Aston Martin Racing fought back from adversity in a fiercely-contested Total 6 Hours of Spa – Round 6 of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) – to record a hugely competitive double-podium in Belgium and maintain its convincing lead in the GT Manufacturers’ and GTE Pro Drivers’ standings.
Despite two torrential rain showers, one of which forced the race to begin behind the Safety Car, three further Safety Car periods, two punctures and several critical strategic calls to manage an ever-changing race, the #95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE driven by Danish duo Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen raced through to second place – finishing just 5.6s behind the GTE Pro leader.
Behind them, in third position were their team-mates Maxime Martin (BEL) and Alex Lynn (GB), who came within seven minutes of fuel’s-worth of winning the Belgian race for the second year in succession. Another short Safety Car period was all they needed to save enough fuel for a brilliant victory, but alas in the end it required a spash-and-dash with two laps to go and they dropped to third position. Moreover, the #97 crew had been nursing a brake issue in the closing stages and Martin drove brilliantly to fend off his rivals and take the podium.
Aston Martin now leads the GT Manufacturers’ Championship by 29 points with 219, while Thiim and Sørensen hold a 19-point lead in the Drivers’ standings. The result also means that an Aston Martin Vantage GTE has finished on the podium 15 times out of 24 attempts, while least one works Aston Martin Racing crew has stood on the podium at every race this season.
“What a roller-coaster of race!,” said Thiim. “We had two punctures, which was bad luck, and then two Safety Cars which allowed us to catch back up, which was good luck! And then a huge fight with the Porsche all the way to the end where every tenth of a second mattered. It was great to get a double-podium for the team, and these are important points for the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ championships. And that gives us a little bit of a cushion ahead of the next race, which is the big one at Le Mans!”
Martin added: “A podium at home in Spa is always nice. The race was very difficult, with two very wet periods. It was also a tough race strategically. It was a very good race for Aston Martin Racing. We had a lot of pace in the car, and I think we could have won the race, but we didn’t get the luck at the end and we a small issue that we needed to drive around. If circumstances had been different we could have won with the speed we had.”
Aston Martin Racing’s Partner team TF Sport once again finished with a podium in the GTE Am class, to add to the three victories Salih Yoluc (TUR), Charlie Eastwood (GB) and Aston Martin Racing factory driver Jonny Adam (GB), have already recorded this season. The works #98 Vantage, driven by Paul Dalla Lana (CDN), Ross Gunn (GB) and Augusto Farfus (BR), were ninth after a challenging day.
Aston Martin Racing Managing Director John Gaw said, “Two cars on the podium is a great result. We’re still leading both championships, but it was a pretty tough race. There were lots of strategic decisions to make. Sometimes you won under the Safety Car and sometimes you didn’t, but overall for our first race back after 174 days it was pretty good. To win championships you have to be consistent in adversity and we were that today. We made all the right strategic calls and we were right to split the strategies at the end. It was a little tough on the #97 crew who had the pace to win, and didn’t put a wheel wrong, but overall it was a brilliant race to come back to because it tested every area of the team.”
The next round of the FIA WEC is the 24 Hours of Le Mans which takes place on 19/20 September.