Dramatic racing but little reward for the Spirit of Leman Aston Martin crew

Friday, June 09, 2023


Two certainly eventful Road to Le Mans rounds of the Michelin Le Mans Cup opened the race programme at the centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans yesterday and today with the Spirit of Leman team flying the Aston Martin Racing flag again with their #10 Vantage GT3 of Arnold Robin and Valentin Hasse-Clot.

Running a hectic dual programme themselves this weekend of the Le Mans Cup and their AMR Vantage GTE entry into this years 24 hour itself, the drivers played a calculated build up towards these two fifty-five-minute races as not to overexert themselves circulating the track in some very like-minded AMR machinery.

With track limits being very much is play during the two Qualifying sessions, yesterdays opener saw the #10 car start from the rear of the combined LMP3 and GT3 pack after quicker laps were lost via Race Control but at least that would give Robin a clear view of whatever was going to happen up ahead within the fifty-six strong grid.

The continuing high ambient temperatures had obviously increased the brain fog within some helmets as action happened soon enough with the LMP3 mid pack tripping over themselves going into the first chicane on only the opening lap, with multiple cars involved and that brought out the Safety Car.

Losing a further three laps to that clear up, Arnold’s next job would be to pit from his P18 position to hope that his countryman and AMR factory driver Hasse-Clot could pull their Aston Martin back up the order. That he did, with steady progress up the leader board as the laps and minutes of the lap and time restricted race ticked by. A further big shunt for another LMP3 along the start straight again slowed the tempo of the race down and allowed the #10 car quick pickings of the #51 Ferrari to position itself fourth in class and firmly upon the rear of the car in third.

With a further hefty impact for one of the Porsches behind, the race would eventually finish behind the Safety Car with the #10 crew taking third in class for their efforts after a post-race time penalty for an incorrect pit stop time was later applied to the car ahead of them on track.

Friday’s second race would at least start a lot better with Arnold again chosen to start the start from their Qualifying position of second in class.

Unfortunately, the storyline of this race firmly resembled the opening lap of race one with repeated incident and accident amongst the LMP3 field that saw two extensive Slow Zones being applied to much of the track and for a significant time part of the race.

Despite initially losing ground, a great run from Arnold saw him robustly standing his ground coming through the Ford chicane with the #63 Lamborghini equally determined to muscle their way past. Despite being recorded by Race Control as an incident, their later finding would pass that as a racing incident as both cars bumped and bashed into each other and both lost ground as a consequence.

Further LMP3 incidents saw the Safety Car finally called for just ahead of the pit stop window with the #10 car back up to third in class by the time that Hasse-Clot regained control of the #10 car.

He, however, would suffer a scare through the Forest Esses and into Tetre Rouge as Hasse-Clot was pushed wide and onto the grass, but the factory driver kept his foot in to recover the situation and position to live to fight another day!

All was looking good for the #10 car until the race entered its final lap when a tap from behind, again through the Ford Chicane this time spun the #10 car out of podium contentions and down to P14 where they would eventually finish.

Despite being elevated up to P13 after further post-race time penalties being applied, that ended their event on something of a downer as they would also slip down to second within the GT3 Drivers Championship as a consequence but still with four races remaining.

Photo credit - LMC
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