The new Aston Martin Vantage GT3 has starred on its debut at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, recording pole position and finishing fourth overall in Round 8 of the VLN Endurance Championship.
The new car ran faultlessly in the hands of three-times Le Mans winner Darren Turner (GB) and 2016 Spa-Francorchamps 24-Hours winner Maxime Martin (BEL) throughout the four-hour event. Running in full GT3-specification, against like-for-like opposition for the first time, the Vantage GT3 also clinched victory in the SPX class which caters for un-homologated vehicles.
According to VLN regulations, SPX cars have to start at the back of the Group 1 grid and add 20 seconds to each pitstop. Despite these regulated performance penalties, Turner brought the car home just over minute behind his third-placed rival in a late chase, after Martin had charged through the pack in the early stages.
Fellow Aston Martin Racing works driver Ross Gunn, teamed with Aston Martin Lagonda high performance test driver Chris Goodwin in an AMR Performance Centre prepared V8 Vantage, completed his maiden race on the Nordschleife. Finishing fourth in the SP8 class, they earned vital points in their quest to earn a VLN license to compete in future Nürburgring 24 Hours races.
“It’s hugely exciting to be mixing it at the front from the word go with all the new Aston Martin GT3. It’s performance shows just how much hard work has gone into the programme from everyone at Aston Martin and Aston Martin Racing,” said Turner. “The first time you compete in a race with a new car around the Nordschleife, it is about getting the car to the flag. So the fact that we had no reliability issues is a big tick in the box. The massive positive however is the car taking pole position and then fighting back through to fourth, and having a class win is a nice bonus! What a great start for the new GT3 car and everyone at Aston Martin Racing can be very proud of that.”
Martin added: “This has been a really good day. Compared with the old car the Vantage GT3 is definitely a big step forward. But it is also a young car so there are a lot of parameters we will improve further which is normal for a new project and especially here on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. So there is still a bit of work to do, but the base is really good and I am really confident that the car will be competitive.”
Aston Martin Racing President David King said: “We are delighted with the performance of the new Aston Martin Vantage GT3 on its Nürburgring Nordscheife debut. It takes a lot of hard work to make a car competitive here so to finish fourth is a testament to the amazing effort all the team has put into this car. Given the conditions, pole position was a bit of good fortune with the timing of all the Code 60s around the track, but it is great way to start the car’s history! And then it has gone on to underline its potential in the race, running on the same pace as the regular GT3s. Just to record a finish in a four-hour race here is fantastic. It’s a pretty brave thing to race a new car publicly before it has been signed off and homologated, particularly here, in front of the most competitive GT market. So given that we have started at the back of the grid and raced through with 60 seconds of pit stop handicaps. We can very proud of what we have achieved.”