Spa Podium for Team Modena A frustrating Spa 1000km round of the Le Mans Series saw the Team Modena Aston Modena DBR9 record a podium finish in third place after more than five hours of intense racing, but the race had promised more, the ...
Spa Podium for Team Modena
A frustrating Spa 1000km round of the Le Mans Series saw the Team Modena Aston Modena DBR9 record a podium finish in third place after more than five hours of intense racing, but the race had promised more, the car suffering an electrical problem when leading the class early in the race. The team fought back from the early delay and were for much of the race the quickest LM GT1 car lapping the high-speed Belgian circuit, but the initial deficit was too much for drivers Antonio Garcia and Tomas Enge to catch the flying leaders.
"It was a tough race," said Team Principal Graham Schultz. "We had a pulley belt go, and twice were caught in the wrong place as the Safety Car came out. That meant we had a deficit that however quick we went it was just too much to claw back, but all weekend the team worked well and put on a professional display."
The race started under the Safety Car with a prototype off the track on the formation lap, and that set the tone for a race punctuated by caution periods. Antonio was in the DBR9 for the start, and was second at the end of the opening lap, starting a close battle with the quickest of the rival Corvettes.
Antonio took the class lead on lap sixteen, and pitted a lap after the Corvette on lap 23. In Antonio's final laps the team picked up via the telemetry that the voltage on the car's battery was falling, and correctly diagnosed that a crucial belt drive was not working. That made the stop longer than a scheduled driver, tyres and fuel stop as the team had to bring the DBR9 into the garage to fit the new belt - and when Tomas rejoined the car had fallen to fifth in the LM GT1 class.
Some rapid laps by Tomas saw Team Modena back up to third by the end of his stint - which saw him the quickest LM GT1 car for much of his time.
"The track was low on grip for everybody," said Tomas, "and I just tried to gain back some of the time we lost in the pits. The car was sliding - but the others seemed to be struggling even more and I was able to lap faster."
The team took advantage of more Safety Car periods to make quick pit stops and regain track position, both drivers lapping very quickly in an attempt to close on the two class leading cars. An opportunity to pull back a lap with a well timed pit visit did not quite come off as after a rapid stop under the Safety Car, Tomas was held at the end of the pit lane and not allowed to rejoin before the train of cars reached him.
In the final laps the Aston Martin was once more the quickest LM GT1 car on the circuit, and closed on the car in second place, only for a final late Safety Car period to catch Tomas just behind the overall race leader, losing him ground on the road on the LM GT1 cars ahead. Under that Safety Car Tomas radioed the pits to say that the car's engine was sounding rough, and the experienced Czech racer nursed the car home to ensure Team Modena took the final LM GT1 podium position.
"We could not pull back the time we lost, even with so many Safety Cars," said Antonio. "Each time the Safety Car came out it reset the race, and however quick we went we couldn't get better then third."
"That was a messy race," summed up Sporting Director Rik Bryan, "but we could have predicted that after all the red flags in the practice sessions over the weekend. Lots of cars went off, and we were unfortunate to lose the alternator belt early on, and it was catch-up from then on.
"The Safety Car only worked in our favour on one occasion, more than once it came out just as we had been passed by the overall race leader so we couldn't gain any track position. We were the fastest car for most of the race, but then under the final Safety Car it became clear we had an engine problem and from then on were nursing the car home. We went from being disappointed to take third, to being relieved to finish the race."
Next race for the Team Modena Aston Martin DBR9: Le Mans 24-Hours, June 14th and 15th.