Aston Martin Racing is set for a thrilling finale to the FIA World Endurance Championship with up to five titles in its grasp as we approach the last race of the season
The victorious AMR #97 car in the shadow of Mount Fuji.
WITH JUST ONE ROUND LEFT THIS SEASON, Aston Martin Racing sits top of the pile in five Championship categories going into the final race in Bahrain on 30 November. A memorable weekend in Shanghai saw Aston Martin climb to the head of the World Cup for GT Manufacturers title race, while the victorious #97 Vantage GTE climbed to the top of the Trophy for GTE Pro Teams standings. Drivers Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke also took control of the World Cup for GT Drivers. With its #96 Vantage GTE having finished third in class-its fourth consecutive podium-Aston Martin Racing leads the Trophy for GTE Am Teams while British duo Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall maintain their lead of the Trophy for GTE Am Drivers.
The #97 team arrived in Shanghai with the aim of repeating their 2012 race victory. Turner and long-standing team-mate Mücke secured pole position in their V8-powered Vantage GTE and maintained that lead throughout the six-hour race to score 26 valuable points and clinch the championship lead.
"That was a fantastic result, but it wasn't easy," said Turner. "The competition is so tough, especially from our own cars-the #99 gave us a real run for our money. The qualifying session was the hardest of the year, so to take pole and an extra point was great. The car was brilliant for most of the race. I had one difficult stint, but we managed to maintain the lead and take the race win, which is what we needed to do."
Aston Martin Racing enjoyed success in both GTE classes at the Six Hours of Fuji and the Six Hours of Circuit of the Americas.
Hot on the #97's heels was the #99 of Pedro Lamy, Bruno Senna and Richie Stanaway, which finished just 0.6 seconds behind after six hours to take second place and collect 18 valuable points towards the World Cup for GT Manufacturers. Senna, who finished the race for the #99 team, said: "That was a brilliant race. We took it right up to the wire with the #97 team. It's great to be up on the podium stood next to Darren, Stefan, Pedro and Richie and we've collected points towards the Manufacturers' championship so everyone at Aston Martin Racing can celebrate tonight."
In the GTE Am class, the #96 Vantage GTE of Campbell-Walter and Hall, joined for a second time by fellow Briton Jonny Adam, finished in third place having started sixth. The result maintained the team's lead of the Trophy for GTE Am Drivers and Trophy for GTE Am Teams. The #95 Vantage GTE of Danes Christoffer Nygaard, Nicki Thiim and Kristian Poulsen was denied its third race win of the season. The team qualified on pole and led the race by a convincing margin for the first 100 laps, even matching the pace of the GTE Pro runners, before being forced to retire with a yet undiagnosed electrical fault.
The atrocious weather in Japan did not affect the stoicism of this pit lane person
John Gaw, team principal of Aston Martin Racing, said afterwards: "We came to Shanghai knowing from last year that the car was strong here and, although it was very disappointing what happened to the #95 car after an exemplary weekend by all involved with that team, it was good to get the job done with the other cars. We go to the final round of the Championship in Bahrain in a stronger position than when we arrived here in Shanghai."
Three weeks earlier, Aston Martin won both GTE classes of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Six Hours of Fuji, Japan, and took second place in the GTE Am class in a race that was marred by terrible weather conditions. Due to torrential rain, the safety car led the competitors out onto the Fuji International Speedway, with the intention of completing three laps. However, after eight laps it was still deployed, and the race director made the decision to halt the race. Despite two restart attempts, and with three hours, 16 minutes remaining on the clock, the race was stopped, leaving the #97 Vantage GTE of Frédéric Makowiecki, Turner and Mücke with the GTE Pro race win and the #95 Vantage GTE of Senna, Nygaard and Poulsen finishing in first place in the GTE Am class, the positions in which they had qualified.
Aston Martin Racing dominates the podium in Shanghai as Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke lift their trophies.
In accordance with the WEC regulations, half points were awarded to each of the teams, as less than 70 per cent of the race was completed. Senna, who drove the #95 car, was pleased to add to the team's growing points tally. The #96 Vantage GTE of Hall, Campbell-Walter and Adam finished in second in the GTE Am class and the #99 of Lamy and Stanaway finished in sixth in the GTE Pro class because of a spin that put them to the back of the grid.
John Gaw reflected: "Racing sometimes throws up surprises and today was one of them. The weather was truly against us and torrential rain led to a flooded circuit. The event organisers did the right thing to ensure the safety of all the competitors, even if it was disappointing for the spectators. The terrific performance we had in qualifying yesterday has ensured that we scored the maximum points we could this weekend and has extended our lead in the GTE Am drivers' and teams' championship."
This followed the Six Hours of Circuit of the Americas where Aston Martin Racing won both GTE classes and finished second in the GTE Am class. The GTE Pro race-winning #99 Vantage GTE of Senna and Makowiecki started from the front of the grid. Throughout the six-hour race, the pair fought tirelessly to fend off attacks from the fierce competition and eventually crossed the finish line 15 seconds ahead of the second-place car. "That was an awesome weekend!" said a delighted Senna afterwards. "We were quick all week and we were very competitive. It's great to share this WEC win with Fred-it's a proud moment for us."
the team celebrate as a winning Aston Martin GTE crosses the line in Austin, Texas.
In the GTE Am class, the #95 Vantage GTE of Nicki Thiim, Nygaard and Poulsen and the #96 of Hall and Campbell-Walter dominated, and the pair led the rest of the pack by almost a minute. Both cars took their turn in leading the race and were wheel-to-wheel until the finish line but it was Campbell-Walter's #96 that crossed the line first with #95 driven by Poulsen just 1.7 seconds behind.
The #97 and #98 cars both fell victim to the high kerbs of the Circuit of the Americas, which caused damage to the floor of the cars. "Many cars have had the same issue with the kerbs this weekend," explained Turner. "I made a small mistake, meaning that I had some oversteer on entry to the corner. The kerbs don't look much but they can do real damage. As soon as you hit, it goes 'bang'."
See the first 2014 issue of AM Magazine for a full review of the season and a preview of the 2014 season with details of Aston Martin Racing's exciting plans for the new campaign.
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