A great day for the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 as success gained both at the front and in class yesterday

Saturday, March 16, 2024


Yesterday’s second round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Series to Sebring in Florida proved itself to be a monumentally successful affair for the as four out of the six Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT4 entered came away with some silverware.

Following the trend of the opening round from Daytona back in late January, it was again the #46 Team TGM AMR of a revised driver line up of Hugh Plumb and Paul Holton (in for the still recuperating Owen Trinkler) who stole the march for their stablemates during the early sessions by Qualifying just off the front row in third. The #19 Van Der Steur AMR of Rory Van Der Steur and Valentin Hasse-Clot just lost out on a similar starting position as Qualifying came to an end on Thursday, but they would be just behind in fifth.

Like most races, qualifying only factors in the positions of each car as they cross the start line for the first time of asking and yesterday’s two-hour affair was no different as battles ensued and those in front tried to make their escape. Whilst the from AMR runners held station, those lower down the order had more work upon their hands as Todd Coleman in his #88 Archangel car was P14, Ramin Abdolvahabi in his #09 Automatic car was P21, Frank DePew in the new 2024 (and reliveried) Vantage GT4 was P22 whilst Ted Giovanis had TCR cars nibbling at his rear in P26.

Whilst Holton listed an early fastest lap aboard the #46 car, DePew received a warning about his start line car positioning but luckily there was no penalty to serve as the race continued into its first half hour.

Then, disaster came for Coleman and his #88 car as liquid was released, power being to fail before flames were seen to be licking the underneath of his Archangel prepared car as he dived off track in the search of track marshal intervention. Thankfully, one of the roadside mobile crews were quickly on scene with fire damage being kept to a minimum whilst the damage had already been done to Coleman’s third IMSA sanctioned race this season.

A lengthy clean up period obviously led to changes in strategies but with the forty-minute minimum drive time still to elapse, it would make for some interesting pit wall choices moving forward.

Taking their drive time length to the minimum limit, both the #71 Rebel Rock and #09 Automatic cars pitted for full service with forty-five-minute remaining but the entry angle of the #09 into their pit box meant for a time delaying push back as they swapped to Rob Ecklin for the final stint whilst Robin Liddell would get into the new version of Vantage GT4 for Rebel Rock.

Green, back to Full Course Yellow, back to green back to Safety car as cautions again bred cautions and all of that ultimately left us with a forty-minute sprint to the flag as the #71 had lifted itself up to P2 and the #19 VDS car of Hasse-Clot up to P3 by this stage.

Eighteen minutes to go and the #19 VDS car was having to fight hard to maintain its position with an eager BMW, Ford Mustang and McLaren bunching up behind him. Initially conceding T17 to the BMW, the Frenchman had other ideas as he undercut the #39 BMW to retake third and the chase to the podium.

Seven minutes to go and the chasing #44 Porsche that had been reeling in the #71 Aston up ahead suddenly pulled over (maybe fuel) giving Liddell the space that he needed to the end whilst contact behind the #19 VDS Aston saw both the charging BMW and McLaren eliminate each other from the proceedings to allow both Aston’s to finally come home unchallenged for an AMR 1-2 at the chequered flag.

Having started the race from P23 out of a GS class grid of twenty-six cars, the #71 Rebel Rock crew had worked miracles to achieve Aston Martin Racing’s first competitive race win for their new 2024 40A iteration of car in only its third race meeting whilst the Van Der Steur team also confirmed just how competitive the outgoing 17A version of the Vantage GT4 still was for some much-needed Championship points.

Further back, the #09 Automatic crew of Abdolvahabi and Ecklin secured a class win within their respective Bronze Cup whilst the #64 Team TGM Aston of Giovanis and Hugh Plumb came home P18 overall and P2 in Bronze Cup to round off a very achieving race afternoon in Florida. The #46 Team TGM Aston Martin also finished not totally out of it by coming home a warranted fourth overall whilst the #88 Archangel car was sadly another DNF.

Friday was a good day for the Aston Martin Racing powered teams – let’s see what the rest of it brings with the 12 Hours of Sebring and the three AMR Vantage GTD cars from both the Heart of Racing and Magnus racing teams.

And here's wishing Owen Trinkler a speedy recovery and return to a racetrack very soon!

Photo credits – AMR / Teams / Social media
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