More podium joy for AMR runners after defiant display in WEC at CoTA

Monday, February 24, 2020

Ending the 2019 half of the 2019-20 World Endurance Championship season on something of a high after the eight hours of Bahrain in mid December, Aston Martin Racing and their Partner team replicated that feat with another three cars out of four featuring on the two GTE class podiums after the 6hours of the Lone Star Le Mans in Austin, Texas today.

Featuring a full six hours of racing and two practice sessions and qualifying all crammed into just two days of track action rather than the customary three, the two AMR Vantage GTE Pro and two AMR Vantage GTE Am cars pulled out all the stops to give themselves the best possible start to Sundays race at the end of Saturday evenings Qualifying session.

Being the fastest Pro class car in either Free Practice period, it was the #95 car of Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim who claimed the class pole with a new record lap time of 2:00:733 with the #97 Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn car not too far behind time wise in P3.

In GTE Am, the #98 factory prepared of a returning Paul Dalla Lana and Ross Gunn considered themselves as being unfortunate in replicating that of the #95 car - missing out on that class pole by just 0.046th of a second to the #56 Project 1 Porsche whilst the #90 TF Sport car of Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood benefitted from a change of mind by Race Control after Eastwood had two lap times deleted for apparent exceeding of track limits at the final corner. That change of mind lifted the red #90 up from P7 to P3 for the start.

Starting under a cloud covered sky and a stronger wind than yesterdays Free Practice and Qualifying sessions, it didn't take Lynn the length off the start straight to pass the #92 Porsche ahead of him to form a 1-2 with Thiim in front as the GT cars turned left at the first corner of lap 1.

With all cars being again advised to keep off the circuits large 'sausage kerbs' the 1-2 in GTE Pro and the 2-3 in GTE Am were the positions they ran in until after the first fifteen minutes of racing when Yoluc passed Dalla Lana for P2. With the #56 Porsche stretching their lead every lap the two Am class Astons worked seemingly together to close the gap despite their obvious squabbling on track - squabbling that would eventually see Yoluc spin out (and rejoin) as side by side contact was made with Dalla Lana as he passed him back for position.

Tyre strategy would again become key to their eventual success with the two Pro cars switching between full new sets and left hand side tyres only depending upon off the stop was a driver change or not. In Am, the increased tyre allocation would mean that double stinting was not required as often.

With the track positions of each car fluctuating as they and their class competitors pitted, it didn't take long for the relative track position to return of both Pro Astons leading in that class and both the #98 and #90 Am class Astons slowly but surely catching the #56 Porsche in P2 and P3.

A scare was to come to the #98 car just before Dalla Lana called time on his double driving stint as a pressing TF Sport car behind made him miss his braking point to rear end an LMP2 car - no serious damage caused to either vehicles and nobody lost track position as a result.

Seeing the TF Sport mechanics display a "get well soon Jason" card on the grid earlier, the truth of the situation was to come out just after their second stop of the race as driver Charlie Eastwood later confirmed that he deputised as a driver change mechanic as Jonny Adam swapped out with bronze driver Yoluc with their usual crew member remaining back at their hotel somewhat 'under the weather'.

All Aston cars bar the #98 conducted a double driver stint within their respective cars - the exception being that Gunn and Darren Turner who both did a single stint each before Gunn returned to the car for a double to the end. Such was the pace within the Am class that Gunn confirmed a 'flat out' race strategy against their stablemates.

The status quo with the Am class was finally broken after Adam piled in quick lap after quick lap to chip slowly but surely away of the lead of the Project 1 Porsche just before the end of the fourth hour of racing with Turner doing the same just a few laps later.

Symmetry was eventually broken on lap 123 when Thiim retuned to the track after a full service stop followed by the #92 Porsche but Lynn wasn't able to make up the time deficit to the Porsche to leap frog it whilst it was in pit lane to retain P2 in class.

Exciting all the way without significant incident or accident for nearly four hours of racing, the first elongated period of waved yellow cam when the #91 Porsche stopped out on track with a gearbox/electrical issue but fortunately for all, the car was soon able to resume without the need for a Full Course Yellow.

Going into the final hour of the race at the Circuit of the Americas saw Thiim maintain his GTE Pro lead by a now reduced distance of four seconds to the #92 Porsche but Lynn had by then been caught by a stealthy resurgence from the #51 Ferrari of James Collardo for him to drop the once P2 running Pro Aston car down to P4. Behind, Eastwood and Gunn were also going at it hammer and tongs as the two silver drivers drivers jockeyed for the lead of the class much to the amusement and satisfaction of AMR team boss John Gaw!

All fuelled and tyred to the end, it was simply the case of keeping it clean, smooth and on the tarmac with Eastwood getting his car's lead back with a similar manoeuvre on Gunn as tried by Yoluc (without success with the resulting spin) on Dalla Lana much earlier in the race. This time the move stuck and TF Sport regained the class lead again.

As ambient light began to fade in the early Texas evening, the final laps passed by (fortunately) without incident for any of the four Aston Martin Racing runners.

Thiim would bring the #95 Dane Train car home for their second consecutive class win in the WEC to reinforce their Championship lead they brought with them whilst (although unlucky for the #97 car not to figure within these celebrations) saw a double GTE Am celebration for TF Sport and AMR as the #90 car of Eastwood took the chequered flag and their third win of the season just over three seconds ahead of Gunn in second.

Great stuff - well done all. Yes Mr King - you all deserved that today!!!!

Next stop - Sebring!!

Photo credits - AMR / TF Sport

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