Aston Martin Racing have said they were ‘encouraged’ by their pace at the Le Mans Test Day after their two entries posted competitive times in their respective classes.
Following two four-hour sessions, the #97 GTE-Pro class Vantage GTE driven by Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Adrian Fernandez posted the fifth fastest time, while the all Danish crew of Allan Simonsen, Christoffer Nygaard and Krisitan Poulsen placed top of the GTE-Am times in their #99 Vantage GTE.
Despite the sessions being constantly disrupted by red flags and rain, the Aston Martin team worked through their routine set up programmes on the 8.5-mile Circut de la Sarthe. The team also used the test to bed in the experienced pair of Mucke and Fernandez, as neither of which had driven a production GT car at the Le Mans circuit.
“I haven't driven a GT car at Le Mans before, so today was a good opportunity to learn.” said Mucke. “I got some clear laps early in the first session to see how a GT car performed around this track, and although it was quite different to a prototype, it was good fun.
“We had a very productive day. We learned a lot about the low-downforce configuration, which is different to the other circuits that we've been to before with the Vantage GTE. We weren't looking much at lap times today because it was more important to get the car working well on this track. In 24 hours it can be hot and cold, wet and dry, so we focused on finding a set-up that is well-rounded for all conditions.”
Preparing for his fourth outing at Le Mans, Fernandez commented “We worked on making the car comfortable to drive, because that's really important over a 24-hour race. The only problem I had is that I didn't get enough consistent laps in a row. All of my runs were really one-lap runs because of rain, for example, so I just need more time in the car to get into a rhythm. I'm sure that come race weekend, though, I will be on the pace of Darren and Stefan.”
Turner believes the #97 Vantage GTE is ready for the race, but thinks there is room for improvement. “The test went really well. We haven't had any reliability issues with the car at all and we've run through the programme that we had planned for the day,” said Turner.
“I'm really happy with where the car is at right now, but inevitably there's still more work to be done. We're still looking for a slightly stronger race balance for the car, but we know that we've got time before the race to find that. We made really good progress today with the set-up and we weren't dragged down any counter-productive avenues.”
The all Danish driver crew of the #99 Vantage GTE posted the fastest time in the GTE-Am class in both sessions.
Competing at Le Mans for the sixth time in his career, Simonsen said: “I'm really pleased to have been fastest in both sessions in the GTE Am class. I was able to go quicker than the pole position time for the class last year, which is promising. Our test programme went really well and the Vantage GTE is now feeling strong; there isn't one single thing that stands out, it's just a very good overall package.
“We can feel confident going into race week. I certainly think that we'll be firmly in the battle for a class podium, if not more.”
Team Principal John Gaw is confident ahead of the prestigious race. “The main thing is that we didn't have any technical issues with either of our cars, despite completing 115 laps of this long circuit. We were focused on making the Vantage GTEs easy and safe to drive, but the fundamental pace of both cars has proven to be really strong.
“We weren't chasing lap times today. We were instead working on set-up and I'm sure there is more speed to come from both cars. I think we'll see that everyone will go faster in qualifying than they did in the test today, but I know that our engineers and drivers will continue to take steps forward in the days leading up to the race.
“Qualifying isn't crucial in a 24-hour race, but there's a lot of prestige associated with pole position so we'll definitely be pushing hard with both cars.”