It was close but no cigar for Aston Martin, Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke, who saw their FIA World Endurance Championship title hopes go out of the window with a fourth-hour retirement from the season-closing Six Hours of Bahrain.
Mucke started the race from third on the grid, slipping to fourth at the start owing to a lack of grip from the tyres. The tyre issues eventually proved too much for Mucke, having to pit the #97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE early to change rubber, putting the team out of sync with the other GTE Pro contenders. Turner took over for the second stint, suffering the same tyre issues as his German team-mate.
The track began to cool after two hours of racing, allowing the duo to pick their pace back up and rejoin the fight for the title. However, less than two hours later, their race came to an abrupt end.
“In the fourth hour Stefan radioed in to say he was losing power,” explained Turner. “He pitted for the team to have a look but the problem was terminal; something had gone awry in the engine and that was the end of our challenge.
“It’s a massive disappointment to get so close to the championship win and have it snatched away like this,” he continued. “Having said that I am feeling hugely proud of the team for getting us into a position where we could fight for the championship. I’m very pleased for the No.95 car for winning the Pro-Am race and for No.96 who won the Pro-Am Championship.”
Following the retirement of the #97, it was left to the #99 and #95 GTEs to battle on to try and keep Aston Martin ahead of Ferrari and Porsche in the LMGTE Manufacturers’ World Cup. However, disaster struck yet again for Aston Martin, when Pedro Lamy was forced to bring the #99 to the pits from third with an engine issue just an hour from the flag.
However, there was some light at the end of the tunnel for Aston Martin, with Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall in the #95 maching taking the Trophy for GTE Am Drivers.
“It’s a dream come true,” exclaimed Campbell-Walter. “I have three thank you messages; the first is for Stuart for being a fantastic team-mate all year, the second is for Roald, without him we wouldn’t be here at all and the third is for the team at Aston Martin Racing.”
Further consolidation came from Nicki Thiim, Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen, who took the #95 Vantage GTE to victory in GTE Am, their third win of the season.
“It was a near perfect first race,” said Thiim. “We struggled with our tyres in the first stint as the conditions were so hot but we managed them well, which is testament to how good the car is. As the sun went down the temperatures cooled and we showed strong pace and we all did a great job to control the gap. The whole team did a great job.”
“Engine failure is so rare, so for it to happen to us twice in one race is of course highly unusual,” concluded team principle, John Gaw. “We came here at the end of an incredibly strong year and, thanks to fantastic work by all of the team, we were leading the championship. We did everything within our control to leave here champions and we can all be very proud. The outcome was not what we wanted on the day and unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be in GTE Pro.
“However, everyone at Aston Martin Racing is so proud of the #96 crew for winning the Trophy for GTE Am Drivers and it was fitting that the #95 car finished the season on a high with its third race win of the season.”