Disappointing visit to Spa Francorchamps for the Aston Martins of the GT4 European Series

Monday, August 02, 2021

Whilst it was something of the opposite for the larger GT3 cars from the Aston Martin Racing family of teams from Spa Francorchamps at the weekend, the preceding two races of the GT4 European Series were something of a disappointment as none of the three AMR teams attending came away from the meeting with any results of note.

Already down by two cars as the both the Racing One and PROsport Racing AMR Vantage GT4’s elected to stay away for various reasons, it was again left to the three AGS Events Racing, Street Art Racing and Mirage Racing to fly the flag for Aston Martin during the supporting TotalEnergie Spa 24 meeting.

For Friday’s first hour long race, the track had gone back to being warm and dry but incidents during the earlier Qualifying sessions had already taken its toll but hopes were still high after the success of the Aston Martin car at the earlier FFSA GT4 meeting at the circuit the week before. The #55 Mirage Racing Aston Martin of Rubens del Sarte was the highest AMR qualifier in P9 overall, having made the most of his FFSA GT4 experience at the circuit with the #89 AGS Events Am class car of Nicolas Gomar down in P14 overall yet still P1 in class.

Last time winners at Zandvoort, the #27 AGS Events car of Cesar Gazeau was surprisingly low down the field in P19 with their final sister #45 car of Hugo Conde in P13. The final Aston, that of the #7 Street Art Racing car of Pascal Bachmann was farthest back in P33 out of the 39-car entry.

Fortunately for all, everyone was relatively well disciplined at the first corner and that allowed everyone to get at least a couple of laps in. The #27 AGS car was the first casualty with broken suspension after just 14 minutes and was lucky not to be hit again by his #45 AGS team mate as Gazeau limped through the ultra-fast Eau Rouge/Raidillon sequence.

Del Sarte continued to be the best driver from the AMR cars as he maintained his starting position as he handed over to Tom Canning and by the time both Eric Herr, Akhil Rabindra and Paul Theysgens had each got into their cars at the pit stop – all of those had lost position relative to their start.

A car being spun around at the final corner again nearly caught out the #89 and #45 AGS cars in terms of secondary contact but that incident called for a Full Course Yellow that mellowed the race until going back to green with little over ten minutes remaining but that mattered not at the chequered flag, as the #55 Mirage was still the best AMR finisher in P9.

Saturday’s second race was a different affair again as rain started to fall again as the cars assembled on the grid, but it was the decision of most to stick with the slick tyre at the start.

Canning had earlier made the most of his Qualifying session by placing his #55 Mirage car on pole position for the first time this season but that was about as good as it sadly got as the trio of AGS cars ran from P19 (#27 Konstantin Lachenauer), P21 (#45 Rabindra), P32 (#89 Herr) but with Theysgens in P24 and second in the Am class.

As the cars powered away from the rolling start, Canning put caution before any short-term heroics but paid the price as others with the opposite opinion went past him out of the first corner with immediate progress from the #27 also being made that did see them run immediately behind Canning before quickly dropping back again. Still on slicks, a spinning Mercedes hit the barrier at the top of Raidillon but was fortunately not hit by the trailing pack as they came over the blind crest – Safety Car!!

Back to green and at least the track was now drying, so anyone who pitted for wets was now again on the wrong tyre as the lap times steadily improved. Theysgens had now caught up with the #27 car for race position although in differing classes but like any race, a place made was a place made but at least he was then leading his Am class.

Coming in from P8, Canning handed over to Del Sarte who would return to the track in P9. The #27 car of Gazeau was the next best placed Aston but he was down in P18 again with Conde not much further back in P21.

Although Canning had earlier been able to gain pole position, the race pace of the Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4 was never comparable to that of certainly the McLaren 570s and Mercedes AMG GT4’s but some of that may have been down to how the team trimmed out the car in terms of set up with arriving weather patterns that were impossible to predict.

With rain again falling at the end, the #55 Mirage car claimed a P5 overall position, the best of the AMR bunch with the French AGS Events Racing team having something of a disappointing race – query over using the cars with constant back-to-back race weekends in both GT4 European Series and the FFSA GT4 Series with not enough time to maintain them properly in-between?

The next stop for the series will be their penultimate round of the season from the Nurburgring in early September.

Photo credits – GT4 European / Teams
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