Last weekend Aston Martin had a surprisingly successful showing at the track in the Ardennes forest. Already at Silverstone, the British team qualified on pole position in both GTE-PRO and AM, but only managed to hold on to the win in AM. At Spa, the Prodrive prepared team delivered again in qualifying and converted both poles to wins. Are Aston Martin finally on the right track?
At the season opener at Silverstone at the end of April, Aston Martin delighted the home crowd with a double pole. It was the trio aboard #95 the Dane train of Nicki Thiim, Christoffer Nygaard and Marco Sorensen that took pole in GTE-PRO, while Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda secured pole in GTE-AM. During the race, the GTE-PRO entered V8 Vantage struggled to hang on to the top three positions and ended up giving in to the pressure from Ferrari and Porsche. Aston Martin couldn’t quite make the podium in GTE-PRO in the season opener but a strong performance in qualifying showed they were making steps forward to the front of the class.
The start of Aston Martin’s race in GTE-AM was similar to that of in GTE-PRO. The #98 car had a good start but was unable to hang on to it’s position on the grid. Fortunately for the British team, the other teams within the class took slightly longer to get up to speed. The experienced crew of the #98 took full advantage of this and went on to take an un troubled victory in class. Buoyed by the strong start to the season, Aston Martin went into last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps on a confidence high and with more data after a strong Silverstone weekend. Qualifying saw a repeat for Aston, once again claiming poles in both classes. While it was back to back pole positions for the #98 car in GTE-AM, GTE-PRO saw pole position go to the #99 V8 Vantage of Richie Stanaway, Fernando Rees and Alex MacDowall.
Once again, the V8 Aston’s started well but didn’t break from the opposition. Due to Porsche’s TUSCC commitments, there were alternative drivers in the #91 Porsche 911, so Ferrari were Aston Martin’s main concern in Belgium. The Porsche’s had their own troubles, not least 15 minutes in when Estre and Tandy came together, hindering their efforts. Ferrari and Aston Martin continued to dice throughout the race, but going into the final hour, it was looking like Bruni and Vilander were set to take their #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia to another victory. However in the final stops a mistake in the pit lane saw a wheel made a bid for freedom which landed the #51 crew a 1 minute stop and go penalty, handing the victory back to the pole sitters in the #99 Aston Martin.
Already in the first two races Aston Martin has shown that the hard work they have put in over the winter has paid off. After Ferrari’s domination of the GTE-PRO class over the first three seasons of the World Endurance Championship, Aston Martin finally seem to be challenging the prancing horse. Currently, AF Corse lead in the team’s and drivers’ championships, but the gaps are very small. The key point in this season’s championship will, as ever, be next month at Le Mans. With the points so tight at the moment, the double points on offer at Le Mans will really send which ever team takes victory on the right road to the World Championship. Both Aston’s sit at the top of GTE-AM, so a win at Le Mans for the leading #98 crew would make it a 100 out of 100 total of points after the first three races, a welcome start to Aston Martin’s bid to be the first team to win the GTE-AM championship twice. Although, there is a long way to go.
Image 1: WEC-Magazine (Walter Schruff)
Image 2: WEC-Magazin (James Clarke)