Heads held high as AMR just miss out on N24 podium

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Aston Martin Racing took the opportunity of running in this years ADAC Zurich 24H event to intentionally take the toughest GT race in the world to the dominant German manufacturers as a farewell gesture to their old Vantage GT3 and GT4 platforms as a factory entered concern.

With the likes of Audi, Porsche and Mercedes out selling their own GT3 platforms at a rate of almost 10 to 1 against that of AMR (just 42 cars ever produced), the odds of doing so were stacked firmly against AMR's single bullet of doing well in the pinnacle SP9 class. Joining the factory GT3 effort were two further cars entered under the AMR Performance Centre umbrella that would see the remaining AMR factory drivers get seat time as well as a full customer entry in the coveted Vantage GT8.

Hopes were raised at an early stage of the weekends proceedings as the #007 qualified P5 overall ahead of the start on Saturday morning just a second off the pace of the very fast and race favourite Manthey Racing Porsche 911 RSR.

Starting yesterday afternoon under blue skies and warm sunshine things didn't exactly get off to a good start for Jonny Adam and the #40 V8 Vantage GT4 (running in SP8) as an electrical issue with the fuel pump would see his car grind to a halt out on the formation lap loosing them multiple places. For the #007 GT3 car, Maxime Martin would have the honour of taking the start for the team and would hold station in his first 8 lap stint before he handed over to Nicki Thiim - so far so good!

Trouble would again hit the #40 car just short of the four hour mark with it spending over an hour in the pit box having (of all things) a new starter motor fitted - an issue that AMR President David King would later explain to be an almost unique event with one of their race cars. The time spent in the garage would equate to almost a whole 8 lap stint on track and obviously would put pay to any ambitions that they would have in the SP8 class which was a great shame as Adam, Alex Lynn, Jamie Chadwick and Peter Cate who all deserved more.

The teams #39 Vantage GT8 customer programme entry of Heinz Jurgen Kroner, Jens Dralle, Tony Richards and David Thilenius would enjoy a less eventful start to the race than the SP8 stable mates to hold P6 in class as more drama would behold the #40 at the six hour mark with Cate this time stopping out on track.

"The ADAC Zurich 24H race is a real race of attrition" said Darren Turner "as long as you have pace, a large amount of luck with all your driver line up then you had a chance" after his second stint in the car as darkness was about to fall.

By one third race distance the #007 car had cycled through its race programme to be challenging the leading #911 Manthey Porsche for the lead - and that was through sheer pace and consistency! Again, AMR's David King came out with a priceless quote of "the #911 Porsche was having unbelievable luck - almost Wacky Races type of luck as it seemed to miss all Code 60's, yellow flags and traffic!"

He also intimated that this GT3 may well figure at next months Aston Martin Racing Festival at Le Mans - so this event may not have been its actual last factory supported event after all!

Into the early hours of Sunday saw the predicted thunder storms arrive with their usual Eifel Mountains ferocity with the sky being lit up with lightning and the track and campsites being washed out by heavy rainfall. If the Nordschleife is difficult enough in the dark it was being down right dangerous in those conditions as many entries would crash out before dawn.

Unfortunately, one of those 'victims' was the #39 Vantage GT8 with American David Thielenius behind the wheel, who suddenly found his car snapping itself into the barrier on the historic part of the track causing a race ending amount of damage and a visit to the medical centre for himself. He would be deemed to be sore but otherwise OK which was the main thing.

As dawn broke the state of the track became obvious, huge plumes of spray from each passing car would hang a large volume of water vapour in the air and as tree lined circuit, that spray had nowhere to go - trouble brewing for later?

Thiim was back in the #007 and for time went out on cut slicks as the track was seemingly drying (or just not raining so much) but even he was forced to pit again for the full wet Michelin tyre. With torrential rain still falling all around the track and with the worsening presence of water vapour hanging in the atmosphere the race was deemed unsafe by Trace Control and was red flagged with 3.5 hours of the race remaining - a wise and justified call considering!

With the rules allowing teams to work on their cars everything was being fettled by the AMR team aboard the #007 and #40 car just in case a restart was imminent and that eventually came with just over an hour remaining and that restart would be behind a Safety Car as conditions still weren't ideal.

Taking the restart in P4 overall, it would again be the responsibility of Maxime Martin to see out AMR's ambition of winning the Nurburgring 24H and with just under half an hour to go he would be holding P3 overall but sadly the team couldn't afford for the car to run dry and the necessary 'splash and dash' would see them rejoin and indeed finish the race in P4.

Aston Martin Racing may not have achieved their primary objective of winning the N24 but they surely won the hearts and minds of all who watched such a brilliant race and paid great homage to the final V12 GT3 in the pack before they look forward to the arrival of their new V8 turbo charged GT3 at the end of the year.

Bad luck and commiserations to all of the team, all of the drivers and everyone else who put something into this - including the fans both at the track and on social media who helped to make this dream nearly come a reality. The #007 did of course win its specific SP9 LG (last generation) class with its P4 overall finish with the #40 car also ending up P4 in class after their early issues.

As a team, the momentum that they have gained from such great event this weekend can only serve them in good stead as they now look forward to Le Mans in just four weeks time.

Well done all!

Photo credits - AMR / N24

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