Under blue skies and a blazing sun, Aston Martinâ€™s Vantage GTE qualified fourth in the FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Pro class at the season opener in Sebring. Factory driver Stefan MÃ¼cke piloted the #97 Aston Martin Racing machine around the 3.7-mile circuit in a time of 2m 0.174s to line up in 39th position overall â€“ ninth in the fiercely competitive GTE Pro class when combined with the American Le Mans Series runners â€“ for the start of the 60th anniversary edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Floridaâ€™s Sebring International Raceway witnessed the debut competitive outing of the V8-powered Vantage GTE, which forms the basis of Aston Martin Racingâ€™s return to production car-based motorsport. Following four practice sessions â€“ during which the team finely-honed the Vantage GTEâ€™s set-up for the notoriously bumpy Sebring International Raceway â€“ MÃ¼cke judged the heavy traffic expertly to make the most of the frantic 15-minute session and set a competitive lap time.
John Gaw, Team Principal for Aston Martin Racing, praised the teamâ€™s efforts: â€œTo come here with a new car and record a lap that was 1.5 seconds quicker than last yearâ€™s pole time is very encouraging, so weâ€™re confident that we will be very competitive in the race. We know from testing that the Vantage GTE has terrific reliability, and we now know that it also has the potential to be very quick, too. There is lots of pace still to be found in the car because itâ€™s very early on in the development cycle and the team is looking forward to demonstrating its potential over the course of the season.â€
Following his strong performance, MÃ¼cke added: â€œIâ€™m really pleased with how the car performed in qualifying. Getting a clear lap was always going to be the key, so we got out of the pit lane as early as we could to get some clear running. The team worked hard during practice and found a good set-up, so I was able to push really hard for a few laps. We also know that we have a great race set-up for the car, so Iâ€™m really looking forward to getting stuck into the 12 hours.â€
The Vantage GTE is making its debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring as part of Aston Martin Racingâ€™s FIA World Endurance Championship programme. The team completed an intensive test programme at Road Atlanta in neighbouring Georgia prior to the season opener as it continues to develop its new racer, which shares its bonded aluminium structure and fundamental engine and suspension designs with Aston Martinâ€™s Vantage road car.
The once-around-the-clock marathon starts at 10:30 am ET on Saturday, March 17. It will be streamed live on www.fiawec.com. Keep up to date with Aston Martin Racingâ€™s progress on Facebook at www.facebook.com/astonmartinracing, and Twitter at www.twitter.com/amr_official.