The #97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE has finished third in the GTE Pro category in its home FIA World Endurance Championship race, the Six Hours of Silverstone, recording the fastest lap in the GTE class and leap-frogging to second place in the championship standings.
The Gulf-liveried car started from fourth on the grid, following a drying qualifying session that was dominated by tyre choices. First in the driving seat, Darren Turner (GB) was quick to challenge the leaders, soon charging the car into second place in the GTE Pro class. Hot on the heels of the leader for several laps, Turner pitted for tyres and fuel and team-mate Stefan Mücke (D) continued the race for first place. The German driver proved successful in his bid and, by lap 71, the V8-powered Vantage was leading the GTE Pro race.
One position lost during a pit stop and driver change put Turner back into second, a position that he held until the end of his double-stint. However, with a change to Adrian Fernandez (MX) scheduled, Turner reported splitter damage, which was causing the front end of the car to vibrate. During the pitstop, the splitter was repaired, losing the team just short of one minute and 30 seconds. Mücke returned to the car and re-entered the race in fourth place.
This wasn’t enough to deter Mücke who continued closing down the third place car at up to four seconds per lap, recording the fastest GTE lap of the race - 2:01.758. This paid off and the #97 closed in on the third place car resulting in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel- battle, which ended with the Vantage GTE taking the podium position.
Fielding three Vantage GTEs in the race, the team also raced two cars in the GTE Am class; the number #98 car – piloted by Roald Goethe (D) and Stuart Hall (GB) – which finished fourth in the class, and the #99 – piloted by Jonny Adam (GB), Andrew Howard (GB) and Paul White (GB) – which lost power in the final ten minutes, bringing its race to a premature end, having previously run reliably and competitively.
Aston Martin Racing works driver Darren Turner commented: “That was a great finish to a race that threw up a few challenges. We had splitter damage before the final pit, with 45 minutes to go, and it lost us a minute and a half. Stefan made up a lot of time, setting the fastest lap of the race and did a great job to get us on the podium. The car ran like clockwork for the whole six hours and certainly proved it had race-winning pace. It was the fuelling advantage of the lead car over the rest of the pack that meant we couldn’t mount a successful challenge for first position.”
Team-mate Stefan Mücke commented: “What a fantastic finish to a tough race. The car was great – better than in practice and qualifying – we got the set up just perfect and the team was spot-on all day. The car has made great progress this year and I’m looking forward to the remaining rounds of the WEC.”
Roald Goethe, driver of the #98 car, commented: “It was the longest race I’ve done since Paul Ricard earlier in the year and this was intense – there were some mad dogs barking out there! I really enjoyed the whole race and it’s great to get a finish. In my first stint I managed to hit the target times I’d set myself but, in the second, it was a bit harder as I was tiring and the traffic was more intense. I said to myself, okay just keep it on the track, don’t spin and bring it back for Stuart to finish the race.”
Andrew Howard, of the #99 car, commented: “What a mega experience! It was great to race with so many famous drivers at the top of GT and LMP racing. It was a shame to retire so very close to the end of the race, but I can definitely say it has whetted my appetite to come back and have another go and I feel we are equipping ourselves well to do so.”
Aston Martin Racing Team Principal John Gaw summarises: “That was a great result for the #97 car. We would like to have been challenging for second place, but the splitter damage cost us. However, we’re now in second place in the World Endurance Championships with four races to go, which is a fantastic place to be in the car’s inaugural year. The GTE Am cars and drivers were fantastic all weekend – Stuart’s qualifying pole position being a real highlight. It’s a shame the #99 car stopped so close to the end, because it had been faultless all weekend but overall the success of the three cars has been great – the team have all done a job to be proud of.”
Aston Martin Racing is competing in the new-for-2012 FIA World Endurance Championship as part of its return to production-derived motorsport. This podium result marks another great achievement for the car that shares its bonded aluminium chassis and fundamental engine design with Aston Martin’s road-going V8 Vantage. The WEC will continue in Sao Paulo, Brazil on 15th September for the fifth round of the championship.