Saturday 5 May, Spa-Francorchamps: Aston Martin Racing’s new Vantage GTE recorded an encouraging double-points finish on its debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship Super Season opener, the TOTAL 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
Meanwhile in GTE Am, the team’s reigning champions Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda made a victorious start to their title defence, leading home an Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE one-two as they finished ahead of the customer-owned TF Sport example.
The team’s weekend objectives with the new turbo-charged V8-powered Vantage GTE, based on the critically-acclaimed Vantage road car, were faultlessly executed across all aspects of the weekend from strategy to pit-stop procedure, gathering vital data under competitive conditions for the first time.
Both cars ran faultlessly in the early stages of the race and moved steadily up the order as rivals ran in to trouble. Achieving a near-seamless run to the flag, team debutant Maxime Martin (B) finished sixth in the #97 car he shared with 2017 Le Mans-winner Jonny Adam (GB) and Alex Lynn (GB) – also in his first race with Aston Martin Racing.
“I’m very pleased with how the car ran,” said Maxime Martin. “We were able to maximise the package we had available and we found more balance in the car during the race. We have learned more about it in race conditions and I’m confident that we can take what we have brought here and build on it ahead of our attack on the Le Mans 24 Hours.”
And, having run never more than 15s apart throughout the six-hour race, Nicki Thiim (DN), Marco Sørensen (DN) and three-time Le Mans winner Darren Turner finished behind them in seventh in the #95 car. Thiim did a great job in the closing stages to nurse the car home after it picked up damage from flying debris when his rivals collided on the penultimate lap.
Darren Turner said: “I think from the team and driver’s point of view we’ve got the very best we can from this weekend. I have to say, I’m very happy with the car but the overall pace just meant we couldn’t mix It with the guys at the front. Obviously this is just the beginning and I’m really confident we can be there fighting for victories soon”.
Turner’s #95 team-mate Nicki Thiim said: “That was a good weekend. It’s nice to be part of this again and to see everyone at the track and smiling. Standing here after the race with both cars finished and in the points without any issues is a great feeling and what we wanted. Regarding the pace, that’s how it is sometimes. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The car’s really got the potential and I can feel there’s some wins in there soon”.
The GTE Am drivers had to fight hard for their fourth consecutive victory at Spa. Having led for most of the race, thanks in part to a brilliant overtake for the lead by Lauda around the outside of the super-fast Blanchimont, Lamy was forced to defend through the last 30 minutes on old tyres after a late Safety Car eliminated their advantage over the TF Sport Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE.
Pedro Lamy said: “It was really close. We were 30s in front and I was quite relaxed when I got in the car for my final stint and then we had that safety car. There was nothing I could do but fight to keep the first place. The other Aston was really fast and he had new tyres, so I just kept pushing. Here it is easy to be in front because you can carry more speed into the fast corners than the guys following.”
Paul Howarth, Team Principal, summed up: “This weekend was all about executing and we brought home all our cars in point-scoring positions and secured a classic victory in the GTE Am class. The drivers delivered the maximum performance and we delivered on the potential available from the package we came here with. 14-points is a good haul from this brand new car. The GTE Am victory was exciting and it was great to see that two Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTEs finished a lap ahead of the competition.”
The next round of the FIA WEC Super Season will be the Le Mans 24 Hours on 16th June.