Academy's Matt Cowley takes a quick look back over his GT season so far

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sadly, as one of just eight Aston Martin drivers making their way over to Zandvoort in The Netherlands for this weekends penultimate round of the GT4 European Series, Academy Motorsport's Matt Cowley takes a quick look back into his season racing in GT's for the first time and the difficulties that that has presented.

Having made the transition from an American based series single seater formula last year to be accepted into the new Aston Martin Racing Drivers Academy and race an example of the factory's latest V8 turbo charged Vantage GT4, all has not necessarily been easy for the 21 year old engineering student from Manchester.

"Until the start of this season my racing career so far has been in single seaters; smaller, lighter, more agile and only me to be in the seat behind the wheel.

2019 has been a big change in more ways than one. New circuits, a new and a different size of the car, the way to drive it and of course the sharing of the seat. The Aston Martin Vantage is a great car to drive and the team (Academy Motorsport) and others feel that I have got to grips with it quite quickly, showing the consistently quick pace that can be achieved.

It’s unfortunate that that pace hasn’t been translated into solid results on the track so far.

At Brands Hatch we were running P1 in qualifying on a drying track, ending up P9 with a compromised flying final lap. With my handover from a P6 on track from where we should have had some good points in race 1, an unfortunate spin and a track limits drive through penalty for my co driver pushed us further down the order. In Race 2 there was unavoidable contact so I had to take over and drive a difficult handling car.

Paul Ricard was similar to Brands Hatch, a compromised flying lap put us P10. Fighting from the start to P6 only to be taken off by a car coming back on the track in an unsafe manner and whilst they were penalised, it meant we retired the car with a great opportunity in front of us. A mechanical failure three laps from the end in Race 2 gave us another DNF to compound the earlier disappointment.

Misano was literally a non-starter for us due to mechanical issues that prevented us from even qualifying. Whilst the team worked harder than could ever be expected of them in a hopeful attempt to get me and Will (Moore) back on track, it was all sadly not to be.

Racing against other marques is fun. Balance of Performance (BoP) is used to help equalise the grid to provide closer racing, which works to some extent but it will always be a difficult judgement to get right all of the time. However, if you keep your head down, stay away from how it works and do what you need to do with getting the car to handle well and drive it at your very best then anything could happen by the chequered flag - no different to driving any other car or doing other things in your life, being the best you can be.

The other change from my single seat days is sharing the car. This gives me a different view on driving. If I made an error in my single seater days it firstly affected me on the track and then the team. Now any error affects the position I hand the car over to my team mate (or vice versa) and the overall results for the team. This doesn’t affect my driving too much as you still need to push for places, driving consistently whilst conserving the tyres, avoiding contact and penalties and bringing the car home for the changeover to Will.

Driving an Aston Martin in a fantastic European series is an amazing experience. It gives me greater opportunities to increase the exposure of the charities I support and to be involved with promoting the Aston Martin brand through my personal connections with dealerships in the UK and USA. I would love to make good use of my P1 visa to have the opportunity return to the USA and race the Vantage on the iconic circuits I have been successful on.

Are we where we thought we would be at the start of the season? - we are are no where near it but bring on Zandvoort where luck will hopefully smile on us!"

Four races remain ahead of the end of the GT4 European Series - two at Zandvoort and two at the Nurburgring. Being part of the AMR Academy that earns all drivers listed under the programme to have access to junior factory drivers like Charlie Eastwood and Andrew Watson (et al) to refer to at the racetrack. Sometimes actual results are not the sole method of deciding who has talent and who does not as, by its very nature, GT racing relies heavily upon the fortune on and off track of many within the team.

What we hope for is that Matt (with Will and the team) finally get their just reward for their ongoing effort and persistence, get some good results at the last two rounds and be able to get the necessary financial package together off the back of these to earn themselves a return to GT racing next season.

The two Academy AMR Vantage GT4 cars shall complete alongside the two cars from Belgium team Street Art Racing.

Photo credits - GT4 European / Academy / M Cowley

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