Sunday’s ‘4 Hours of Le Castellet’ delivered a large dose of frustration for Aston Martin Racing driver Darren Turner and the Beechdean AMR team. Early race pace in Round 4 of the European Le Mans Series signaled the opportunity for a podium finish but a mid-race mishap damaged performance and the #99 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE came home in fifth place.
The team had great pace at Paul Ricard last year, demonstrated by Darren’s pole position qualifying lap. However, with the majority of the competition testing there prior to the race the Beechdean boys were on the back foot in the first free practice session.
“We knew we would have some catching up to do in FP1 but on top of that this was the first time we have seen such huge tyre degradation over just a few laps. Part of that was down to the track temperatures on Friday afternoon – you could see everyone was suffering to some extent – but we were still on the back foot and frustrated as we couldn’t get clear idea of direction for the car’s set up.”
In the cooler conditions on Saturday morning the team was able to work through a programme, which left Turner much happier with the balance of the car ahead of the qualifying session. He took sixth place, less than a tenth off the sister Aston Martin of TF Sport, but both Aston Martins were nearly a second off the time of the pole sitting Ferrari.
The team ran a new strategy for Le Castellet so it was Ross Gunn’s turn to take the start. The young racer made his way past the bronze drivers who had taken the start in the other cars and had a strong stint, pitting from second place at the end of the first hour. The team got lucky with a Full Course Yellow during that first stop but this was almost cancelled out when they needed a pull back in the pits as an LMP3 car was in the way.
Andrew Howard was next in the driving seat and his stint started well. Unfortunately a small incident saw Howard spin and sustain a bit of damage. At that point the consequences of this were not obvious and he was able to finish his run, although a drop off in times was becoming apparent. He finished his run and pitted to hand over to Turner.