Aston Martin Racing will continue its FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) campaign at the second round of the series, the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, in Belgium on 5 May. The V8-powered Vantage GTE, making its first competitive outing in Europe, will once again be driven by factory regulars Darren Turner (GB), Stefan Mücke (D) and Adrian Fernandez (MX).
The team will arrive at the historic circuit off the back of two encouraging outings in the WEC and American Le Mans Series (ALMS). On its competitive debut, the Gulf-liveried Vantage GTE scored third in the GTE Pro category on the WEC season opener at the 12 Hours of Sebring, Florida, in March. This was followed by fifth position on the ALMS qualifier at Long Beach, California, in mid-April; a fine achievement given that the team started at the back of the GTE field after qualifying was abandoned due to heavy rain.
The Spa circuit, now 4.352 miles in length, is no stranger to endurance racing having hosted a 24-hour race since the 1920s and a 1000km race since the 1950s, which Aston Martin won outright in both 1955 and 1957. In recent years, the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (formerly referred to as the 1000km of Spa-Francorchamps) has provided the final opportunity for teams and drivers to prepare for the biggest race on the international endurance racing calendar, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
John Gaw, Aston Martin Racing Team Principal, is looking forward to another strong showing from the #97 Vantage GTE: “We’ll arrive at Spa full of confidence that we can deliver another competitive performance. We made real progress with the Vantage GTE during its first two races at Sebring and Long Beach, so we’ll target another WEC podium come race weekend. The whole team is looking forward to racing in Europe again, particularly at a circuit with so much heritage. The Vantage GTE hasn’t yet raced on a track such as Spa, what with its long straights and high-speed corners, so I’m sure we’ll learn a lot about the car throughout the weekend which will be beneficial for the rest of the season.”
Works driver Turner said: “We’ve had two good races now with the Vantage GTE, taking strong results in both of them. The car is coming along well now and we understand more about its performance and characteristics every time we go out. Racing at Spa is usually a highlight of a driver’s season and it’s no different for me so I hope we can continue our good work there. After the two American races this one will be more akin to Le Mans, with regards to strategy and the long lap time. It will be good for the guys to readjust from the ALMS to the WEC regulations before we head off to Le Mans.”
Team-mate Mücke added: “Spa is one of my favorite tracks and I have many good memories of racing there in the past in the Aston Martin DBR1-2 prototype. The track has a good mixture of slow and fast corners in combination with long straights and a lot of full throttle periods, which all make it good preparation for Le Mans.”
Fernandez, making just his third competitive appearance in a production-based racing car, said: “I am truly excited to be racing for the first time at Spa. This is a track that I have always wanted to drive. It is one of the most challenging circuits in the world, a first-class facility and a favorite track for many drivers with the high speeds and elevation changes. It will be a good training ground for us in preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As for the season, we are off to fairly good start with a third and fifth-place finish in the Lowe’s Vantage GTE. For me personally, after testing and two races, I feel quite comfortable in the car. Everyone at Aston Martin has high expectations for this race, and I feel quite confident that we can continue to build on our momentum at Spa.”
The Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps will witness the latest instalment in Aston Martin’s return to production-car derived motorsport. Having won the GT1 category at the 24 Hour of Le Mans in both 2007 and 2008 with the DB9-based DBR9, Aston Martin returned to the discipline for the 2012 season after three successful years in the prototype category. The new Vantage GTE, which shares its bonded aluminium structure and base engine with the V8 Vantage road car, has proven its considerable pace potential and durability on its first two competitive outings and continues to improve ahead of Aston Martin Racing’s two-car campaign at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Following two free practice sessions on Thursday 3 May and a third session on the morning of Friday 4 May, qualifying for the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps starts at 1510hrs later that day. The race starts at 1430hrs on Saturday 5 May.
(Image: Aston Martin Racing)