the enforced break.

Once the race resumed the pain simply continued for the team in green despite all of their best efforts, on track and within the garages. Race positions were interchanged with other but they were mainly due to the other team's pit sequence of penalty serving requirements - Fuji was going to be a long day at the WEC office.

Thirty minutes after the restart came the second and a quick third Safety Car period all due to visibility issues ion track and they would last for another 50 minutes or so with slow zones restrictions in force afterwards. A sizeable crash for an LMP2 car after the restart was only narrowly avoided by the #95 with blinded #98 finding itself travelling through the debris field before a fourth Safety Car was brought out to deal with the consequences of that.

Some track shenanigans between the #67 Ford and #92 Porsche started with a spinning 911 RSR before the #67 went on to spear itself into the barrier under braking at T1 leading to a FCY to recover the stricken car.

With just over 100 minutes of racing time remaining, the first and final point of racing note for AMR came as Thiim was having a 'decent looking' scrap with the #71 Ferrari for position - albeit for P6 however the writing was already on the wall for the race as Safety Car no 5 was again deployed because of the poor visibility.

As the race clock struck 1:29:00 to go the second red flag of the race was served and although Race Control spent the remaining time trying to get the race restarted the race was finally abandoned with 15 minutes left.

The results from Fuji have lost the #95 any chance of retaining their 2016 titles and more importantly cost the #98 the lead of the Am Championship with two races to go with the penultimate round of the WEC coming from Shanghai in just over two weeks time. With the race also being declared wet there is little chance of any positive BoP adjustments being made prior to Shanghai.

For the Pro guys, it sounds like its back to Spain for some more testing with their new for 2018 GTE with full emphasis looking ahead to next season whilst the #98 Am side of the team look for improvements at another race venue that maybe wet.

Photo credits - AMR

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