MO­TOR­SPORT

CHAMPS STRUG­GLE BUT GTE AM CREW SETS THE PACE AS AS­TON MARTIN RAC­ING PRE­PARES FOR LE MANS

VANTAGE - - Con­tents - WORDS RICHARD MEADEN

Mixed for­tunes for WEC squad, and a roundup of the clas­sic rac­ing scene

IF PROOF WERE NEEDED as to the fickle form of race teams and driv­ers, re­flect on the cur­rent re­ver­sal of for­tune for As­ton Martin Rac­ing and its reign­ing World En­durance Cham­pi­onship-win­ning Danes Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen.

Bathed in glory at the end of last sea­son af­ter win­ning the fi­nal round of the World En­durance Cham­pi­onship (WEC) and with it the GTE PRO crown, the Dan­ish duo and AMR were rid­ing high com­ing into the 2017 sea­son. Now, two races in and the sit­u­a­tion couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent, with the Fer­rari 488s, Ford GTS and, to a lesser ex­tent, Porsche 911s all demon­strat­ing a pace ad­van­tage over the V8 Van­tage GTE.

As ever with the me­chan­ics of mod­ern GT rac­ing, the rea­sons for AMR’S dis­ap­point­ing start in WEC are nu­mer­ous and com­plex. Yes, the Balance of Per­for­mance (BOP) is a fac­tor in the rel­a­tive pace of all the cars in the GTE cat­e­gories, but more sig­nif­i­cant is the on­go­ing tyre war be­tween Miche­lin (used by Fer­rari and Ford) and AMR’S cho­sen sup­plier, Dun­lop. Lest we for­get, the V8 Van­tage GTE is also the old­est car in the GTE field and finds it­self fight­ing against Porsche’s all-new mid-en­gined 911, with the Fer­raris and Fords re­ally hit­ting their stride af­ter be­ing in­tro­duced last sea­son.

Both Sil­ver­stone and Spa proved to be up­hill bat­tles for both of AMR’S GTE Pro en­tries, with both the #95 and #97 cars strug­gling for qual­i­fy­ing and race pace. At Sil­ver­stone the Dan­ish-crewed #95 car fin­ished in 6th po­si­tion, one place ahead of the #97 car of Dar­ren Turner and Jonny

Adam. At Spa the po­si­tions were re­versed, the #97 car (with reg­u­lars Turner and Adam joined by Daniel Serra) fin­ish­ing 7th and the #95 car (crewed by Thiim, Sørensen and Richie Stan­away) in 8th.

It’s a much more pos­i­tive story for the #98 GTE Am Van­tage of Paul Dalla Lana, Pe­dro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, who have en­joyed a storm­ing start to their 2017 cham­pi­onship cam­paign. Hav­ing started from class pole at Sil­ver­stone, the trio made a bril­liant start, build­ing a com­mand­ing lead by the three-hour mark. Frus­trat­ingly, a heavy ac­ci­dent for one of the LMP1 Toy­otas meant a Safety Car cau­tion pe­riod, which negated their ad­van­tage. Lamy fought hard to the end, the #98 As­ton cross­ing the line in sec­ond po­si­tion but with the knowl­edge they had the pace to take the win.

Car­ry­ing this con­fi­dence to Round 2 at Spa, Dalla Lana, Lamy and Lauda put on an­other sparkling dis­play. Lamy put in an ul­tra-com­mit­ted lap in qual­i­fy­ing to se­cure class pole, and the trio went on to take a flaw­less vic­tory. They must be hop­ing they can main­tain this form as they head to Le Mans in June.

Mean­while in the Euro­pean Le Mans Series (ELMS) and the Bri­tish GT Cham­pi­onship, As­ton Martin en­tries are en­joy­ing fur­ther suc­cess. In the ELMS, TF Sport’s Van­tage GTE #90 scored a re­sound­ing vic­tory with the help of AMR driver Nicki Thiim, while Dar­ren Turner helped reign­ing ELMS cham­pi­ons Beechdean AMR to a solid 3rd place, fin­ish­ing just one sec­ond be­hind the 2nd-placed Porsche. In Bri­tish GTS, the V12 Van­tage GT3 also re­mains a force to be reck­oned with, TF Sport tak­ing P2 and P5 in Race 1 and P2 and P3 in Race 2 at Oul­ton Park’s sea­son-open­ing dou­ble­header, with Macmil­lan AMR tak­ing P3 at Rock­ing­ham for the sec­ond round.

Re­turn­ing to AMR’S tough start to the WEC sea­son, it’s im­por­tant to keep the faith. Last sea­son was hardly plain sail­ing, with the com­pet­i­tive­ness of the Van­tage GTE ebbing and flow­ing through­out the sea­son. And with an ad­just­ment in the BOP com­ing af­ter Le Mans, things could yet im­prove for the GTE Pro crews.

It’s also worth re­mem­ber­ing that Paul Dalla Lana and his crew are do­ing a stel­lar job in GTE Am, af­ter com­ing so close to tak­ing the ti­tle in 2016.

As for The Big One – the Le Mans 24 Hours – there’s a dif­fer­ent BOP ap­plied com­pared to the rest of the WEC rounds, so we could yet see closer com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the GTE Pro cars than at Sil­ver­stone or Spa. With Le Mans just a month away at the time of writ­ing, we’ll know soon enough. Fingers crossed.

AMR 2017 CAL­EN­DAR 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 DREW GIB­SON

From the top The As­ton Martin Rac­ing squad lines up for the sec­ond round of the 2017 WEC at Spa; Sørensen and Thiim have plenty to think about; the ‘Dane Train’ at speed

Left, above and be­low TF Sport’s Van­tage GT3 (top left) starred in Bri­tish GTS at Oul­ton Park while the team’s Van­tage GTE has been ex­celling in the ELMS. Above: start of WEC round at Sil­ver­stone, where GTE Am Van­tage (be­low) fin­ished 2nd

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