Time passsing galleries - Part 11 AMR dominate ACO rules racing

Saturday, May 16, 2020

2016 became something of a new dawn for Aston Martin Racing with a change in ACO/FIA technical regulation allowing for their venerable normally aspirated V8 Vantage GTE to be given a new lease of life against some much newer machinery as well as changes in technical partners and driver strategies.

Apart from the colours of Valero coming back for the opening round of the 2016 World Endurance Championship, the three other factory supported cars would run in the teams new darker Sterling Green and lime colour scheme. The #97 Valero car would again run with just two drivers Richie Stanaway and Fernando Rees whilst Jonny Adam would at least join them again for just Le Mans. With Stefan Mucke now with the Ford GT programme, that left Darren Turner to make up the trio of drivers with Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim aboard the #95 Dane Train whilst Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy would all come to together again aboard the #98 GTE Am entry.

Meanwhile, Andrew Howard's Beechdean Motorsport team would sign up for a full season of the European Le Mans Series with his older iteration of the normally aspirated V8 Vantage GTE with co-drivers Alex MacDowall and Darren Turner. For their season opener at Silverstone, they would be joined by the RoFGo Vantage GTE of Roald Goethe, Stuart Hall and Richie Stanaway.

Indeed, it was that race that produced the most race and post race excitement as originally both AMR's finished P2 and P3 respectively - both behind the JMW Ferrari before post race penalties took effect and the #99 Beechdean car was elevated for a race win whilst the #96 RoFGo car retained their third place despite receiving a time penalty themselves.

Using that momentum, the #99 crew then went on to secure the overall ELMS GTE crown at the first time of asking after also winning the final round of the season at Estoril. They would also enter their Vantage GTE at this years Le Mans 24Hour with new drivers Gary Hirsch and Liam Griffin driving alongside team boss Howard.

2016 became a year when the term 'balance of performance' really took a meaning in ACO GTE rules racing as the brand new Ford GT and the new Ferrari 488 became dominant forces from the word go, despite that the #95 still managed to finish on the podium at Silverstone and it would be the 'yo-yo' effect of these Bop changes that would became pivotable later in the season.

After the shenanigans at Le Mans with multiple pre-event and post Qualifying adjustments in BoP, together with the unsurprising GTE win for the new Ford GT in their anniversary year, AMR went away looking for rewards in the longer game in both classes that resulted in the #95 car of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen rightfully claiming the GTE Pro Drivers Championship after their win in Bahrain at the end of the season.

The same may have true in GTE Am for the #98 but despite five class wins and a P2, their technical DNF at Le Mans was again sadly enough for that trio to lose out on that overall crown again.

The last few days have seen more positive news coming through of national Governments and race series alike in regards to the relaxing of control measures imposed as a result of the Corona-virus pandemic. In some parts of Europe race testing has just begun again so (very much with fingers crossed) that relaxation of these measures will become more widespread around the world - all soon enough to allow some sort of race season to be had in what is left of 2020.

In the meantime, keep safe - be sensible and hygienic and just maybe that point in time will come soon enough. As with all of these gallery posts, we dedicate them to the hard work of not just the health services around the world but also the efforts of the other 'key workers' in keeping everything ticking over ready for the rest of us to pick up and push on with.

'Twas a good year!!

Keep safe

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