Early promise gets lost in time for AMR at Fuji

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

With the new turbo charged Vantage GTE entering only its fourth event of the 2018-19 World Endurance Championship on the back of their best result to date, Aston Martin Racing would have been hoping that they had 'cracked it' as soon as Marco Sorenson crossed the line to claim GTE Pro pole position on Saturday.

Free Practice sessions at previous races had sometimes left us feeling quietly confident of the cars performance only for that to be quashed with Qualifying performances of another level from the more established Fords, Ferrari's and Porsche's but when the #95 car claimed pole and its sister #97 claimed another second row start anything suddenly became possible.

With the track getting a good soaking in the build up to the start, the race would start from behind the Safety Car to allow the drivers to adjust to the conditions on track - the worst that they had been over the entire weekend so far. Thiim and Lynn would start the #95 and #97 cars respectively and would run almost line astern during the opening stages of the race again proving that that qualifying performances were no fluke and that the car had true pace even in the wet and considering its small amount of wet weather running so far in its career.

At the hour mark a very sizeable blowout for the MR Racing Ferrari left a large debris field spread along the start straight forcing an immediate Safety Car period that would force the closure of the pit lane just as the GTE would need to come in. Once the pit lane did become available it produced the conundrum of whether to stick with wets or go for slicks despite the still greasy track.

With an LMP1 spinning off the track into the barrier having just swapped to slicks, the team elected to pit both the class leading #95 and second placed #97 and sent them both back on their ways still on wets - a bold decision that would soon come back to bite as the rain stopped, lap times dropped forcing both GTE Pro cars back into pit lane under green running conditions for new tyres. That dropped both cars to the rear of their class with still over four hours remaining.

The trouble with such a competitive class that was split by little over a second in Qualifying, is that any mistake/error/misjudgement in execution being hugely costly and difficult to recover on track. Despite the continued best efforts of the team and drivers the time lost on that additional stop was impossible to make up  and their cyclic rise and fall in the timing screen only down to others pitting ahead of them.

By the time of the end of the race the Dane Train had raised themselves up to P6 in class but a lap down to the winning Porsche whilst the #97 Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn car remained the last of the GTE Pro runners.

From the reaction of some of the drivers after the race it was clear that they saw Fuji as something of a missed opportunity as their frustration and disappointment was clear. Despite the obvious disappointment of what may have been in some trying conditions and situations at Fuji, that reaction of the drivers is something we see as encouraging as the car and team have clearly hit a progressive curve of improvement with their new car.

Aston Martin Racing Managing Director John Gaw said: “This weekend in Japan we’ve demonstrated that we can we mix it with the best of the manufacturers in qualifying and to see the car on pole position was encouraging. We have also seen that the car has class-leading pace across a stint in wet and intermediate conditions. We still have work to do in dry conditions across a full stint. We have taken more data from this weekend to go back and analyse fully to find out how we close the gap in these conditions.”
After a brief rest bite at home, the team will travel back east for the final round of 2018 in Shanghai, China in a months time where they will be looking knit together the car's Qualifying, reliability and new found pace into something that will be the car's first WEC race win!

Lets hope so!!

Photo credit - AMR / WEC
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