Positive early start for AMR's new Vantage GTE

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The best part of two years worth of work came to a head last weekend as Aston Martin Racing launched their new V8 turbo powered Vantage GTE onto the racing scene for the opening round of the 2018-19 World Endurance Championship at Spa Francorchamps.

Having only tested their new stead at the same circuit as some of their GTE Pro class rivals over the cars developmental period, Spa was to be the ultimate decider as to whether their collective works had paid off - and although it was never being slated as an instant race winner the car has definitely turned out to be a winner in the making!

Back in early March and our visit to the Prodrive factory, team principle Paul Howarth was saying that whilst a podium would have been a distant dream, he simply wanted the car and team to be 'in the mix' giving itself a good race performance from a race craft and technical point of view.

Indeed, that was a viewpoint also shared by John Gaw as he chatted with us in the AMR garage as the team prepared their two new Pro cars for the final Free Practice session and Qualifying last Friday. "No mistakes!" he proclaimed "none from the drivers, none for the crew and none from the team" was his answer to our acceptable race conclusion question.

Like probably most of the teams along pit row, Aston Martin Racing were struggling with optimum set up with their own confidential Michelin tyres - too hard, too soft - just struggling to get the right balance on the car in only their second full squad outing on the new tyres after since their first time out on them at the Prologue last month.

From first glances, the teams times during first Free Practice appeared somewhat alarmingly slow compared but in hindsight, their own set up programme of works is something that AMR have always done on their own and regardless of what other are doing around them in class. Even to a point at the end of the final Free Practice session we still had no idea of where the new AMR's performance actually sat as others were clearly not really pushing the envelope! Sand was again a word being used widely!!

Qualifying was more realistic as Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim drove the #95 car whilst newcomers Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin would drive the #97 car and from their two flying laps each the cars qualified and would be starting the race from P8 and P10 respectively.

From a spectator point of view, both cars looked extremely stable on track whilst others danced about (particularly through Eau Rouge) which must have been encouraging for both drivers and technicians alike whereas its exhaust note certainly is no throbbing V8 but we'll have get used to (eventually)!

For the duration of the 6Hr event, neither AMR Pro car was able to threaten the pace of the more established runners as both the Ford's and Porsche's ran faster than they did last year but whilst eachh of the other OEM's had raced their new car previously the differences between them and the AMR per lap was minimal. Most importantly for the team however, was the faultless running of their new package together with the acquisition of more important data as the team now looks fully towards the trials and tribulations of Le Mans in just under six weeks time.

The drivers and team come away from Spa surely disappointed that they couldn't have done more to finish in a higher position but definitely satisfied that they will soon be on the right path once more performance and durability has been established within the car.

“As with any new endurance racing car, durability is the first thing to get right,” said Darren Turner after the race. “That’s what our focus has been in testing so it was great to finally go up against our competition and go racing with the new car.” 

Paul Howarth, Team Principal, summed up: “This weekend was all about executing and we brought home all our cars in point-scoring positions and secured a classic victory in the GTE Am class. The drivers delivered the maximum performance and we delivered on the potential available from the package we came here with. 14-points is a good haul from this brand new car. The GTE Am victory was exciting and it was great to see that two Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTEs finished a lap ahead of the competition.”

Whilst the drivers continue to develop their own abilities in series like British GT and at the N24 this weekend, the two Pro cars will now be stripped down and examined in detail ahead of the Le Mans Test day in a couple of weeks.
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