The result may be nothing to write home about, but with Aston Martin Racing we had a positive weekend regarding our performance and pace in the 6 Hours of Fuji, the latest round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The Aston Martin Vantage GTE continues to take a step forward, and it was only bad luck with safety cars that ruined our strategy and kept Maxime Martin and I down in an eventual ninth place.
From the get-go, we spent free practice trying to prepare for the race as best as we possibly could. That was our gameplan from the start with the #97 car. We were learning different things about how the car handled on the circuit, and how it dealt with the tyres, and we were getting a gauge on our competition. We had a long-term forecast that gave us the feeling that the race was going to start in wet conditions, so we focused on that too. That proved accurate, and what we learned on Friday we were able to apply in the race on Sunday.
Qualifying was a good moment, because Maxime and I qualified third and our team-mates Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen put the #95 car on pole position in the GTE Pro class. One massive positive of the new Vantage has been its qualifying performance, which has always been really strong. Qualifying was really close as usual in GTE, but we did a good job. We were very happy, and as a team it was great to celebrate a pole for the new Vantage on only its fourth race outing.
Sure enough, the race started wet, with Maxime taking the start in our car. Starting on full-wet tyres was the only choice, and it wasn’t until an hour into the race that conditions began to improve. That made things interesting as to who did what on strategy. Through the opening stint, Aston Martin Racing ran one-two with Nicki leading Maxime, and they were pulling away from the field. That was hugely encouraging, but then the first safety car appeared.
Then it became a question of whether you opt for slicks or carry on with the grooved wet-weather tyres. It was a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. And we certainly were very unlucky with where we filtered back into the race. From then on we were playing catch-up.
I got into the car to do a triple stint, which turned out to be just over half the race, before Maxime got back behind the wheel for the run to the chequered flag. We battled on, but unfortunately we were just a little too far back to make up ground in a class where all the cars and incredibly closely matched – and reliable. So from a result point of view it was disappointing, but we’re making big strides, and we’ve only done four races with the car so it’s still early days yet.
There’s a lot of testing going on by Aston Martin Racing of the new GT3 Vantage, so all of us factory drivers are standby over the coming weeks in case we get called up to be at a track. In the meantime, we’ve got a month to wait until the final WEC race of 2018 at Shanghai. We’ve just got to keep working hard and hopefully we’ll arrive in China well-prepared for a strong result.
Source. Alex Lynn