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At an exclusive pre-season test session at Portimão, Portugal, Aston Martin Racing tested the new 2013 Vantage GTE ahead of its campaign in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Long-standing factory drivers Darren Turner (GB) and Stefan Mücke (D) attended the two-day test session, while new signings Bruno Senna (BR), Rob Bell (GB) and Frédéric Makowiecki (FR) sampled the V8-powered racer for the first time.
John Gaw, Aston Martin Racing team principal: “Despite the weather being wetter than expected, this didn’t hamper our test session. In fact, it worked out well because all the drivers drove in wet, damp and dry conditions and, in the end, we actually complete more kilometres over the two days than we had initially planned. The car has started this year like it finished last with great pace and reliability; although, of course, we don’t know how much our competitors have also improved during the winter.
“Importantly, all the drivers gelled and were close on lap-times – it’s an excellent start to the team’s working relationship – and we exceeded our ambitions for the first test session.”
Darren Turner: “We’ve had a really good test. Although this isn’t the first time we have run the new Vantage GTE it’s the first time we’ve been able to run it in anger and put some serious mileage on the car. It does feel like a very good step forward. The team has done a great job over the winter and made some significant improvements. For me personally, it was probably as exciting to drive for the first time as the first drive of the DBR9. I have a really good feeling about the car and I’m looking forward to the next test in Atlanta in a few weeks time.
“Last year we only had one car in WEC and this year we have two Pro cars and two Am cars so at the test we had some new faces with the team. I’ve been team mates with Rob Bell before so I know how handy he is behind the wheel and what a team player he is. It’s the first time I’ve worked with Freddy but I’ve raced against him many times and always enjoyed our battles.
“Bruno certainly had a baptism of fire as his first run in a GT car was in the dark and the rain but he did amazing job and I was surprised at how quickly he adapted to the car. Although the final member of our squad - Peter Dumbreck - wasn’t at the test it’s good that this bunch of drivers is working well together; there’s a great atmosphere in the team.”
Stefan Mücke: “It was a good two days testing. We put a lot on mileage on the new parts without any problems, which was a priority of the test. The car felt great straight away and you can feel the positive improvements the team has made to it. I'm sure that we will have a great race-winning car this year and I’m looking forward to the first race. Thanks to the team for its hard work over the winter.”
Rob Bell: “I’ve driven the Vantage GTE before - back in 2010 - but the car I drove this weekend was much different. We got the mileage that we were hoping to get and it was a fantastic opportunity for me to get to know everyone. I’ve driven with Darren before and I know Stefan and Fred, but the more time I can spend with them all, the better. I’m only racing at the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the team, so time like this is priceless. My desire to drive for Aston Martin Racing this year stemmed from an ambition to win Le Mans and after this weekend I’m feeling confident.
Bruno Senna: “I’m pleased with the way things went in Portimão. The rain prevented us from running as much as we expected on Sunday, but at night at least I was able to make some mileage on wet tyres. “On Monday the weather was better and, even though the track was still damp in the morning, I could start understanding the car. The Vantage GTE felt good to drive, but is quite different compared to the Formula 1 cars I drove in the recent seasons. You have to brake early and I was very careful, mainly when the track was still wet. “Overall, these were useful days for us. Now I look forward to the second test session at Road Atlanta.”
The #97 car – which shares its bonded aluminium chassis and fundamental engine and suspension designs with Aston Martin’s V8 Vantage road car – will now head to Road Atlanta, Georgia, for a further test session where it will be joined by a second #007 Vantage GTE and drivers Paul Dalla Lana (CA), Pedro Lamy (PT) and Billy Johnson (US). American driver Dane Cameron will also test with the team.
Following the test session, both cars will head to the 12 Hours of Sebring, Florida, on March 16 where the #97 will make its competitive debut. The FIA WEC gets underway the following month at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, Northamptonshire, with Aston Martin Racing set to field a strong four-car entry.