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Howarth: “Confidence” Gained in Vantage Breakthrough Win

Aston Martin uses split strategy to seal first victory with 2018-spec Vantage…

Photo: MPS Agency

Aston Martin Racing team principal Paul Howarth says the British manufacturer’s breakthrough class victory with its new Vantage GTE has instilled “a lot of confidence”.

Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen took top GTE-Pro class honors the Six Hours of Shanghai by 9.529 seconds from the Porsche 911 RSR of Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni.

It marked the first class victory for the 2018-spec Aston, at the same circuit as the maiden win for the previous-generation Vantage in 2012.

“We had a team briefing this morning and we said it would have been the worst thing to go on the plane home tonight without the trophy,” Howarth told Sportscar365.

“I would have bought a private plane to put that trophy on. Now, we walk away from this track with a lot of confidence.

“We can walk away with how with how we executed it from the minute we landed here, all the way through. We delivered strongly in the warmups, strong in qualifying, and also for the race strategy.”

Aston Martin split its GTE-Pro strategies in a bid to get at least one car through in a good position in the event of further stoppages to a stop-start contest.

The sister No. 97 car of Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn finished fourth after Martin lost positions to both Porsches on an exhausted set of tires.

Lynn led in the fifth hour from Thiim, but took his final pit stop much earlier which helped Thiim gain the advantage when he came in during the final hour.

Howarth said that “some lessons” had been learned from the previous round at Fuji, where both cars scored poorly after running the same strategy of keeping wet tires on a drying track.

Aston Martin Racing managing director John Gaw, meanwhile, told Sportscar365 that the team was “stretched strategically”.

“I think we made the right decisions,” he said.

“We always wanted one car out in the lead when the other was in the box. That meant the No. 97 did a full stint on its tires at the end, so it was a double-whammy because not only were his tires down, but it started to rain as well.

“It was the most complicated race we’ve ever had.”

Thiim: “Emotional” End to Victory Drought

Shanghai marked the end of a 14-month winless streak for Thiim and Sorensen, whose last GTE-Pro triumph came at the 2017 Six Hours of Mexico.

The Danish pair had not finished on the podium since then, while their best result with the new Vantage until this weekend had been sixth in class last time out at Fuji.

“It’s kind of emotional, I have to say, because I haven’t felt like this since 2016 when we won the championship in Bahrain,” said Thiim.

“It’s just been a long learning curve. It’s been so hard on the team and all the drivers to keep our heads high, but we made a big step from Silverstone.

“We couldn’t finish it off in Fuji, but now we did it the whole team upped their games really high. The car was really brilliant today.

“We’re still learning, but finishing with a win is the best that could happen. Now we’ve got to keep on improving, especially for Sebring.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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