MOTORSPORT

Look­ing back at a ti­tle-win­ning year, and for­ward to the 2017 WEC sea­son

VANTAGE - - Contents - WORDS RICHARD MEADEN

AS­TON MARTIN RACING are 2016 World En­durance Cham­pi­ons! That’s a line we’ve been want­ing to write for years. Thanks to a brilliant sea­son-long per­for­mance by the team, and its Dan­ish driv­ing duo Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen in the #95 V8 Van­tage GTE, the Ban­bury-based squad claimed both the GTE Pro team ti­tle and the FIA WEC GT Driv­ers’ Cham­pi­onship.

Fit­tingly, the sil­ver­ware was won at the fi­nal WEC round - the Six Hours of Bahrain - which took place in Novem­ber last year. Frus­trat­ingly for us here at Van­tage, this was just a few days af­ter the dead­line for our Win­ter is­sue. Still, when it comes to de­liv­er­ing good news, we’re pre­pared to wait a few months!

Thiim and Sørensen drove bril­liantly in Bahrain. En­ter­ing the race with a slim two-point ad­van­tage, they knew a 3rd­place fin­ish was enough to se­cure the team and driv­ers’ ti­tles. This could have led to a cau­tious race strat­egy, but the #95 car - af­fec­tion­ately known as the Dane Train by AMR and fans - en­gaged in a fierce bat­tle with their main ri­vals in the #51 Fer­rari 488 GTE dur­ing the open­ing hours of the race. It was tense stuff but, once in the lead, Thiim and Sørensen drove like cham­pi­ons to build a 20-sec­ond buf­fer with one hour of the race re­main­ing.

With the Fer­rari crew charg­ing hard, that gap re­duced to a lit­tle un­der 13sec at the flag, but the race vic­tory (Thiim and Sørensen’s sec­ond of the sea­son) was in the bag, and with it a well-de­served dou­ble for AMR. It’s a huge re­sult, es­pe­cially given the ar­rival of newer, tur­bocharged ri­vals from Fer­rari and Ford. There were ups and downs along the way - the worst of the downs be­ing an­other trou­bled Le Mans 24 Hours - but, de­spite the Bal­ance of Per­for­mance is­sues, Thiim and Sørensen plugged away, scor­ing solid points to build a se­ri­ous cham­pi­onship cam­paign as the sea­son pro­gressed, capped by their race and cham­pi­onship-win­ning drive in Bahrain. It was an emo­tional vic­tory for team and driv­ers.

THE 2017 WEC SEA­SON doesn’t start un­til April but, such is the re­lent­less na­ture of mod­ern en­durance racing, there have al­ready been three top-level events around the world. As­ton Martin wasn’t rep­re­sented at the Dubai 24 Hours, but it had cars en­tered in both the Day­tona 24 Hours in Florida and the Bathurst 12 Hours in New South Wales, Aus­tralia.

At Day­tona, AMR was rep­re­sented by a V12 Van­tage GT3 crewed by Dalla Lana, Lamy, Lauda and newly crowned WEC cham­pion Sørensen. US cus­tomer team TRG were also present, with a pair of V12

Van­tage GT3S also run­ning in the GTD class against fa­mil­iar ri­vals Fer­rari, Ford and Porsche from the WEC, plus all man­ner of other mar­ques from GT3 racing. Day­tona is known to be a par­tic­u­larly gru­elling event, but this year was es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing due to ap­palling weather. Un­for­tu­nately the AMR en­try suf­fered a power steer­ing is­sue early in the race, which dropped them out of con­tention. The TRG cars ran strongly, but fell foul of time penal­ties is­sued dur­ing the nu­mer­ous cau­tion pe­ri­ods, then suf­fered ra­di­a­tor dam­age caused by de­bris from other cars.

The Bathurst 12 Hours is fast be­com­ing a favourite of teams and driv­ers, thanks to the spec­tac­u­lar Mount Panorama cir­cuit. Fac­tory driver Dar­ren Turner was in­vited to share a Van­tage GT8 en­tered by Swiss-based R-motorsport - the same fac­tory-built GT8 Turner shared in the Nür­bur­gring N24 last year. As­ton Martin was also rep­re­sented by lo­cal AMR cus­tomer team Miedecke Stone Motorsport with a V12 Van­tage GT3 fight­ing for out­right hon­ours in the world-class GT3 field.

The lat­ter qual­i­fied an ex­cel­lent 4th over­all, but, come the race, fumes en­ter­ing the car dur­ing a lengthy Safety Car pe­riod meant an early stop. The team con­tin­ued and were pro­gress­ing up the field, un­til a heavy ac­ci­dent led to the car’s im­me­di­ate re­tire­ment. Mean­while the R-motorsport GT8 en­joyed a fine race, the race-pre­pared

JUST AS WE WENT to press, AMR an­nounced its main GTE Pro driver line-ups. Un­sur­pris­ingly, con­ti­nu­ity is key for the #95 car, with Thiim and Sørensen re­turn­ing to de­fend their ti­tle. Mean­while, the #97 car is crewed by Dar­ren Turner and Jonny Adam. The lat­ter has pre­vi­ously driven with Turner in se­lected WEC rounds, but 2017 is the su­per-fast Scot’s first full WEC cam­paign. Mean­while in GTE Am, AMR will once again run the fa­mil­iar trio of Paul Dalla Lana, Pe­dro Lamy and Mathias Lauda. We’d like to wish them all, and AMR’S cus­tomer teams around the world, a safe and suc­cess­ful 2017 sea­son.

For a spe­cial cel­e­bra­tion of AMR’S cham­pi­onship year, seen through the lens of team pho­tog­ra­pher Drew Gib­son, turn to page 42.

AMR 2017 CAL­EN­DAR April 16 Six Hours of Sil­ver­stone May 6 Six Hours of Spa-francorchamps June 17 24 Hours of Le Mans July 16 Six Hours of Nür­bur­gring Sept 3 Six Hours of Mex­ico Sept 16 Six Hours of Austin Oct 15 Six hours of Shanghai Nov 18 Six hours of Bahrain

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY AS­TON MARTIN

Above Cham­pi­ons! The full As­ton Martin Racing squad in Bahrain af­ter seal­ing the both the GTE Pro team ti­tle and the WEC GT Driv­ers’ Cham­pi­onship

Left and be­low V12 Van­tage GT3 in ac­tion at the gru­elling Day­tona 24 Hours and Van­tage GT8 in the spec­tac­u­lar Bathurst 12 Hours. Be­low: driver pair­ings for the 2017 WEC sea­son, Dar­ren Turner with fly­ing Scots­man Jonny Adam, and reign­ing cham­pi­ons Marco Sø

lim­ited-edi­tion Van­tage stay­ing out of trou­ble to se­cure a com­mend­able 5th in class for Turner and his co-driv­ers, R-motorsport’s team own­ers Flo­rian Kamel­ger and Markus Lungstrass.

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