Harry Tincknell described the GTE-Pro contest at Le Mans between his crew’s winning No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE and the lead Ferrari as a “game of cat and mouse.”
Tincknell, Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin prevailed in a drawn-out battle between their Aston and the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo of defending winners James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra.
After a frenetic opening six hours of the race during which both cars from each manufacturer looked to be in contention for category honors, only one from each was left on the lead lap at the end.
On Sunday the Aston Martin and the Ferrari alternated in the lead courtesy of them being on different pit strategies, which included different approaches to tire use.
Aston’s car tended to pit three laps earlier than the Ferrari, while the contrasting times at which the two machines double-stinted their Michelin tires gave the ‘cat and mouse’ element described by Tincknell.
Furthermore, Aston made a planned move to last the entire duration of the race without needing to have a time-consuming brake change, which helped it to gain the upper hand.
Tincknell, who won on his Aston Martin debut supporting the No. 97 entry’s FIA World Endurance Championship regulars Martin and Lynn, said his team was “never sure of how it was going to pan out” against the Ferrari.
“I think in the high-speed corners and downforce corners we were very strong,” Tincknell told Sportscar365.
“It was a very impressive car but I knew that was going to be the case having followed it through the Porsche Curves in the past [in a Ford GT].
“The race-ability was really strong and from that side it made it actually slightly easier than what I’m used to in the past.
“I learned an incredible amount during the race, especially in the first two stints when the Ferraris both came past me. I thought it was going to be a long 24-hours.
“But I learned a lot during those stints and used that to my advantage later on when I passed Serra in the second chicane this morning.
“It was a game of cat and mouse. We were on new tires and they were on old tires, and vice versa.
“We were never really sure how it was going to pan out, but we were confident that we had the car, the team and the people to do it.”
Lynn, who brought the car to the checkered flag, added that he was “proud” of the team’s “vast improvement” since the previous two editions of Le Mans where Aston Martin struggled with its current-gen Vantage that was introduced at the start of 2018.
“It’s fairly well documented that we’ve had a painful run of things in the last couple of years, in terms of this race in particular,” the British driver told Sportscar365.
“It’s a long 24-hours when you’re running around a long way off the pace.
“To do what we did in the style that we did, in an attacking manner, I’m very proud of what the team has been able to achieve, and of the vast improvement the car has made in sheer lap time, balance and reliability.”
Calado: Aston “Just a Little Bit Quicker” than Ferrari
Ferrari driver Calado, who brought the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari home in second, assessed that the Italian marque was lacking only a small amount to the winning Aston.
Calado, Pier Guidi and Serra became the flagbearers for their brand following a suspension issue for the teammate No. 71 Ferrari that later ground to a halt on the final lap with a failing transmission.
“We missed a little bit of pace compared to the Aston,” said Calado.
“They had slightly more straight-line speed and we were pushing all the way, but unfortunately they were just a little bit quicker.
“The Aston wasn’t way too fast, it was just a few tenths quicker than us, but it was enough every lap so [there was] not much we could have done.
“I’m not sure about the Porsches. It seemed they struggled quite a bit. It was quite easy to overtake [Gianmaria] Bruni at the start. Maybe they’re sacrificing this race for a good next year. You just never know.
“We’re disappointed because obviously we wanted to win. But we’re still happy with second. It’s not the best feeling compared to last year.”