At Aston Martin Racing’s winter test session in Portimao, Portugal last weekend, 16 Vantage-based GTE, GT3 and GT4 race cars took to the 2.92-mile-long circuit in preparation for the season ahead.
The track, praised by drivers for its demanding and undulating nature, played host to the private test session, which was Aston Martin Racing works team’s first chance of 2014 to test its three FIA World Endurance Championship V8 Vantage GTEs.
Long-standing works drivers Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke put the Gulf-liveried #97 through its paces and the crew worked hard throughout the 25 hours of day and nighttime testing to prepare the car for the extremely demanding and competitive WEC season ahead.
”Testing has gone really well,” comments Turner. “It’s going to be a really tough year in the WEC so we have to go into the first round fully prepared and with the aim of taking away as many points as possible. We tried some new set-ups in our car and helped the new drivers to the team get to grips with the No. 99 Vantage GTE.”
The identical No. 99 GTE-Pro and the No. 95 GTE-Am also prepared for the season ahead, which includes the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans, and tested their new drivers, who will be revealed later this week.
In the neighboring garage, the Bilstein-liveried V12 Vantage GT3 started its testing in preparation for the 2014 ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hours race. The V12-charger will return to the event, which it led for 13 hours in 2013, with Turner, Mücke and five-times N24-winner Pedro Lamy behind the wheel.
As well as hosting the full Aston Martin works team and cars, the session also enabled customer teams from across Europe to test their machines before the start of the season.
Beechdean AMR’s British GT Championship-winning Vantage GT3 returned with drivers Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam and the team unveiled its new Vantage GT4 – the 100th off the production line – and the drivers who will contest the GT4 class of this year’s championship, Jake Giddy and Ross Wylie.
Motorbase Performance and TF Sport both fielded their pairs of identical V12 Vantage GT3s ahead of their assaults on the British GT Championship. MP Motorsport attended with one of its cars, leaving the second back in the Aston Martin Racing workshop in Banbury and PGF-Kinfaun added to the GT3 line-up.
“The winter test session is a fantastic opportunity for our customer teams to prepare their cars alongside our works team and in warmer conditions than in the UK or Northern Europe,” said John Gaw, Team Principal at Aston Martin Racing.
“It’s becoming a well established event that not only gives our teams valuable test time but allows us all to test new drivers and create new partnerships. The turnout was fantastic, the atmosphere relaxed but professional and it was extremely useful for all involved.”
The session also provided the perfect chance for the Aston Martin GT4 Challenge competitors to not only work on the cars before the start of the season, which is a support race to the British GT Championship this year, but gave drivers valuable track time on a demanding and exciting circuit.
It also allowed organizers to test the GT4 Challenge tire from Michelin, the series’ new-for-2014 official tire supplier and technical partner. Jonny Adam, who tested it said: “The new tire was not only quicker but it had better performance and was very consistent. It gave great driver feedback and feeling and I was very impressed.”