No prizes for the five AMR runners today after the conclusion of the Asian Le Mans Series

Saturday, February 20, 2021


Today’s fourth and final round of the Asian Le Mans Series was something of a crucial affair for certainly two Aston Martin Racing teams as they would be the only ones from the original five who were still in position to at least challenge for the last two Le Mans automatic invitation places in the GT Class.

With the top two slots already taken by the Herberth and GPX Porsche teams after two dominating rounds last weekend at the Dubai Autodrome, a podium finish was a must for the #97 Oman with TF Sport AMR Vantage of Ahmad Al Harthy, Jonny Adam and Tom Canning after their unfortunate DNF in yesterday’s third race whilst the #88 Garage 59 crew of Alex West, Maxime Martin and Valentin Hasse-Clot needed to emulate their performance and indeed luck from the second race from Dubai to have any chance themselves.

Qualifying had of course been competed yesterday morning and this time it was the #89 Garage 59 car of Marvin Kirchhofer who would start closest to the front of the GT class in P3 with Adam a few rows back in P9.

In a starting procedure that saw the GT field start very close to the rear of the LMP field, it was unsurprising that there was some bumping and grinding going into turn 1 but an ‘around the outside’ move by Kirchhofer saw him take and hold the class lead. It also wouldn’t take teammate Martin too long to follow him up through the running order to take P3 either to quickly establish another Garage 59 1-2.

Just ten minutes in however, a Safety Car for debris and a stopped car on track put paid to the hard work of those two Pro drivers as their gaps were quickly swallowed up by the following pack. Losing ten minutes of race time to that, the teams then had to rethink their race strategy further as a second Safety Car period (this time for a nasty looking collision between two Ferrari’s at Turn 11) would look like costing the Pro drivers yet more of their time.

During this prolonged caution period, some teams like the D’Station Racing AMR squad would leave their Bronze driver (Satoshi Hoshino) aboard so that he could use up his 55-minute minimum driver time in the Safety Car queue as he had already done well by improving his track position from P12 in class at the start to P9.

Whereas the #97 Oman Racing Aston of Tom Canning would pit just for fuel and tyres, both Garage 59 cars had to pit to swap out their Pro drivers with Bronze drivers Mike Benham and Alex West indeed climbing aboard the #89 and #88 cars respectively as the clocked neared the end of the first hour.

The #95 TF Sport car of John Hartshorne, Ollie Hancock and Charlie Eastwood tried something different again as they burned up two of their 70 second minimum pit stop timed stops during the Safety car before the starting Hartshorne was eventually swapped out for Hancock.

Thirty minutes or so later, the race finally went back to green with the running order appearing ‘messy’ with many cars now on differing strategies leaving all five Astons running in the midfield of the GT field as the race then went under the auspices of a Full Course Yellow for debris not long after.

Having come to the end of his fuel, Canning would pit from P5 to hand over to Al Harthy at the bottom of the hour rather than nearer to the top but just after the race went back to green, Al Harthy had to avoid the spinning #89 Aston as Benham got turned around by the race leading LMP2 car – not necessarily a good way to start your stint!!

Topping the hour at the halfway point, the #97 had moved up to P2 in class with the sister #95 car in P6 and the #77 car of Tomonobu Fujii in P7. Silver drivers Hasse-Clot and Yuki Nemoto had just got in their #88 and #89 cars so were further back in P10/P11 respectively at that time, but it wouldn’t be long before those cars were listed as circulating in P5/P6.

As the race neared its final hour, the cars to be for those automatic invites were both #7 Optimum McLaren and the #55 Rinaldi Ferrari and it looked like the #97 Oman car was the best bet (then running in P4) but Adam would have to make a late stop for a splash and dash in order to get to the end. Then, the McLaren and the #99 Porsche each had to stop again for service and running repairs also and that would make for a tense few final laps as that slowly unravelled itself.

Unfortunately for Oman Racing crew, this was all too little too late as the best the #97 could do was their best result of the Series in P4 – not enough to bridge the gap to claim either the third of fourth place in the class overall.

Despite all Aston Martins finishing within the top ten in class, that simply showed the competitive nature of the class in modern GT endurance racing with the five AMR crews being edged out by strategy and the calibre of the mixed driver crews aboard their opposing teams. An impressive P6 finish for the #95 TF Sport crew would put a smile on their faces as they now looked towards GTE racing in the European Le Mans Series and for the #77 crew, another P7 finish was a result of yet more progressive improvements as they now look to the World Endurance Championship in GTE for the first time later this year.

At the end, it was the #88 Garage 59 car who would come closest to those invitations eventually finishing P5 overall in class yet ten points behind the next highest car. For them, there will be no automatic invitation to Le Mans but then we’re not too sure (from previous conversations) if that that was the actual target for some within the team as the challenge and experience of the series was enough on top of what they already have planned for the remainder of the year?

It was good to watch – we certainly enjoyed it and we’re missing it already!!

Photo credits – ALMS / AMR / Teams
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes