Podium for Aston Martin Racing in Houston

Podium for Aston Martin Racing in Houston  
Filed under:
Sports/GTs, Aston Martin
on 05/15/2006

Source: Aston Martin Racing

Aston Martin Racing recorded a podium finish at the second round of the American Le Mans Series in Houston, Texas, on Friday evening.

Tomas Enge and Darren Turner, who finished third in the GT1 class at Sebring in March, brought their Aston Martin Racing DBR9 home third in class and fourth overall after a challenging two-hour, 45-minute race.

Their Aston Martin Racing team-mates Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy, second in class at Sebring, finished fourth in class, fifth overall in Houston. After a strong race, Sarrazin was building a challenge for the GT1 class win before a spin, and bad luck behind the sole safety car of the race cost the 009 DBR9 a lap to the class leaders. The Frenchman was forced to stop when the pits were closed as he was low on fuel, and the team was unable to work on the car until the pits were declared open.

“We were a little slow at the beginning but Stephane drove exceptionally well,” said Aston Martin Racing Team Principal George Howard-Chappell. “He made a small mistake which was a shame but the biggest story for us was that we were unlucky on the closing of the pits due to the pace car just as we needed to refuel. That is what lost the race for us.

“We were close this weekend. Mid-Ohio will be a completely different ball game because it is a conventional circuit. That will be an indication of where we are against the opposition in real terms.”

The two Aston Martin Racing DBR9s started strongly and challenged their rivals for much of the race. Turner ran second in class during the opening stages before dropping back to third. He then handed the car to his co-driver Enge, but the Czech driver was not comfortable in the car and lost time mid-race. Towards the end however, Enge was able to put the leaders under pressure again.

“I had a good opening couple of laps,” said Turner. “We started the race on a spec of brakes which we hadn’t used since Sebring, so it took me four or five laps to get the balance right. I was happy with my pace, we were pushing hard to achieve the lap times and that makes it more difficult, but I enjoyed my stint.”

Enge added: “It was not a bad finish after the start of the weekend, when we were not sure what we were capable of on this bumpy circuit. As the weekend went on, we progressed a lot. We are getting closer and closer to the opposition every time, so we cannot wait for the next race. I was not in the groove like I should have been at the beginning of the race, and that is also why Darren qualified yesterday. He was slightly quicker than me.”

Sarrazin was disappointed to have spun in the final half hour, before losing a lap behind the safety car. “I was catching the leaders, but at the end I opened the door for the Audi and got onto a very dirty part of the circuit, and I spun,” said the Frenchman. “After that I had the alarm for the fuel, but the pit lane was closed. It was not possible to work on the car while the pits were closed, and this is where we lost the race. The race was exciting because I was catching the Corvettes, so we will have to see what we can do next weekend.”

His co-driver Pedro Lamy added: “Stephane was really quick, and was catching the leader and then unfortunately he spun. It was a shame, but that is life. I am looking forward to my Le Mans Series race in an Aston Martin DBR9 at Spa on Sunday.”

Pirelli’s Motorsport Manager Paul Hembery was pleased with the performance of the Pirelli tyres around the 1.7-mile, bumpy street circuit. “We are happy with the level of performance,” said Hembery. “It was a stable performance, and Stephane had a very good stint mid-race, but it was unfortunate that we got caught out with the safety car. We are as happy as we can be coming third, but like everyone else we want to win, so we will be working harder and harder to get in front. We have been working on a new rear tyre which would not have shown a great deal here, but the effect should be more evident at Mid-Ohio.

“The American circuits are bumpy, as we have seen here, it is exceptional to see such a bumpy track, but there are also some that are very smooth, and that presents new challenges for us. We have done most of our work in Europe where we have been very successful, and we have to carry that success over to the US and adapt our product to work with Aston Martin on the American circuits.”

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