Crash.Net Le Mans News
Aston Martin enjoys strong Portimao test
20 February 2013
The factory Aston Martin Racing team has enjoyed a productive two-day test in Portugal as it continues planning for the new FIA World Endurance Championship season.
The test at Portimao saw Bruno Senna, Rob Bell and Fred Makowiecki all sample the works Vantage GTE for the first time while long-time AMR duo Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke were also on hand to turn laps in the updated version of the V8-powered machine.
Despite mixed weather conditions, each driver was able to gain experience behind the wheel as the team completed more mileage than planned, and team principal John Gaw said he was pleased with the way the test had panned out.
“Despite the weather being wetter than expected, this didn't hamper our test session,” he said. “In fact, it worked out well because all the drivers drove in wet, damp and dry conditions and, in the end, we actually complete more kilometres over the two days than we had initially planned. The car has started this year like it finished last with great pace and reliability; although, of course, we don't know how much our competitors have also improved during the winter.
“Importantly, all the drivers gelled and were close on lap-times – it's an excellent start to the team's working relationship – and we exceeded our ambitions for the first test session.”
While the other four drivers have experience of racing GT machinery, the test marked Senna's first outing in a GT car and the former Williams F1 man admitted it was a world away to the cars he has been used to in recent years.
“I'm pleased with the way things went in Portimao,” he said. “The rain prevented us from running as much as we expected on Sunday, but at night at least I was able to make some mileage on wet tyres. On Monday the weather was better and, even though the track was still damp in the morning, I could start understanding the car.
“The Vantage GTE felt good to drive, but is quite different compared to the Formula 1 cars I drove in the recent seasons. You have to brake early and I was very careful, mainly when the track was still wet. Overall, these were useful days for us. Now I look forward to the second test session at Road Atlanta.”
Senna's performance drew praise from team-mate Turner, who said he was impressed with the way in which the Brazilian had driven on his debut in the car.
“Bruno certainly had a baptism of fire as his first run in a GT car was in the dark and the rain but he did amazing job and I was surprised at how quickly he adapted to the car,” the Briton, a member of the AMR line-up since 2005 and a two-time winner at Le Mans, said. “Although the final member of our squad - Peter Dumbreck - wasn't at the test it's good that this bunch of drivers is working well together; there's a great atmosphere in the team.
“Although this isn't the first time we have run the new Vantage GTE it's the first time we've been able to run it in anger and put some serious mileage on the car. It does feel like a very good step forward. The team has done a great job over the winter and made some significant improvements. For me personally, it was probably as exciting to drive for the first time as the first drive of the DBR9. I have a really good feeling about the car and I'm looking forward to the next test in Atlanta in a few weeks time.”
The team will test at Road Atlanta prior to giving the 2013 version of the Vantage GTE its race debut in the Sebring 12 Hours.