The fact that the No.97 Vantage GTE crossed the line after 12 hours of racing at Sebring in eighth position yesterday belies the great pace showed by Aston Martin Racing’s 2013 challenger. After an intensive test programme that has taken in Portimao, Road Atlanta and Sebring itself, the Sebring 12 Hours served as a warm up race for the FIA World Endurance Championship, which gets underway in just a few weeks’ time.
“Our test programme has gone very well,” said Darren. “It was good to get out to Atlanta and spend some quality time with the new car to prepare for Sebring, especially as the results were all very positive.”
The pace of the new Vantage GTE became apparent when Stefan Mucke qualified in third place for the Sebring 12 Hours, just 0.2 seconds shy of pole position.
Darren started the race from third position on the grid, getting away well despite getting squashed at Turn One.
“The start of the race was interesting,” he said. “The cars bunched up at Turn One and I found the car sandwiched in. It settled down a bit but I soon caught up with the traffic. A slower car, surrounded by lots of traffic, braked suddenly and I shunted into the back of it. I thought we’d escaped damage but it turns out it had damaged the radiator, which didn’t become apparent until a few laps later when we started losing water.”
The Aston Martin Racing crew set about repairing the car so, although they could no longer compete for the podium, they could continue to gather vital data to prepare for the new WEC season.
Darren said: “The crew did a great job getting it fixed so quickly. We were able to get back out on track and carry on putting miles on the car. Considering the new Vantage GTE has many new parts it is incredible that it ran faultlessly. You can’t plan for bumps and scrapes, which are always a risk, so it’s good to know that the car is ready for a season of flat out endurance racing!”
Just for Sebring Darren and Stefan shared the No.97 with Bruno Senna. The Brazilian who had suffered from a virus during the early part of the race weekend was back in the driving seat for the race and got into the groove very quickly.
“It was good to have Bruno as our team mate this weekend,” said Darren. “We know how quick he is now though so we’re going to have to watch out for him when he’s in the sister car in WEC!”
Darren and Stefan’s chance to continue their winning streak in WEC will come in just four weeks’ time when the FIA World Endurance Championship season kicks off at Silverstone.