Aston Martin Racing has finished the sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the Six Hours of Bahrain, in second place – matching its best race result of the championship with a fourth consecutive podium.
The Six Hours of Bahrain presented a unique challenge for all teams – the searing desert heat raised track temperatures to 43 degrees centigrade and the rapidly fading light restricted visibility. Despite these challenges, the #97 Vantage GTE battled for first position for much of the race.
Starting on pole following a fantastic qualifying lap by Stefan Mücke (D), Darren Turner (GB) started the race with the aim of pushing hard from the first lap to extend the lead over his GTE Pro competitors. After 22 laps, Turner had established a 15 second advantage.
After the first round of pit stops, Mücke found himself in second position, but was able to exploit the Vantage GTE’s class-leading race pace to close the gap on the leader at up to two seconds per lap, slipping past on lap 32. Continuing at the pace that saw him record the fastest GTE lap time of the race, Mücke began stretching the lead. However, a minor issue with the exhaust system – resulting from slight impact with the #51 during the overtake – cost the team close to a minute as the fault was resolved, causing the Gulf-liveried racer to drop back to second position.
As Turner and Mücke set about cutting the deficit to the lead car, an unfortunately timed safety car interruption halted the Vantage GTE’s charge. With more time lost to the #51 car, the pair once again cut the margin at up to two seconds per lap, but the chequered flag was waved before the #97 machine could muscle past.
Turner comments: “It looked like it was going to be our first WEC win – it was going to play out close between us and the #51 car. We got the start we wanted, but when we had the issue with the exhaust I thought we might struggle for a podium, so to finish in second was a great recovery by the whole team. The car felt really good here and is well suited to the track, I’m sure a win is in sight.”
Mücke adds: “It was a difficult race with the heat, darkness and the small issue with the exhaust, but it was also really fun. The car was fast and handled really well on the circuit, making it a joy to drive. It’s good to know that we have the pace and reliability to win a race and I’m really looking forward to the Six Hours of Fuji in two weeks.”
Aston Martin Racing’s Team Principal John Gaw summarises: “We were unlucky, this should have been our first WEC win – we were the fastest on the track and we no longer had a fuel consumption disadvantage this weekend. Luck wasn’t our side today, but the team fought on relentlessly and to get second place is fantastic. I would like to say a special thanks to the team. We took the opportunity to make some changes for Bahrain and it paid off. We had improved pit stop times and the way that they dealt with the small issue and still enabled us to finish second was exactly what we were looking for.
“Being this close to a win in our first season in a return to GT racing is an achievement in itself. Our aim is to get on that top step of the podium before the year is out, which would be a tremendous result.”
The 2012 season marks Aston Martin’s return to GT racing; a discipline in which the company had huge success, most notably winning the GT class at Le Mans in both 2007 and 2008. The Vantage GTE is based on the road-going Vantage; the sportiest model in the prestigious marque’s line-up.
Aston Martin Racing is currently second in the WEC GTE Pro Championship with two rounds remaining. The next race in the championship, the Six Hours of Fuji, takes place at 11h00 local time on the 14th October 2012.