It’s always a great feeling driving in Germany on the autobahn headed for the world Famous Nurburgring. I have returned back to race with the amazing team from the Aston Martin Nurburgring Test Centre. This facility is responsible for fine tuning and developing every Aston Martin road car, so it’s quite a privilege to be part of the team. Even more so this trip, we are behind the wheel of their new car!
Every year Aston Martin debut a new model of car at the Nurburgring 24 hours as a validation test. The race car knowledge directly relates to the road cars so this is quite an important statement for a manufacture. For VLN 2 we will test and develop this new car in preparation for the 24 hour race which is rapidly approaching!
We start the weekend getting acquainted with our new beast, the hulking Aston Martin vantage GT12. I have to say this car has some real presence. It looks quick standing still and it’s a lot more muscular. Broader hips, more aero, less weight and more let me know we are in for a good weekend of development.
My first laps are Friday during free practice and with 190 cars entered for the race is quite crazy. We are lucky to have dry running and I complete 3 trouble free laps. I come in for routine checks and unfortunately their is a small oil leak present. It’s a new engine so it’s important to find out where this leak is. Unfortunately this means an early end to practice.
We resume Saturday morning and find the car ready to go again and the small hiccup rectified. Unfortunately today we have wet and very cold conditions at the Nurburgring, this place is famously referred to as the Green Hell for good reason. Florian is out first and sets a good time on his second lap. We elect to only do the mandatory 2 laps per driver for qualifying.
I jump into the car for my qualifying and I’m informed it’s a little bit wet here and mostly dry everywhere else. I push hard from the start of the lap and have the car dancing around. I’m on intermediate tyres so they should work in light rain and dry sections of the track. Unfortunately the rain has come down during our driver change and I spend more time looking out my side windows then forwards. I elect to abort the time and carefully return to the pits for full wet tyres. I return to the track but as the weather conditions worsen I have no chance to improve our time.
Florian makes a great start and maintains 5th position. We start on a relatively dry track and the entire field dives into the pits. We share our fuel bowser with 5 other cars and no choice but to stay out and run an aggressive strategy. This helps keep us out of the traffic and hopefully a better chance to gain track position. Florian does a great job in the dry and continues until he is near the end of the fuel load, this is my chance to get behind the wheel.
I prepare early by stretching and doing some light exercises. My aim is to raise the heart rate and get the muscles turned on so I’m ready to drive as soon as I’m behind the wheel. I don’t want to rely on 1/2 lap to be ready to push on track. I can’t believe how good the new car feels, the reduced weight improves the handling and braking making for a better balanced car.
After 2 dry laps I encounter rain so we have a quick tyre change and then I’m off again on the Nurburgring. I play around with our traction control settings and find track mode is most effective, allowing for enough traction without the system interfering and costing time on track.
Wolfgang does a great job behind the wheel and we finish a fine 5th place on debut with the new GT12 We run as high as 2nd but our early high risk strategy call unfortunately has not worked out. Never the less we have some great data and information to work from. We will make a few changes before the Nurburgring 24 hour race and hopefully go one better then last year.
I have found the GT12 to be the best Aston Martin I have ever had the privilege to race on track. It has so much potential with only minimal development. Roll on the 24 hours of Nurburgring MAY 14-17