Last minute disappointment in ELMS for Aston Martin Racing

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Success in most things can be measured in many ways and that's the same in motor racing as Aston Martin Racing came away on track empty handed from the opening round of the European Le Mans Series at the Circuit Paul Ricard is southern France today.

Having had their new Gold rated driver Ross Gunn qualify their #98 AMR Vantage GTE at the front row of the GTE grid yesterday having missed out on Pole by just fractions of one second, the race start was left to Gentleman driver Paul Dalla Lana ahead of todays four hour race.

This time under partly cloudy skies but still with a higher track temperature, the Canadian found himself quickly being mugged by the plethora of Ferrari 488 GTE's that make up the majority of the full season GTE entry this year on the opening lap to drop back to P5 in class before heavy traffic at the final corner of the opening lap caught him out allowing the front corner of his car to strike and damage the rear of an LMP3 car.

That incident was immediately placed under investigation by Race Control and just a few laps later the car would be served with a drive through penalty for causing a collision. Their race then went from bad to worse on the in-lap to serve that penalty when Dalla Lana drifted wide and onto the marbles that already existing off the racing line even at that stage of the race to spin out off onto the infield but thankfully undamaged before continuing a few seconds later.

Both the spin and the drive through dropped the #98 to plumb last in class and it would then always be an uphill battle to salvage anything from the race but then, they were only there as a training exercise for the resumption of their World Endurance Championship duties later next month in the first place so any decent finish would just be a bonus!!

Then, their predicament was helped by the misfortune of two cars ahead as first a Proton Porsche got spooked by a passing LMP2 car to spin off into the tyre wall before a more serious looking incident with another LMP2 car saw the then race leading Spirit of Race Ferrari collected into another tyre wall and into immediate retirement. Fortunately neither drivers were injured beyond that of their pride.

Dalla Lana would also undertake a double stint aboard his #98 car, driving for nearly two hours before he finally passed the car to former WEC team mate Mathias Lauda and soon the Austrian Silver ranked driver had clocked up the cars best lap so far. Not before too long, the experience of Lauda had worked its magic as he hauled the #98 onto the rear of the JMW Ferrari for position and ultimately forced the error to take P4 in class before he handed over to Gunn for the final charge to the flag.

Strangely exiting pit lane behind the JMW Ferrari, after they managed a quicker stop, it didn’t take the AMR factory driver more than half a lap before he swept past Jody Fannin's yellow Ferrari to retake that position, but then that was the easy bit as the then third placed Iron Lynx Ferrari was over twenty five seconds ahead!!

With just under an hour remaining, that was a gap even the mighty Gunn could not recover so all was looking good for a P4 finish for the #98 crew before a puncture late on the penultimate lap forced Gunn to stop just as the leading LMP2 took the chequered flag. We believe that it is this that has listed the car as a non finisher as the #98 clearly left pit lane after the stop?

None the less, it was a racing exercise well undertaken as the team looked to refocus themselves after the extraordinary long COVID induced sabbatical. Next stop for the car and some of the team is a multi day Michelin test elsewhere in Southern Europe ahead of a double weekend in Belgium with the second round of the ELMS ahead of the next round of the WEC from Spa Francorchamps.

Racing is back and its great!!

Photo credits - ELMS / AMR

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