Ed Fahey, Le Mans Correspondent
Aston Martin Racing are currently bouncing back from their disastrous 2011 season with the AMR-ONE prototype – a great-handling car hobbled by an underdeveloped engine. Team morale was affected by this, but is now at an all-time high after a change to the competitive GTE, where the new V8 Vantage car has been on the pace from the start. Drivers Darren Turner, Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen all have touring-car experience. They all admit the ‘rough and tumble’ aspect of touring cars is not present in GTE, but getting close to and staying with your opponent certainly is.
I'm adapting to it well and my respect for GT drivers has increased hugely as a result.
Adrian Fernandez is a recent convert to GTE racing, having raced in LMPs and IndyCar until now. He says the main difference is that he's no longer in the fastest class and has to give way to LMP traffic. “I'm adapting to it well and my respect for GT drivers has increased hugely as a result,” he said. Turner has more GT experience and felt that LMP drivers were more arrogant and aggressive. “I don't like them flashing the headlights,” he said. “We know they're there, so there's no need to remind us of it. The brightness and strobing is too much at times.” He added that when he drove the prototype last year, he tried to be respectful to GTE cars as much as he could. “Drivers who've raced both are more understanding about lapping in traffic,” he concluded.
David King is the man in charge of Aston Martin Racing. He felt the AMR- ONE project was ‘rushed’ and ultimately the budget was not there to compete with Audi and Peugeot. He admitted that many of the engineers would be keeping an eye on the Pescarolo 03, which uses a modified AMR-ONE chassis, as they put a lot of effort into the car in 2011. The Vantage is now Aston Martin's preferred GT racing car, with over 100 GT4 models sold and more orders for the GT3 version.
The #97 GTE-Am Aston is driven by an all-Danish crew of Christoffer Nygaard, Kristian Poulsen and Allan Simonsen. The success of ‘Mr Le Mans’ Tom Kristensen and Corvette Racing's Jan Magnussen has made Le Mans an exceptionally popular race in their homeland, with thousands of noisy Danish fans making the trip each year. Although not as many would be supporting the Aston trio, they all said seeing the Danish flags flying around the circuit provided a welcome boost.