Aston Martin’s drivers were left surprised by the high brake wear that required all four of the manufacturer’s cars to undergo disc and pad changes during the 8 Hours of Bahrain.
The issues at the final round of the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship season came after the No. 97 factory Aston Martin Vantage GTE lasted the entire 24 Hours of Le Mans on the same set of brakes.
In Bahrain, both of the GTE-Pro Vantages and the two GTE-Am cars from Aston Martin Racing and TF Sport came in for brake assembly services, costing positions and chances of securing podiums.
In TF Sport’s case, it resulted in the GTE-Am title going the way of AF Corse, which finished second on the road to reverse its points deficit to the Aston customer squad.
Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen still secured the GT drivers’ world championship with a fifth-place finish in their No. 95 GTE-Pro car, while Aston had already earned the manufacturers’ crown following its Le Mans triumph with the No. 97 two months ago.
“In practice it was fine and these were the brakes that ran all the way through Le Mans,” said Thiim.
“The Bahrain track looks simple on paper but it’s just so hard, especially on the brakes, with the temperature here.
“But in practice everything looked fine. It’s a little bit of a surprise and something that we can go home and work on.”
The No. 95 was strong in the early stages with Sorensen hounding Porsche driver Kevin Estre through the first stint, but it lost ground due to the timing of a Full Course Yellow period during the third set of pit stops before the brakes were changed in hour five.
Thiim said that his car’s longer-than-usual stop for the brakes altered his and Sorensen’s approach to the remainder of the contest with the race win gone and the title on the line.
The drivers of the No. 95 Aston Martin arrived in Bahrain with a 15-point lead over their teammate Maxime Martin having won at Fuji, Bahrain last year and Circuit of The Americas.
“At that point I was totally nerve-wracked,” said Thiim. “For the first and only time, I was cheering on some Porsches because we were fighting the No. 97. That was the way to win it.
“You have to choose your fights, what ones to pick and what not. We entered the weekend very positive. We were way closer than in FP1 last year, where we were one and a half seconds off.
“We were right on the pace, but this track is basically made for Porsche. It’s perfect for their concept of car.”
The No. 97 Aston held out for longer with its brake replacement coming at the final pit stop after a pair of stints from Westbrook and a single from Martin, who crossed the line one position ahead of Thiim but couldn’t gather enough points to snatch the title.
“It was definitely not planned,” Martin told Sportscar365. “We had no issues during free practice and all four cars had to do it.
“The car was still braking OK, it’s just there was no material. It was dangerous to continue.”
AMR managing director John Gaw explained that the high desert temperatures were likely responsible for putting the brakes out of their best operating window.
Track and air temperatures were higher last weekend than during the 2019 Bahrain race last December which Thiim and Sorensen won.
“It was just the temperature here, and from a safety perspective,” said Gaw.
“We didn’t need to win the race. It is disappointing for TF [Sport] because they didn’t deserve that after the season they’ve had. But it’s the highs and lows of motorsport.
“Of course, it would have been nice to win the race and if we had been right behind the leaders we would have been going for it. But once we decided to change the brakes there was no point fighting.
“Any touch, like the [GTE-Pro-contending] No. 51 Ferrari had, takes you out of the championship. When you’ve worked all year to get to this stage it’s silly to throw it away.”