Another significant early milestone for the new Vantage at the Gulf 12Hr

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Literally competing fresh from the Prodrive factory, the first batch of new customer 2019 specification V8 Vantage GT3's all completed the split running format that is the Gulf 12Hours event from Abu Dhabi to secure another 'first' for the new car and narrowly miss out on another.

Saturday's Qualifying had placed high hopes with the smaller, factory supported Vantage GT4 after its four driver line up, featuring age and experience together with youth and exuberance placed that car on class pole in its first ever competitive run out.

Disappointment for those associated with that car was to set in however and as early as the end of the first racing lap on Saturday when side by side contact with another GT4 forced Mark Farmer to drive another full lap with obvious front offside steering damage. Superbly rescuing the car back to the garage without inflicting any further significant damage to the car the team, together with the keen assistance of others under the AMR Customer umbrella, went to work to repair the damage. 

Despite their later achievements to this fact, their competitiveness within the race had  already expired for the GT4 car and its crew being over twenty laps down to the then class leader even at that early stage to the proceedings. For the remaining time at the event it was all about much knowledge, experience and data could be gained by the drivers and team - a sad consequence for a car/driver combination that was so strong!

For the three new GT3 cars being run by R-Motorsport, Beechdean AMR and Oman Racing by TF Sport, all was not without incident as both Pro class Oman Racing and R-Motorsport cars seemed to experience an identical fuel pump cut out issue as each went to leave pit lane after their first pit stop having been running P3 and P6 respectively at the time.

Fortunately the respective drivers successfully completed a systems reset to get the cars going again - invaluable data and information for the teams as all already look forward to a very busy 2019 season although both cars lost over thirty seconds to it.

In GT3 Pro-Am, the sister Beechdean AMR car had no apparent fuel pump problems to hinder its pit stop/driver programme through to run as high as P2 in class and P7 overall by the end of the fourth hour of the first half of the event. For the first time out in a new car and then with two new drivers within the team (in Chris Dyson and Humaid Al Masoon joining Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn) that alone this was some progress that should be applauded.

Gunn was also one of the fastest drivers out on track at the time as well!!

Unfortunately for all, the R-Motorsport car experienced further technical 'issues' that would see it confined to the garage for enough time to drop it down nineteen laps to the then leader by the end of the first half -  a gap that was always going to be too big to recover without serious misfortune striking those ahead in class. 

At the break the #97 Oman Car featured P4 overall and just one lap down to the then leader and the Beechdean AMR a similar distance behind but P3 in class.

Now racing in the dusk and then under the floodlights of the circuit, podiums were fully within the sights of both the Oman Racing by TF Sport and Beechdean AMR cars whilst for the R-Motorsport and Vantage GT4 crew it was still about recovery with the beautiful grey liveried car of Jake Dennis, Marvin Kirchhofer and Ricky Collard at least moving up there timing screen as time passed.

The Vantage GT4 would soon see itself back within the AMR garage with an issue to the opposite front quarter that was hit way back at the start of the race. Looking like the situation had defeated them, the crew suddenly came up trumps to get the car back out on circuit - more great teamwork and more great data for the engineers back at Aston Martin and Prodrive ahead of the final homologation process for both GT3 and GT4 cars in March 2019.

Going into the final hour of the 2018 Gulf 12Hour race became a real 'fight to the flag' for Jonny Adam and finally Darren Turner as these works drivers looked for a final push that would elevate them and Ahmad Al Harthy onto the overall podium. 

For them, it was not to be with the #97 finally finishing 39 seconds down to the third placed Audi - still a very credible finishing for what was a brand new car and with a driver who had previously been racing in Europe as a Silver grade!

The next progressive step in the relatively short life span of the new 2019 Vantage car came with Beechdean AMR securing the final step of the GT3 Pro-Am podium with their #97 car - the first podium position for the new customer GT3 car! 

Many congratulations to them all.

This Gulf 12Hours concludes all final track action for Aston Martin Racing and its customer teams for year with focus already fully on emerging programmes around the world in 2019 aboard the plethora of Vantage GT3 and Vantage GT4 that are presently on order from the Prodrive factory.

Whats next? - well if you haven't already noticed, a certain British GT Champion and Le Mans winner is due to get married at the end of the year so we will be toasting Jonny and Rachel's big day nearer the time. The next competitive track action is down under at Bathurst in early February 2019.

Happy holidays.

Photo credits - AMR / Gulf 12Hr / Social media

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