Aston Martin Racing finished third in the highly competitive GTE Pro class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its #97 Vantage GTE, a result dedicated by the team to its driver Allan Simonsen (DN), who was involved in a tragic accident in the #95 car shortly after the start of the race.
David Richards, Chairman of Aston Martin comments: “Following the wishes of Allan’s family, the team continued its participation in the race which was obviously very emotional and difficult for everyone. Both the #97 and #99 cars led for long periods of time but, ultimately, it was the changing weather conditions in the last hours that cost us the victory we all longed for. I’d like to thank everyone who has shown us such support over the weekend and sent the messages of condolence to Allan’s family.”
The #97 Vantage GTE, liveried with the design chosen in Gulf’s online competition, started from second on the grid – sharing the front row with the mechanically identical #99 car which qualified on pole. Darren Turner (GB) was quick off the start line taking the lead from Rob Bell (GB) and the pair continued together through the night, leading the race while trying to keep the #92 Porsche at bay.
As the sun rose over the Circuit de la Sarthe, the #99 car was leading the way with the #97 in third. However a wet track caused driver Frédéric Makowiecki (FR) to spin and collide with the barrier. The #97, now in second place, continued the team’s charge. In the lead up to the final two hours, the #97 took the lead from the #92 Porsche but heavy rain showers and unfortunate safety car timings hampered its campaign and, thus, the team crossed the finish line in third place.
Meanwhile the third Pro car, #98, having run strongly through the night succumbed to a technical issue and retired from the race. In the GTE Am class, the team’s #96 car finished sixth in a competitive class after 24-hours of consistent racing.
#97 driver Darren Turner: “It’s been an emotional weekend. No one could have ever thought it would start as it did. Our thoughts are with Allan, his family and all the mates he made around the world during his racing career.”
Team Principal of Aston Martin Racing John Gaw comments: “Le Mans 2013 will be remembered by the team for the tragic circumstances that surrounded the team’s participation, but everyone performed their tasks with the dignity that the circumstances demanded. Ultimately, the outcome did not achieve our objectives but we look forward to taking the lessons learned to the remaining rounds of the WEC this year.”
The ambitious five-car campaign marked the centenary year of Aston Martin and, to celebrate the anniversary, a parade of almost 100 Aston Martins took part in the Centenary Parade, a lap of the Circuit de la Sarthe. Aston Martin CEO, Dr Bez, led the lap in the company’s latest concept car, the CC100.
Dr Bez commented: “The tragedy in the opening hours of the race overshadowed the great performance of the Aston Martin Racing team. I am proud of everybody for demonstrating great speed, professionalism and competitiveness right up to the end of 24th hour. This achievement is a truly fitting tribute to Allan Simonsen.”