Spa-Francorchamps, 3 May 2014 - Aston Martin Racing has finished in second and third in the GTE Am class at the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) – the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – with its #98 NorthWest Vantage GTE and #95 Young Driver Vantage GTE, respectively.
Despite a difficult qualifying session, the #95 with Richie Stanaway (NZ) behind the wheel climbed from eighth to first within the first hour of the race. Hot on his heels, Pedro Lamy in the #98, climbed to second place and the pair extended their lead over the rest of the pack.
“The plan was to get to the front and extend the lead before handing over to David and then Kristian for double stints,” explains Stanaway, who drove alongside David Heinemeier Hansson (DN) and Kristian Poulsen (DN). “It worked well and both of my team-mates did a fantastic job to stay within the top three for the entire race; leading for much of it.”
As the chequered flag waved, the #95 crossed the GTE Am finish line in second place, leaving the team leading the WEC GTE Am teams and drivers championships. The #98 of Lamy, Christoffer Nygaard (DN) and Paul Dalla Lana (CA) finished close behind in third.
In the GTE Pro class, the #97 Gulf-liveried Vantage GTE of Darren Turner (GB), Stefan Mücke (DE) and Bruno Senna (BR) started the race from second on the grid and planned a double-stint strategy.
“We double-stinted drivers and tyres in order to save time in the pit stops,” explains Mücke. “Of course, you then run the gamble of the tyres dropping off and the competition making gains on fresh rubber.”
The gamble paid off and, after the first stint, #97 was leading the race. However, despite good strategy and impressive driving, the fuel restrictions applied to the Vantage GTE meant the team was forced to complete an extra pit at the end of the race, costing them a podium position.
“It’s been a very tough race,” comments Senna. “We were pushing hard to make an aggressive strategy work - Porsche and Ferrari had the upper-hand and we therefore needed to try and beat them through tactics.”
In the #99 sister-car, Fernando Rees (BR) started the race in fifth but, by the end of the first hour, was up into third, after two impressive overtaking maneuvers. After adopting the same pit strategy as the #97, it emerged in second, a position Rees held until handing over to Darryl O’Young (CN).
Despite a great opening stint from O’Young, the aggressive strategy took its toll on the car’s tyres and he was left unable to fend off the competition. He handed over to MacDowall in fifth place, the position the car held until the end.
“It was clear from practice that we didn’t have the pace to take the fight to our competitors in terms of outright lap time,” comments Team Principal John Gaw. “We continue to adapt to the additional ride height that we have to run this year, so we planned aggressive strategies on tyres and fuel to compensate. However each of the cars had to make one additional stop versus the competition and this ruled us out from the class wins this weekend. But, it’s a long year and collecting points in the championship is always critical. Of course, we now go back to base and continue to focus on developing solutions to improve our competitiveness ahead of Le Mans.”
The 24 Hours of Le Mans starts on 1 June with the official test day. The 24-hour race starts a fortnight later on the 14 June.