Aston Martin Racing’s Vantage GTEs will start from pole position and fourth in the GTE Am category and from fourth in the GTE Pro category for the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the Six Hours of Silverstone, following qualifying earlier today.
In the twenty-minute session, correct tyre choice proved to be essential as the wet track quickly dried out. Stuart Hall (GB) in the #98 car, which he will share with Roald Goethe (D), proved that an early change to slicks was the best option, as he claimed pole position in the GTE Am category with a time of 2:12.525.
In the GTE Pro category, Aston Martin Racing works driver Stefan Mucke (D) steered the #97 car onto the wet track and soon set the quickest time, two seconds faster than his closest rival. However, as the sun broke through the clouds and the track dried up in places, teams were left deciding when to change onto slicks. The decision came too late for Mucke, who needed one more lap to get heat into his tyres. His qualifying lap time was 2:14.150, placing him fourth on the grid.
The third Vantage in the line-up, the #99 car, was driven by Jonny Adam (GB) in the GTE Am class. For him, the decision to change tyres came even later and the checkered flag was flying before the slicks were on the car. Despite this, he put in a lap of 2:16.717 placing him and team-mates Andrew Howard (GB) and Paul White (GB) fourth on the grid in the GTE Am category.
Stuart Hall, who has driven the V8-powered Vantage GTE just once before, commented: “The track was drying up quickly and we knew the times were getting faster and faster as the teams changed onto slicks and got more heat into the tyres. We put ours on with about six minutes to go, which proved to be about the right time. I came out of the pits and on the first lap had a small off, leaving all the pressure on my last lap. I pushed hard and managed to get a clear run. I’m delighted to be on pole but, tomorrow is another day and a lot can happen. However, the car handles well in the wet and the dry and has the pace and reliability to be successful here at Silverstone.”
Stefan Mucke, who will be joined by team-mates Darren Turner (GB) and Adrian Fernandez (MX) in the six-hour endurance race comments: “We were not so lucky with timings. The car was great at the beginning on wet tyres but the track dried up much quicker than I thought it would. We got the slicks on two minutes too late. But, it’s a six-hour race; a few positions on the start line don’t make much difference. What we do know is that the car is feeling good and is proving to be reliable.”
Jonny Adam comments: “This is the first time Andrew, Paul and I have driven the Vantage GTE, apart from testing earlier this month, but we’ve all settled into it really quickly. The practice sessions have allowed us to get the car ready and we’re feeling good ahead of the race. Our qualifying result doesn’t really reflect the performance of the car; we made the wrong call and stayed on wet tyres too long. By the time we’d come in to change for slicks, time had run out. Tomorrow looks to be dry so we should get to see the car’s true potential.“
Aston Martin Racing’s Team Principal, John Gaw summarises: “The changeable conditions made qualifying all about strategy and this can be seen in the laps times in each class – in the GTE Pro class, more than five seconds separates the cars and in the Am it’s more than eight seconds dividing the group. With the number #98 car we got the timing spot on and that is shown in the fantastic pole position set by Stuart. We were slightly later with the #97 car, which cost Stefan his pole position but left us with a decent fourth position in the GTE Pro class. And, with the #99 car we were even later. However, all eight drivers are very happy with the set up of their cars, they are perfectly reliable and the drivers that are new to the car have learned to be competitive already.
The three Vantage GTEs will be back on the circuit on Sunday at 0855hrs BST for a 20-minute warm-up session. The Six Hours of Silverstone gets underway at 1200hrs that afternoon.
Aston Martin Racing is competing in the new-for-2012 FIA World Endurance Championship as part of its return to production-derived motorsport. In the most recent round, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the works team took third place in the GTE class, a great achievement for the car which shares its bonded aluminium chassis and fundamental engine design with Aston Martin’s road-going V8 Vantage.