Aston Martin

Spa 24 Hours Set To Be A Classic

This weekend the sportscar world will once again focus on the annual Spa 24 Hours, which in recent years has become the home of GT3 racing as the category has breathed new life into this classic sportscar endurance race. The entry list excels in both quantity and quality, with 58 cars on the current entry list, all filled with the finest GT works supported drivers in the world.

GT3 racing has provided brilliantly competitive racing since it’s inception in 2006, and this years Spa 24 Hours will likely be a highly competitive sprint race for 24 hours. Last years winners Laurens Vanthoor, Rene Rast and Markus Winkelhock return this year with their new 2015 spec Audi R8 LMS run by the works supported Team WRT. Team WRT and fellow Audi R8 LMS works supported Team Phoenix will provide stern opposition to the rest of the field, although GT3 racing in 2015 boasts a bevy of manufacters and works drivers aiming to topple Audi this year.

Not that Audi have not fully prepared to defend their Spa victory from last year, with a further four works supported Pro cup class entries, with the likes of Robin Frijns, Stephane Ortelli, Andre Lotterer and Mike Rockenfeller joining high quality driver line up’s across all six works supported entries.

Bentley and Lamborghini are the new kids on the GT3 block, although both have shown tremendous pace and have scored some good results, as both will look for a upset victory in this years race. Both have the manufacters full support behind them, along with a bevy of very fast and consistent drivers. The only knock on both manufacters might be their sheer number of entries, as Bentley have three Pro cup cars across M-Sport and Bentley Team HTP, whilst the Grasser Lamborghini team field only two of the new Huracan GT3 cars, compared to the five Audi’s in the Pro cup.

The BMW effort will once again this year be led by the Belgian Marc VDS team, who will field their usual two car effort filled with a line up of factory BMW drivers such as Maxime Martin. BMW have also taken some of the pre-race headlines thanks to the sole Pro cup ROAL Italian BMW entry which will be driven by factory drivers Timo Glock, Bruno Spengler and Alex Zanardi. The Italian will receive a lot of attention throughout the week, and the incredible Italian will be keen to show his pace as he gets up to speed with the Z4 GT3 car.

Once again Mercedes return with four Pro cup SLS GT3 entries, which marks a downfall for the usual hordes of Mercedes SLS entries in the premier class of the Blancpain series. With a new spec SLS due next year this may help explain the slight drop in numbers for this year, however this does not mean a lack of quality from the Mercedes entries, as they will hope to all achieve a good result from the usually bullet proof reliability of the SLS AMG GT3.

As for Nissan, their GT-R Nismo GT3 racer has two Pro cup entries, one of which is the famous GT academy entry. This car is also a very reliable entry, although the relative strength of their two entries compared to the rest may leave them struggling to produce a top three result without any misfortune for others. Do not however underestimate the Nissan entries, including in the Pro-Am class.

For Aston Martin, the majority of their entries come in the Pro-Am class, with only one Pro cup entry for the privateer Oman racing team. Aston Martin has given a lot of support with factory drivers and crew for the Pro-Am entries over the past few years. For the Oman racing team they may also struggle slightly in the highly competitive Pro cup, although a top five result is definitely possible including for the Pro-am factory assisted teams.

McLaren bring two new 650S factory supported entries run by VonRyan racing, with an all star cast driver line up, which should give McLaren a good chance of a good result if they can get the car working with the circuit. If so, a repeat of their dominant Silverstone win earlier this season could be possible, although the old MP4-12C seemed to struggle at Spa in the past. The ultimate potential of the car is currently unknown, therefore the team can only hope the 650S runs reliably, leaving the experienced drivers to show their pace throughout the race.

The only majorly represented manufacter who is not in the Pro cup is Ferrari with their 458 Italia. On the other hand, the manufacter has a good selection of factory supported privateer teams in the Pro-am class, and any Ferrari GT entry with Gianmaria Bruni behind the wheel deserves to be seen as a serious contender in it’s class. Whilst their are no Pro cup 458 entries the driver line up’s in the Pro-am class are good enough for this very quick car to be contending in the top five overall, and most certainly for Pro-am class honors come Sunday afternoon.

That wraps up my look at all of the major manufacters entered in this weekend’s Total Spa 24 Hours, and in terms of predicting a winner it’s almost impossible to guess correctly who will win. This is because the Blancpain endurance series is so highly competitive, with different contenders at each track.

If I ultimately had to pick a potential winner for me it’s very hard to look past the reigning champion #1 WRT Audi R8 LMS entry. The new car has looked quick this year, and with such a stellar driver line up and well organised team behind this entry they surely have to be car to beat going into the race weekend. What are your thoughts on contenders for this weekend’s Spa 24 Hours, or do you disagree with my prediction. Please comment and let me know your prediction for victory contenders come Sunday afternoon.

2015 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro Preview Part 2

After part 1 previewing the GTE Pro class at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, part 2 looks at the remaining contenders in this fiercely competitive GTE Pro class. With four manufactures and their hord of professional factory drivers set to compete flat out for 24 Hours, their battle for class victory will be scintillating to watch throughout the race.

#92 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Pilet/Frederic Makowiecki/Wolf Henzler The second Porsche Team Manthey entry is much like every other GTE Pro car in that it has a great chance at a class victory, with a top line Porsche factory team and a full line up of factory drivers in this car.

This entry has been fighting with Aston Martin and Ferrari all season so far in the World Endurance Championship, and will be looking to continue this fight at Le Mans. On the driving front this entry has one of the best GT drivers in the world in Frenchman Frederic Makowiecki. Partnering him are long time Porsche factory drivers Patrick Pilet and Wolf Henzler, with all three highly professional drivers who will be delivering consistently quick stints throughout the race.

Amongst the very close GTE Pro field, separating a favourite is too hard to predict. Therefore the winner of this class will be the one who can keep out of trouble during the race, as every entry has the potential to be contending for class honours in the final hours of the race. #95 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Marco Sorensen/Nicki Thiim/Christoffer Nygaard

The all-Danish “Dane train” Aston Martin which dominated the GTE Am class last year, has this year stepped up to the cut and thrust of the GTE Pro field. So far the team has shown it can handle the step up, with solid top six placings in the opening two WEC rounds.

Nicki Thiim is the only driver who remains from the Danish trio from last year, with new team mates Marco Sorensen and Christoffer Nygaard for this year. Nygaard has moved across from the sister #98 entry for this year, with the young Dane and GP2 racer Marco Sorensen completing the line up.

Thiim and Nygaard will provide good pace and experience behind the wheel, with the young charger Sorensen balancing his GP2 season with a switch to GT racing. All three will be looking to impress at Le Mans, although in this hugely competitive class, it may be difficult for this team to move up to GTE Pro and win Le Mans in their first year. A class podium would be a great result for the “Dane Train 2.0”. 

#97 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Darren Turner/Stefan Mucke/Rob Bell

This number 97 Aston Martin will be the one that stands out throughout the race week, as this car will have a very distinctive ‘art car’ livery by artists Tobias Rehberger. As well as standing out for it’s art car livery, it will also stand out as this car will likely be the one that leads the Aston Martin charge for class victory in the race.

The Aston Martin team are regulars now in the highest level of GT racing, and have come very close to winning the GTE Pro class the past two years. This year the team will be aiming for a class victory, and this car is the one most likely to deliver it.

Experience is the name of the game with this driver line up, with Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Rob Bell all being long term factory drivers for Aston Martin. Their speed and experience will be a potent combination in the race, and if the team can avoid misfortune this car will be fighting for victory going into the final hours of the race for sure.

#99 Aston Martin Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Fernando Rees/Alex MacDowall/Richie Stanaway

The third and final works Aston Martin racing entry at Le Mans is the Number 99 car, which goes into the 24 hours on great form after taking the class win at the most recent WEC round at Spa a month ago. This car is very much in the hunt for the WEC drivers title after two rounds, and with Le Mans being a double points round this weekend will have a big outcome on the championship.

Both Fernando Rees and Alex MacDowall will be hoping for much better luck this year, after a huge practice crash for Rees last year forced the team to withdraw from the race on the opening day of running. This year they both have a new team mate in young New Zealand hotshot Richie Stanaway. He has shown well in GP3 and especially GP2 this season, and his fresh injection of pace will only add further strength to this car’s chances of a class win.

If all three drivers have a close to perfect race, their talent and this Aston Martin Vantage will have more than enough pace to take an unexpected GTE Pro class win, although if the car suffers any misfortune in the race it will be difficult to see them being able recover enough to claim the victory. A podium will be a very good result for this team, although a class win is a definite possibility.

That wraps up my look at a very competitive GTE Pro class, hope you enjoy this article and any comments would be appreciate both good and bad. I have to add thanks to Motorsport.com for their amazing, high quality photos which you see in this article. I urge you to go and visit their website http://www.Motorsport.com for all the latest news and photos from the motorsport world. Next up will be a preview of the LMP2 class.

2015 Sebring 12 Hours GTLM Preview

The latest installment of my series previewing this weekend’s iconic Sebring 12 Hours, the second round of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship, previews the highly competitive GT Le Mans class for GTE Le Mans spec race cars. This class is swarming with big budget factory teams and all star casts of drivers, something which makes this class arguably the most competitive on the TUSC grid. Predicting a winner is almost impossible but here’s my best shot at it!

#3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia/Ryan Briscoe

This Corvette Racing entry are coming into Sebring full of confidence after an impressive class win at the opening Rolex 24 Hour race at Daytona. The Corvette crew won out against a plethora of fellow factory entries, eventually finishing an outstanding 4th overall, which just shows how high the quality is in this GTLM class.

Corvette Racing have been a powerhouse in American GT  racing for over a decade now and what their Pratt & Miller team doesn’t know about long distance sportscar racing, frankly isn’t worth knowing. This combination of experience and high quality is reflected in their driver line-up too.

Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia are the full season drivers, both highly experienced and very fast Corvette drivers. Indycar star Ryan Briscoe completes the line up, bringing again both speed and experience with the Corvette C7.R race car. Corvette racing can never be discounted in GT racing, and this time out the team and this #3 entry will be hoping for yet another class win for Corvette Racing this weekend.

#4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Simon Pagenaud

The Corvette Racing team started the year meaning business with an impressive run to first and third on the GTLM podium at the opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, unfortunately for the #4 crew it was their Corvette C7.R that had to complete the podium in third. Whilst this is still an amazing result, for a team used to winning third just won’t quite cut it for them. Therefore watch out for this #4 entry this weekend as the team look to reclaim the top step on the GTLM class podium come the end of the 12 Hours.

The Sebring 12 Hours is renowned for being a very difficult race to master, with some calling it the toughest sportscar race in the world. The #4 crew will be feeling up for the challenge however with the might of Corvette Racing behind them and a stellar driving cast.

Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner are both seriously quick and experienced GT drivers for Corvette Racing, whilst the hiring of Indycar rising star Simon Pagenaud for the long distance races was an inspired move by the team. Whilst he lacks GT experience, Pagenaud is seriously quick and could spring a surprise this weekend. Whilst the team will be looking for a good result to collect a haul of points for the championship, they will also be sniffing for victory should they have a clean run in the race.

#17 Team Falken Tires Porsche 911 991 RSR: Bryan Sellers/Wolf Henzler/Patrick Long

This Falken Tires outfit suffered at the Rolex 24, with a cruel engine blowup on Sunday morning forcing them out of the battle for the class lead with only a few hours remaining. Whilst it was desperately cruel luck for this team, they can take solace from their strong showing until the blowup.

This team will therefore be looking to avenge their late retirement and get back into the title fight with a strong showing this weekend. The team have spent several seasons now gaining experience and developing their unique Falken Tires, which could prove to either be an advantage or disadvantage on the rest of their competitiors depending on how they set up their car and the quality of their tyre allocation.

The team has a very strong driver line up with Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler being joined by Porsche factory GT driver Patrick Long for the long distance events. Long adds crucial speed and experience with in-depth knowledge of the 911 GT race car, which alongside Sellers and Henzler make this entry one to watch out. Whilst this class is full of factory GT outfits, don’t be at all surprised if this independent Falken Tire team spoil the party and claim class honors for themselves come the end of 12 hours of frantic GT action.

#24 IHG Rewards Club BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE: John Edwards/Lucas Luhr/Jens Klingmann

The BMW Team RLL team were the closest challengers to Corvette Racing in the final hours of the Rolex 24, which was slightly surprising considering the strength of the BMW Z4 GTE has always been it’s higher downforce, nimble agility rather than the out and out straight line speed that is primarily needed to run quickly on the Daytona track. This #24 entry suffered some small issues during the race, although still finished a respectable 4th in class.

For the works BMW team however and this #24 entry 4th won’t be enough to satisfy them, as they will look to improve this weekend at a circuit that should suit the strengths of their Z4 more than Daytona did. On the driving front the team has a very quick line up with two young GT charges John Edwards and Jens Klingmann providing blistering pace for the team whilst the very experienced sportscar racer Lucas Luhr provides the calm experience needed to complete the 12 hours without any major dramas.

This BMW RLL Team will be looking for the couple of tenths they appear to need to beat Corvette Racing in a straight fight, although the twistier nature of the track may be all they need to snatch a class win this weekend, with this #24 crew hoping it’s them and not the sister #25 entry that leads the BMW challenge in GTLM this weekend.

#25 IHG Rewards Club BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE: Bill Auberlen/Dirk Werner/Augusto Farfus

The #25 entry from BMW Team RLL was tantalizingly close to claiming class honors at the Rolex 24, falling just 0.478 of a second behind the victorious #3 Chevrolet Corvette, after 24 hours of high octane racing. It’s impossible in a sportscar race 24 hours in length to get closer to a victory, with the team hoping to make the small improvement needed to claim class victory this weekend.

This BMW Team RLL has become a very professional and well drilled outfit, ran by Bobby Rahal, and their BMW Z4 GTE  should be on form again this weekend at Sebring. The driving talent in this #25 BMW entry is impressive with the vastly experienced and fast Bill Auberlen anchoring the line up, alongside team mate Dirk Werner and BMW factory DTM driver Augusto Farfus to complete the trio. With the team coming so close at Daytona, you can be sure they will be doing everything in their power to finish the job this weekend and claim class honors.

#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia: Pierre Kaffer/Giancarlo Fisichella/Andrea Bertolini

The #62 Risi Ferrari team were running strongly in the opening hours of the Rolex 24, before a serious engine problem ruined their race and forced the team into retirement. This was not the start to the 2015 Tudor United Sportscar Championship season this team was expecting, and they will be looking to bounce back to the rightful spot at the front of the GTLM class battle this weekend.

The Risi team is one of the strongest Ferrari GT teams in the world, with Ferrari factory assistance adding to the highly professional and long standing team. In terms of driving talent the team has three stars with factory Ferrari GT driver Giancarlo Fisichella leading the line up, with Pierre Kaffer and Andrea Bertolini providing a wealth of experience and consistent speed, which will be crucial in their fight for class victory. This team is looking to bounce back after Daytona, and don’t be surprised if they do so in resounding fashion with a class win this weekend at Sebring.

#98 Gulf Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 GTE: Pedro Lamy/Paul Dalla Lana/Darren Turner/Mathias Lauda

The Aston Martin Racing factory team suffered a difficult start to their return to American GT racing at the Rolex 24, suffering several problems which left the team on the fringes of the top five in GTLM come the finish. The team will therefore be hoping to have unlocked some extra speed from their Vantage GTE car this weekend at Sebring, as it hopes for a much stronger showing this time out.

On the driving front the team also suffered slightly compared to the rest, with long time Aston Martin factory drivers Darren Turner and Pedro Lamy leading the line up, although the car’s overall pace dropped off slightly when new Aston Martin factory driver Mathias Lauda and the only amateur in the GTLM class in Paul Dalla Lana.

Whilst both Lauda and Dalla Lana were still quick, their pace couldn’t quite match the rest of the very fast professional GT drivers in their class, which is to expected considering the experience compared to the rest.This weekend the team will be hoping for an upturn in their fortunes, although they may struggle to fight for class honors a podium is a definite possibility for this very well run Aston Martin Racing team.

#911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 991 RSR: Nick Tandy/Patrick Pilet/Richard Lietz

For the Porsche North America factory racing team it was not a happy return to the Rolex 24 after a class victory on their debut in 2014, this year the race dealt them some cruel luck and the team stumbled through the 24 hours, although the #911 entry did well in it’s recovery drive as they soldiered through the field to an eventual 4th in class. Embarrassingly both cars collided with each other during the late evening at Daytona, something the team will be hoping does not derail their run at Sebring.

Porsche are always professional and highly organised in their running of a team, and they always manage to find a bevy of drivers with both blinding pace and the consistency that make a great sportscar driver. On this front the team has a brilliant line up of their latest recruit Nick Tandy, alongside long standing Porsche factory drivers Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz.

Whilst the Porsche factory team suffered a difficult opening Rolex 24, the fact this #911 entry still finished 4th in class despite it’s problems shows that when this team has a clean run, they will be right there with the contenders fighting for the victory, something they hope to achieve starting this weekend.

#912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 991 RSR: Jorg Bergmeister/Earl Bamber/Frederic Makowiecki

The #912 Porsche entry suffered even more bad luck than their sister #911 entry at Daytona, with the crew surely hoping that’s their lot in terms of bad luck for the next few races. The team struggled at the Rolex, although when the car was running healthy it showed a lot of pace and could well had challenged for the class win had they not suffered their issues.

The Porsche North America team is highly organised and they would have rectified any mistakes made at Daytona, with an all star driver line up adding to their professionalism.  Jorg Bergmeister is the experienced hand in this entry, although still has a wicked turn of pace in a Porsche 911, with the highly rated duo of Frederic Makowiecki and Earl Bamber alongside him. Both have established themselves as seriously quick GT drivers and this car has a great chance of class victory at Sebring if they can get the car dialed in with the tricky airfield circuit.

That wraps up my preview of the highly competitive GT Le Mans class of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship, as for predicting a winner that is simply too hard to predict. I will be tuning in this weekend for sure to see who comes out on top in this titanic GTLM class battle. A final word of thanks has to go to the amazing Motorsport.com for their high quality photos which one again feature in this article. Please go and visit their website http://www.Motorsport.com for all the latest motorsport news and high quality photos from across the motorsport globe. Thank you and any comments would be appreciated both good and bad. Enjoy!

Ellis/Fores too fast for rest in Fiscar 50’s Inter-Marque enduro

Next up on track was the 30 minute Fiscar 50’s Inter-Marque affair, which included mandatory pit stops to ensure an endurance feel to this race. The grid was as large as it was eclectic, with the pole man being the shared Lotus Elite of Robin Ellis and Richard Fores, with the similar Elite of soloist Brian Arculus alongside on the front row. Martyn Corfield was 3rd in this impressive Austin Healey 100/4 whilst earlier Jon Goss Memorial trophy front row man Steve Brooks completed row 2.

At the start it was Brian Arculus who made the best getaway to take the lead as the Ellis/Fores entry bogged down on the line. In the early laps the attention was focused on the recovering Ellis/Fores entry as they passed the fellow shared entry of John Ure and Nick Wigley in their Cooper Bristol T24 for 2nd on the pit straight after 3 laps. A lap later and the Ellis/Fores took the lead as the leader Arculus rocketed into the pit lane at the first possible moment to take his mandatory pit stop. He explained the reasoning was to avoid potential traffic during the stop which could cost him time.

Behind them lap 4 also saw the Mike Thorne/Sarah Bennett- Baggs Austin Healey 100M pass the Ure/Wigley Cooper for 3rd on the Dean straight. With Arculus pitting this promoted the Ure/Wigley Cooper back into 3rd, although this didn’t last long as they were deposed again, this time by the flying Simon Hadfield in his under powered Elva Courier on lap 5. From here it quickly became apparent the Ure/Wigley Cooper was dropping away from the top 3 by lap 7. Back at the front and it was clear that the man on the move was earlier Jon Goss Memorial trophy winner Simon Hadfield in the Elva. He passed the Thorne/Bennett- Baggs Austin Healey for 2nd on lap 8 and claimed the lead a lap later as the Ellis/Fores Lotus pitted, losing time as he was held up by slower cars also pitting at the same time.

Also on this lap the Ure/Wigley recovered from their earlier drop in pace to pass the Thorne/Bennett-Baggs Austin Healey for 3rd, which prompted both the Healey but also the 4th placed Martyn Corfield in his Healey 100/4 to pit a lap later. It was at this middle portion of the race that the majority of the pit stops were being made, making it very hard to track who was where in the jumbled up portion of the race. Lap 11 saw the Ure/Wigley Cooper pit from 2nd, with an entertaining scrap taking place a lap later as the recovering Ellis/Fores Lotus Elite bravely attempted to unlap himself from the leading Hadfield Elva.

With almost three quarters of the race gone the final front runners to pit were Hadfield and 2nd man Steve Brooks on lap 14, as Hadfield handed over to his wife Amanda. This reinstated the Brian Arculus Lotus Elite in the lead, whilst the Elva now piloted by Amanda Hadfield plummeted down the order over the final laps as she failed to match the scorching pace set by her husband Simon.

Back at the front and the Ure/Wigley Cooper was flying as it passed the Arculus Lotus Elite for the lead on lap 17. The battle for the lead intensified on the next lap as the rapidly closing Ellis/Fores Lotus finally caught the lead pair. A 3 way dice for the lead going up Avon Rise was finally decided as the Ellis/Fores Lotus blasted through the middle to take the lead on lap 18. From here the lead three remained close although they didn’t change position again as the flag fell at the end of lap 20. The Robin Ellis/Richard Fores Lotus Elite claimed a narrow victory from the solo Brian Arculus Lotus Elite whilst the John Ure/Nick Wigley Cooper Bristol completed the podium. Martyn Corfield was 4th in his Austin Healey 100/4 whilst Steve Brooks and the Andy Shephard/Ted Shephard AC Ace Bristol completed the top 6 in a thrilling Fiscar 50’s Inter-Marque race.

Wakeham recovers from poor start to claim VSCC Pre-War victory

The Vintage Sports Car Club are always popular at Castle Combe, and they kindly put together a grid for an invitational race after their regular season finished at Snetterton the week before. Combe and the Autumn Classic is obviously popular with the drivers as a high quality grid lined up for their 20 minute curtain closer to their season. David Freeman was on pole in his Aston Martin 2 Litre Speed Model whilst Frederic Wakeham was on the outside of the front row in his Frazer Nash Super Sports. Mark Brett was 3rd in his unique Ballamy-Ford V8 Special whilst Sue Derbyshire completed row 2 in his three wheeler Morgan Super Aero.

At the start it was 3rd man Mark Brett who made a lightning getaway to shoot between the middle of the front row to claim the early lead. Behind them it was all change in the early laps as David Freeman passed Wakeham for 2nd on lap 3, only for Wakeham to re-take the place on the pit straight at the beginning of lap 4. Later on in the lap and Wakeham completed his mission as he claimed the lead from the fast starting Brett. Lap 5 and things got worse for Brett as he was further demoted to 3rd by pole man David Freeman. At this stage Wakeham was attempting to break away from the rest as he opened a 1-2 second lead on the rest.

From lap 6 it was clear Wakeham and Freeman were breaking away from the developing battle for 3rd between Brett and Andrew Mitchell. After several laps of dicing for 3rd it was finally resolved on lap 9 as Mitchell passed Brett. Back at the front Wakeham now had a lead of 1.5 seconds, something he extended to 3.3 seconds by lap 11. From here things remained the same as Frederic Wakeham came home the victor, from David Freeman in 2nd and Andrew Mitchell who completed the podium.

Fast starter Mark Brett came home 4th whilst Sue Derbyshire and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards completed the top 6. This race has plenty of excitement with close battles and spectacular driving in these Pre-War race cars with a remarkable variety of little known manufacters, which is exactly why the VSCC is so popular with the Castle Combe spectators every year they race here. For more information on this great series please visit their website below.
http://www.vscc.co.uk/

Simon Hadfield dominates Combe Aston Martin Jon Goss trophy

Race 3 of the Autumn Classic meeting at Castle Combe was for historic Aston Martin’s, with a short 20 minute race for the Jon Goss Memorial trophy. On pole was rapid historic racing proponent Simon Hadfield in Wolfgang Freiderichs Aston Martin DB3S, with Simon Brooks alongside him on the front row in is DB3S. Row 2 consisted of David Reed in his DB2 with Chris Jolly completing the row in his similar DB2.

From the lights Hadfield rocketed away into an early lead as the rest jostled for position behind him. After the first lap it was clear Hadfield was on a mission as he seamlessly built an opening lap lead of around 5 seconds over the rest. Behind him too, 2nd and 3rd placed drivers David Reed and Chris Jolly were beginning to distance themselves from the rest also. By lap 3 it was clear barring mechanical problems that Hadfield would dominate this race as he was stretch his lead by 5 seconds a lap at the front.

With the lead now at 16 seconds by the end of lap 3, Hadfield kept stretching the lead as the rest of the top six were now evenly spaced also. On the fringes of the top six things almost changed as Steve Brooks almost fell out the top six after spinning on lap 9 at the Esses, although he re-joined still in 6th. It was clearly a tough race for Brooks as the spin showed he was struggling, especially as he had quickly fallen down the order from the 2nd spot on the grid.

In the later stages the race came alive somewhat, as Paul De Havilland, in his invitational Jaguar XK150, passed Chris Jolly for 3rd on the penultimate lap. A lap later, on lap 15 Simon Hadfield completed the final lap to take the chequered flag a staggering 56.482 seconds ahead of David Reed in 2nd after only 20 minutes of racing. Paul De Havilland completed the podium with Chris Jolly coming home 4th. Gordon McCulloch and Steve Brooks completed the top six with 5th and 6th respectively. Whilst this race didn’t have many battle it still provided excitement and intrigue at the skill of Simon Hadfield’s driving, a true display in how to hustle a historic racing car.

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am Review Part 2

After previewing the first half of a vast 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am class, this is the second and final instalment of my Le Mans reviews from each class. Like I mentioned before, the GTE Am class was one of the closest fought battles in the race and the vast entry shows it’s popularity with the drivers and teams. Long may it continue.

Team Taisan:

#70 Ferrari F458 Italia: Shinji Nakano/Martin Rich/Pierre Ehret
The Japanese based Team Taisan returned to the Le Mans 24 Hours after a long absence, hoping for a similar result to it’s first debut where the team scored a GT class victory in 2000. Unfortunately for the team, the level of competition in GTE Am is much improved in 2014 and a repeat class victory didn’t look likely.

The team suffered a poor qualifying yet the quality in their driver line-up meant they were unlikely to stay in the lower places once the race got underway. From here the team drove a steady and reliable race as they marched up the GTE Am field to an eventual 8th place finish in class by the finish, and 28th overall. For this team that can be viewed as a success on their return after some years away, with many hoping they’ll make a return visit in 2015.

SMP Racing:

#72 Ferrari F458 Italia: Andrea Bertolini/Victor Shaitar/Aleksey Basov
For this newly formed Russian SMP Racing team their link up with experienced Ferrari GT team AF Corse must have proved invaluable on this, their first Le Mans 24 Hours. Whilst the two Oreca LMP2 cars they fielded struggled during session leading into the race, their GTE Am Ferrari qualified a superb 5th in a highly competitive class.

During the race the SMP Ferrari consolidated it’s position at the head of the midfield, just within reach of podium contention. All 3 drivers were driving well, especially the two Russian rookies considering it was their first Le Mans, until the rug was whipped out from underneath the team just as the began to dream of a top 5 position in class. They were forced out during the night after completing 196 laps, and whilst the team can be disappointed they retired, they can take a lot of heart from their performance up to that point. The team looks likely to return in 2015, and watch out for them to be contenders for GTE Am honours.

Prospeed Competition:

#75 Porsche 911 997 RSR: Francois Perrodo/Emmanuel Collard/Markus Palttala
This #75 Prospeed Porsche was a car I tipped for the GTE Am podium as they contained a driver line-up that could match anyone in the class. Unfortunately the team suffered a poor build up to the 24 Hours and qualified well down from their expected front running position.

The team and drivers were vastly experienced however and it wasn’t long before they began their rise through the GTE Am field. The team was staying out of trouble and making up positions until unfortunately the team was forced into retirement in the middle of the night, having completed 194 laps. This was galling for the team as they looked on course to challenge for a top 5 finish in class, although we remain hopeful the team will return next year and deliver on the potential they showed in this year’s 24 Hours.

IMSA Performance Matmut:

#76 Porsche 911 997 RSR: Nicolas Armindo/Raymond Narac/David Hallyday
The second IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche was another, like the #58 Sofrev ASP Ferrari, to garner plenty of French press attention, as this driver line up contained French pop star David Hallyday, who is a regular at the 24 Hours. This experienced team was given a boost with rapid young French GT driver Nicolas Armindo in the line up, although the #76 car failed to show it’s true pace in qualifying.

Come race day, the car was running well during the early hours, before a plethora of small problems hobbled the team from here on out. The drivers drove well to try make up as much time as possible yet by the finish the problems had relegated the team to a lowly 11th in class at the flag. Although this is hugely disappointing for a team that was probably hoping for a top 5 finish in class, they’ll be hoping their luck improves in time for next year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

Dempsey Racing-Proton:

#77 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Dempsey/Joe Foster/Patrick Long
Undoubtedly the car with the most attention throughout the race week was the #77 Dempsey racing Porsche. Well known American actor and avid racer Patrick Dempsey returned for his third Le Mans, and second with his own team. After a heart breaking run that came so close to GTE Am honours last year, they were hoping to better that this year. After a midfield qualifying run the team looked set for a good race as Porsche factory driver Patrick Long was soon challenging for higher places in the opening few hours.

From here the steady hands of Dempsey and business partner Joe Foster kept the car in the hunt, although tragically for the team misfortune soon derailed their challenge. This mechanical problem dropped them down the order, and whilst they tried to make up the lost ground, they were able to get back to a close 5th in class. Although this team might feel slightly disappointed, to have such a strong Le Mans two years in a row suggests if this team has a relatively reliable run, they be challenging for GTE Am honours next year.

Proton Competition:

#88 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Christian Reid/Klaus Bachler/Khaled Al Qubaisi
The second of the Proton Porsche’s carried a lot less hype surrounding it than the sister #77 entry, therefore leaving the car to fly under the race during race week. A quiet qualifying was carried over into the race as the car and three drivers ran faultlessly throughout the 24 Hours, whilst the lacked the all round scintillating pace that can be overcome in the race. Their reliability soon had them creeping up the order until they found themselves 2nd in class with only a few hours to go.

Whilst the team started dreaming of a class victory when the leading #95 Aston Martin was pulled into the pits with only a couple of hours left, the team was unable to make up the lap difference before the Aston was fixed and sent back out. Therefore the team cruised from here to take a comfortable 2nd in class, and 21st overall. The team was clearly delighted with this incredible result and will be hoping their good luck continues for another crack at class victory next year.

8Star Motorsport:

#90 Ferrari F458 Italia: Frankie Montecalvo/Gianluca Roda/Paolo Ruberti
For the 8Star team things started badly for the 24 Hours as driver Frankie Montecalvo suffered a big accident in the early qualifying sessions. It was feared at one point he would be unable to race, yet the team were delighted to find out in fact he would be well enough to race after the shunt. The crash therefore blunted their qualifying effort, yet the team were confident they could make up ground with a reliable run.

The team’s race plan worked to perfection during the race as they slowly and methodically moved up the GTE Am order as the race wore on, the #90 seemed to slip under the radar until they reached 4th in class by Sunday morning. From here the team tried to catch the #61 AF Corse Ferrari in in 3rd, yet were unable to do this and settled for a 4th in GTE Am, only one lap off the podium.

Whilst the team might feel slightly unlucky with their accident and starting position it seems the team lived up to their expectations after a difficult start, and will be hungry for more next year.

Aston Martin Racing:

#95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Nicki Thiim/Kristian Poulsen/David Heinemeier Hansson
This was arguably the favourite for GTE Am honours pre-race, something the team delivered on in the ultimate manner. From the moment practice began on Wednesday this team seemed to have an edge on speed over the rest in the GTE Am class, as the Aston Martin Vantage returned to competitiveness at the Circuit de la Sarthe. The team expertly converted a 3rd in class after qualifying into an early lead, which the held for the majority of the rest of the race.

It was one of the few Aston Martin’s that didn’t suffer from power steering problems throughout the race, yet it have it share of problems late on, although by this point the car had enough of a lead to retain it’s GTE Am lead. They eventually crossed the line victorious by 2 laps, in what was hugely emotional win for this all Danish crew, after the loss of team mate and popular fellow Dane Allan Simonsen in the early laps of last year’s 24 Hours. This class win was the ultimate dedication to his memory from everyone at Aston Martin racing.

#98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Paul Dalla Lana/Pedro Lamy/Christoffer Nygaard
The second of the two factory Aston Martin GTE entries suffered a lot more difficult race as their Aston was the first to suffer power steering problems. Up to this point the team was thrilled as the factory Aston’s ran 1-2 in GTE Am, with the #98 car holding the lead for 86 consecutive laps before surrendering it to the sister #95 entry just after midnight when the power steering problem reared it’s ugly head.

The repairs were extensive and dropped the car well down in the GTE Am class, once repaired the superb driver line up tried to make up as much as possible, yet there was little they could do at this point as the car eventually made the flag 6th in class, 5 laps down on it’s team mate. Although the team will be disappointed with the problem, they can take consolation from the fact they scored points which sets them up well for the remaining rounds of the WEC now.

Garage 56 Entry:

Nissan Motorsport:

#0 Nissan ZEOD RC: Lucas Ordonez/Wolfgang Reip/Satoshi Motoyama
The final entry for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours was the greatly experimental Nissan ZEOD RC, which challenged the boundaries for hybrid technology in the world’s greatest motor race. The team set ambitious target and threw the best available talent behind this project. The vastly successful RML team ran the operation, which aimed to travel at 186mph on the Mulsanne straight and complete a full lap on only electric power stored by the hybrid system.

Unsurprisingly the car ran into a lot of problems during the week, yet the team’s targets had already been met before the 24 Hours even started as they completed their objectives in the morning warm up. From here the overall result in the 24 Hours wasn’t of major significance as the team had already completed it’s goals. Despite this, the team must have been disappointed to see the car roll to a halt halfway between Arnage and the Porsche curves early on.

Once the ACO refused the team’s plea to let the car be collected and returned to the pits, their race was sadly over after only 5 laps. On the whole, the team can take great heart from this project and it’s achievement, despite the race result. The team performed excellently during the week, and all 3 drivers have definitely put themselves in the window for the new Nissan LMP1 project next year with their performances this week.

That sadly completes my Le Mans 24 Hours coverage for this year, all keep posted as I try to write about the remaining Sportscar season, which goes relatively quiet now in Europe after Le Mans. It was a truly amazing Le Mans 24 Hours race, which has solidified my decision to go to the race next year for sure. Please feel free to comment on this, all my details are in the contact page of this site.

Finally I must say one more time a huge thank you to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing photos throughout the whole Le Mans 24 Hours week. I know I’ve said the same thing in multiple posts but their site really is worth a look for any motorsport fan. Until next time, Enjoy!