Aston Martin Racing Embroiled in Thrilling Battle for GTE Pro Lead After Four Hours
Le Mans , 16 June 2012 – Aston Martin Racing’s #97 Vantage GTE remains in contention for GTE Pro class honours at the four hour mark after being involved in an exciting battle for the lead. Having gone wheel-to-wheel with the #74 car on numerous occasions – which witnessed a great number of changes for the lead – the Gulf-liveried Vantage GTE holds second position in class.
Factory driver Stefan Mücke (D) started the race from second in class. Despite overnight rain that last until early afternoon, the Circuit de la Sarthe was dry come the rolling start at 1500hrs (CET). Mücke was able to slip into the class lead on the opening lap and, despite struggling for grip at times, he held off the charge of the #74 car in a battle that would rage for the following four hours on the 8.5-mile circuit.
Mücke pitted after 12 laps for a refuel, the team choosing to double-stint both the driver and tyres. Once the #74 car had done the same, Mücke retook the lead of the GTE Pro class. The two racers rapidly pulled away from the rest of the GTE field and soon began passing and repassing one another for the lead as the 20th lap passed. Mücke began to stretch the gap to the pursuing the #74 car as he set fastest lap times for the GTE field until – on lap 25 – he pitted for fuel and tyres and to make way for team-mate Darren Turner (GB).
The #74 car passed Turner’s Vantage GTE in the pit stop window having run two laps longer, at which point the pair’s superb battle for the class lead commenced. Up to 10 overtakes would ensue over the following few laps as the pair fought as though it were a sprint race, between them staging the highlight of the entire race thus far.
While Turner and the #74 car engaged in battle, the #51 car was able to close the deficit. When the Vantage GTE’s brakes locked at Arnage corner, both rivals were able to slip by. Turner soon pitted for a scheduled refuel, calling off the duel for a short while in the process; it reignited after the #74 and #51 cars pitted, after which Turner continued in second position.
In a bid to reclaim the GTE Pro class lead, Turner has started a third stint both for himself and the tyres.
Aston Martin Racing Team Principal John Gaw commented: “We made a very strong start to the race in the GTE Pro category and gave the fans some exciting action to enjoy. The pace of the leading GTE Pro cars is really strong and three cars have broken away from the rest of the pack, but we’re very much in contention for the class lead. I’m sure we’ll see much more action from these three cars throughout the remainder of the race.
“The #99 Vantage, running in the GTE Am class, unfortunately lost time with a persistent misfire, but shortly after this was rectified the car went off in the Porsche Curves, sustaining a broken rear wing. The driver, Kristian Poulsen, was able to return to the pits where the car is currently being repaired.”
After 58 laps, the #97 Vantage GTE lies second in the GTE Pro class with Turner still at the wheel. The second Vantage GTE – run in partnership with Young Driver AMR – also led its class (GTE Am) in the early stages, so that for a short while Aston Martin Racing topped both categories, but it soon developed a misfire that had confined it to the garage with just brief excursions back onto the circuit until the team was able to rectify the issue. Following Poulsen’s incident after three and a half hours, he and team-mates Christoffer Nygaard and Allan Simonsen – forming an all-Danish driver line-up – have set about climbing back up the GTE Am leaderboard.