Aston Martin Racing has qualified in third position for the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. Factory driver Stefan Mücke (D) recorded a best time of two minutes, 20.227 seconds to set the team on course for a second successive WEC podium.
Competing in the GTE Pro category, the #97 Vantage GTE is making its European debut at the celebrated Belgian circuit following its first two outings in the United States. On its competitive debut in March, the V8-powered racer scored third in class at the 12 Hours of Sebring, Florida.
Mücke had set the fastest time of all the GTE competitors in the final Free Practice session earlier in the day aboard the Vantage GTE as the team perfected its setup for the high-speed circuit. Following the 20-minute qualifying session – which remained dry despite the darkening clouds – Mücke, Darren Turner (GB) and Adrian Fernandez (MX) will line up in third position for what is forecast to be a wet race.
Having qualified within half a second of pole position, Mücke said: “I think we can be very happy with our performance in qualifying because all of the GTE Pro cars are very close together. We found a really good setup for the car so I was able to push quite hard, but I think we can find even more pace in the car for the race as we were still experimenting with new setup ideas.
“We have taken another clear step forward since Sebring and we’re within a few tenths of the fastest GTE car. I’m confident that we can get another podium finish in the race, but we will target a class victory.”
John Gaw, Aston Martin Racing Team Principal, praised the team’s efforts: “I’m delighted with what the team have achieved today. The Free Practice sessions went really well for us; we were third in the first session, second in the next and fastest in the third, so we were quietly confident going into qualifying. Stefan drove very well and set a time that was half a second quicker than last year’s pole time, so we can be very happy with P3 on the grid.
“The Six Hours will be a very different proposition because rain is forecast. We had a competitive race at Sebring and, encouragingly, ran very strongly in the wet in Long Beach practice. Given the showing so far this weekend we now have a clear goal to win the race.”
The team’s three works drivers will be back on the circuit on Saturday morning at 1005hrs CET for a 20-minute warm-up session. The Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps gets underway at 1430hrs that afternoon.
Aston Martin Racing is competing in the new-for-2012 FIA World Endurance Championship as part of its return to production-derived motorsport. The team also contested the second round of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) at Long Beach, California, in April to help accelerate the development of the Vantage GTE, which shares its bonded aluminium chassis and fundamental engine design with Aston Martin’s road-going V8 Vantage.
(Image: Gerlach Delissen)