The works Aston Martin Racing team returned to racing in America for The 6 Hours of The Circuit of The Americas on September 20, the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. This was the first appearance for the team in the USA since the Rolex 24 at Daytona back in January, where their single car entry struggled to be competitive, in part due to an unfavourable Balance of Performance handed down by IMSA, sanctioning body of the newly formed United SportsCar Championship.
For their latest outing at CoTA, just outside of Austin, Texas, the team entered four examples of their Vantage GTE, a tried and true race machine which has been run in various guises since 2008, and features their V8 powerplant. Two cars were entered in the competitive GTE-Pro class versus factory backed efforts from Manthey Porsche, AF Corse Ferrari, as well as a single car, one off effort from Corvette Racing. In addition, two further Vantages were entered in GTE-Am. These cars run in identical technical spec to the pro cars but differ in the fact that at least one non-professional driver is required to drive each car for a portion of the six hour race.
All four of the cars were able to take the chequered flag, but not before surviving a mid race deluge which caused many cars to slide off the circuit and become stranded in the gravel traps. The race was red flagged (stopped) for almost one hour and twenty minutes, allowing for conditions to improve and for all vehicles to be retrieved from harm’s way.
In GTE-Pro, Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke primarily battled the brace of Manthey Porsches but ultimately finished the race victorious. In GTE-Am, the team went one better, taking the top two steps of the podium with the 98 car winning and the 95 car second, after the Proton Porsche led most of the way.
The successful weekend was just the shot in the arm the team needed after a trying past couple of years. AMR lost the FIA World Endurance Championship last year in the final race and had late race problems at Le Mans both in 2013 and 2014. Those losses pale in comparison to the tragic death of driver Allan Simonsen early in the race at Le Mans last year in the #95 car.
Moving forward, the team is optimistic, celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2014, and looking to the future. RichardsF1.com caught with up David Richards, the Chairman of Aston Martin Racing on the Saturday before the Texas race just before qualifying to get his thoughts on the program.
When asked what he felt the greatest success or milestone was in the 10 years of AMR, Richards replied: “Just being here now after ten years it’s a milestone in itself. I think it’s the fact we’ve got cars competing around the world.”
He added: “I get emails every Sunday night what’s gone on over the weekend just gone and last weekend I went to Goodwood and saw some of the historic cars racing there. Next day, we saw one of our cars win in the British GT, then we got an email from Australia that we won there, one from the Far East we won there, and that Kevin (Buckler) had won here as well in America. So I think the fact that after ten years we’ve managed to spread the competitive cars all over the world is the biggest accolade for the whole team.”
Looking forward, when asked if he saw AMR supporting a variety of different GT classes he offered: “The good thing is that there are only three classes and that there’s relative stability in that as well and I think that’s the great success. So I think a lot’s due, credit due, to the ACO and the FIA for what they’ve done in that respect. Change of regulations is the killer for any small organization. Constant regulations and fine tuning of them’s perfectly acceptable and that means that we don’t have to make ridiculous investments every year.”
Aston Martin Racing also participated in the Le Mans LMP1 prototype class for three seasons with their glorious sounding V12 but Richards sees great value in the road relevance of GT racing.
“I think that’s why we can get such good engagement from the dealer network around the world as well. They also see the cars as being very relevant to the cars they sell, the customers do the same, and as a result we get a great following to the races.”
There’s also a great transfer of technology from the race track to the next generation of road offerings which gives Aston Martin owners a lot to look forward to.
“There’s a lot we learn on the… you know whether it the engine side or just general detail on the car. There will be a car coming out next year that will show even more of that hand over from the racing car to the road car.”
The next race for Aston Martin Racing will be the fifth round of the World Endurance Championship in Fuji, Japan on Sunday, October 12 where their four full season entries are expected to take part again.
Image via James Edmonds