Aston Martin Racing secures second row start

for 8 Hours of Le Castellet

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By Franck D.

10 April 2010 - 20:00
Aston Martin Racing secures second (...)

Three Aston Martins qualified at the sun soaked Paul Ricard Circuit in France with the 009 LMP1 car securing third position. Official Aston Martin Racing Partner, Team Signature Racing qualified in eighth with the JMW Vantage GT2 achieving 5th in class.

The 009 Aston Martin ran without trouble with the team strategically choosing their time for a quick lap. Stefan Mücke (DE) who piloted the 009 found himself in traffic initially, but shortly before the chequered flag, posted a 1m42.354 lap only 0.722s behind the second-placed diesel car.

Mücke said “I am pleased with this result. I had a bit of traffic on the first timed lap, but had a clearer run nearer the end. We will only make minor modifications to the car now before the race – it feels very good at the moment.”

Team Principal, George Howard-Chappell commented: “Our qualification is exactly what I had hoped for so I am very pleased to be third behind the two diesels. It was an extremely good lap by Stefan and we have got the car very well set up here which is encouraging for Le Mans in June. We remain realistic so let’s see what the race brings us.”

Q & A with the Aston Martin Racing Drivers at Paul Ricard

As the Aston Martin Racing Team prepares for the 8 Hours of Castellet in the south of France ready for Sunday’s endurance special, works drivers Adrian Fernández (MX), Stefan Mücke (DE) and Harold Primat (CH) answer questions about the upcoming race:

Adrian Fernández (MX)

Q: You’ve had a great podium finish during your last outing in the car at Sebring. How confident does this make you feel heading into the 8 Hours of Castellet?

AF: “It’s obviously a fantastic start to the year, but Le Castellet is a completely different type of circuit to Sebring and it’s not somewhere I’ve ever raced before, so we’ll have to see how it goes. We’ve also got some really tough opposition, so it’s not going to be easy. I’m really looking forward to it though, and I think our result at Sebring was a real boost for everybody.”

Q: Sebring is an old and bumpy airfield circuit, whereas Le Castellet is at the cutting-edge of circuit design. Does this make Le Castellet easier to drive?

AF: “In a way it’s probably easier, but it’s also a much newer experience for me personally, as I’m more used to the American circuits. One of the things I struggled with a bit at first was the visibility in a closed cockpit car, as in an open-topped car it’s much easier to pick out the lines, particularly on the tricky double apex corners. But this race is certainly very good preparation for Le Mans, which is important.”

Q: How much does it help to have tested at Le Castellet last month?

AF: “That helped me a huge amount, as it was a circuit that I hardly knew at all before. It’s also a place where the team has quite a lot of data, so that’s crucial when it comes to finding the right set-up. I think the weather conditions might be different to how they were when we tested though, so that’s another interesting variable. It’s going to be a question of making use of every bit of past experience.”

Q: What’s the most important thing that you have learnt about Aston Martin so far this year?

AF: “I’ve learnt just how passionate the team is about racing, and I’ve been really impressed by the knowledge and the experience of everybody there, under the leadership of George [Howard-Chappell]. The people at Aston Martin are racers through and through: I love that.”

Stefan Mücke (DE)

Q: You’ve driven at Le Castellet a few times: is it one of the circuits that you know best?

SM: “I wouldn’t say that I know it best, although I know it pretty well. The interesting thing is that I’ve never actually raced there, although I’ve done a lot of testing. Racing is a completely different dynamic and there are also practical differences, such as the fact that there are many more cars on the track. It’s the sort of circuit that suits an LMP1 car really well, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Q: You’ll be facing some tough rivals: what’s your strategy for the race?

SM: “It’s going to be incredibly tough; particularly with all the diesel cars as we saw at Sebring. But it’s an eight-hour race and a lot can happen in that space of time. From our point of view, it’s simply going to be a question of doing the best job we can: we’ve got good power and good downforce. What everybody else does is out of our hands.”

Q: How useful will this race be when it comes to preparing for Le Mans?

SM: “All the time you spend in the car is useful, but from a Le Mans perspective the Paul Ricard circuit is much more similar to Le Mans than Sebring was. Paul Ricard is a lot smoother than Sebring, with a much wider variety of corners and a long straight: in this respect it is quite similar to Le Mans, so this is definitely a useful exercise.”

Q: What’s the most important thing that you have learnt about Aston Martin so far this year?

SM: “I would say that it is more something I have remembered than something I have learned, but every time I sit in the car the noise of the engine never stops amazing me. I had actually forgotten how good it
sounded, which is one of the many things that makes the Aston Martin such a pleasure to drive.”

Harold Primat (CH)

Q. You’ve just come back from racing at Sebring: is Le Castellet going to be easier or tougher?

HP: “I think it’s going to be just as tough, but in different ways. We’re likely to have more competition than we did in Sebring, but a podium is still the aim. As well as two diesel cars, we’re also up against another Aston Martin team and several new cars, which should have good pace. We were pleased with the result in Sebring though and I hope we can do the same again in France.”

Q. What is your favourite part of the Le Castellet circuit?

HP: “The circuit has got a bit of everything but personally I love the fast stuff. When you come off the Mistral straight you go into Signes corner, hanging on to sixth gear, and this is a really exhilarating part of the track that takes your breath away. Of course it’s all to do with confidence in the car: you need to commit to it fully to get the best out of it.”

Q. What are the effects of the new development parts for 2010 on the car?

HP: “There’s nothing that is massively different on the car compared to last year; the big changes will come with the new regulations in 2011. What we have is basically last year’s car with some small upgrades. At Paul Ricard we will run the direct injection engine, which should give us a bit of extra performance as well as helping to save fuel.”

Q: What’s the most important thing that you have learnt about Aston Martin so far this year?

HP: “Three weeks ago I got the chance to visit the factory at Gaydon for the first time, and what I learnt was that the attention to detail you see on the race car is exactly the same to what there is on the road cars. Looking around the factory, it was hard to imagine how anything could be improved – and everything was done with really good taste. It was a fantastic experience.”

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