Another exciting Spa 6hr sees TF Sport claim a P2 class finish after their difficult start to the week

Saturday, May 01, 2021

The week started badly for them, went very well in Qualifying but by the end of today’s opening six hours of the World Endurance Championship, TF Sport had been rewarded with another GTE Am Class podium for their new driver crew aboard their #33 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GTE.

With both the #33 of Ben Keating and the #98 of Paul Dalla Lana locking out the front row of the GTE Am class, the delayed opening laps of the race looked promising for all three AMR cars as the #777 D’Station Racing car of Tomonobu Fujii soon caught onto the tails of the top three cars after having had to start from the rear of the pack after Satoshi Hoshino failed to log a competitive Qualifying lap due to exceeding track limits.

Within the first fifteen minutes of the race start, the #777 was up to P3 having just taken the #98 car for position and it wasn’t long before Keating lost the class lead to the #77 Porsche and then to the #777 for second in class.

With the LMP2 cars having pitted for service, the #33 cars race nearly came to a premature end as the G-Drive and Dragonspeed LMP2 side swiped each other pushing Keating off track and into a high-speed spin that, anywhere else on the circuit, could have led to a high impact with the barrier. Fortunately, the car avoided the barrier and Keating was able to continue.

With Keating and Dalla Lana both double stinting, a debuting Fujii would later hand the #777 over to team boss Hoshino first his first of two stints aboard his AMR GTE for the first time in the WEC but Dalla Lana’s race would soon suffer unnecessarily as he was awarded a drive through penalty for an earlier contact with the #47 car at the final corner.

Towards the end of the AMR’s second stint, Hoshino and Dalla Lana would again come to attention of Race Officials as wearing tyres and cooling temperatures would see them both pushing track limit boundaries ahead of their next scheduled stop.

Reaching the halfway stage of the race, the #33 car was now ‘comfortable’ in P2 but was still some distance behind the now class leading #83 AF Corse Ferrari. The #98 and the #777 meanwhile had dropped to mid table positions by the time Gomes and Watson got their first race stints within their respective cars.

The first caution period came with 2hrs 22mins remaining and was fortunately just for debris around the circuit with another Full Course Yellow following soon after for a stranded vehicle on track. Strategic calls from TF Sport allowed the #33 to complete the final driver change from Dylan Pereira to Felipe Fraga without losing track position to their rivals and in fact reduce the gap the Ferrari ahead.

The #98 cars position on track meanwhile was later further compounded with another drive through penalty for FCY violations during the first caution which would see them drop from P5 to P6 towards the end of the race.

With a third FCY for another stranded vehicle, that left an eighteen-minute dash to the flag for all but by the chequered flag, the #33 would confirm their P2 in class with the #98 just pipping the #777 in P6 and P7 respectively.

A great run from all three cars after a difficult start to the week’s proceedings with the two crashes during the Prologue for the TF Sport cars. Fujii showed great pace in his WEC audition aboard a car that he had never raced before as did all three in the #33 car and the pace of the #98 car was such as a podium finish for them was distinctly possible but those multiple instances of indiscretion proved costly for them.

With the first round done, the next round of the WEC will be at Portimao in the middle of June before a further round at Monza in July before the main event at Le Mans in August.

2021 is going to be an entertaining season for the three AMR’s in GTE Am.

Photo credits – AMR / WEC / TF Sport
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