Monday 11 November, Austin, Texas: Aston Martin CEO & President Dr Andy Palmer and his teammates are flying home with a suitcase full of silverware, after claiming second place in the Hankook 24 Hours of Circuit of The Americas’ SP3 class.
Joined by Radio Le Mans commentator John Hindhaugh, Great British Bake Off star Paul Hollywood and 2017 Nürburgring 24-Hour class winner Peter Cate, the race was the climax of a year’s preparation for Palmer, following a string of Aston Martin Owners Club race entries throughout the year at Snetterton, Brands Hatch, Rockingham and Silverstone.
With the race split in two halves – 09:00 to 23:00 on Saturday and 08:00 to 18:00 on Sunday - the team lapped competitively against their rivals and accumulated a full lap advantage by the fourth hour.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all plain sailing. Contact from another competitor and a damaged front-right ball-joint caused by on-track debris warranted two separate trips to the garage. The teams pit crew – formed from the company’s Special Projects division and Nürburgring test centre - repaired and released the car back to the circuit amassing just a 15-lap deficit to the leading car in the SP3 class following both incidents.
Despite the small set-back, the quartet rallied and worked tirelessly as they drove into the darkness of Saturday night and continued to run faultlessly throughout Sunday. After reducing the deficit to 5-laps with the leaders suffering mechanical issues, the team secured second place at the chequered flag, with Hollywood bringing the Nexcel-liveried Vantage GT8 home.
Palmer said following the race, “That was marvellous. To take second place was great and it could have been first if we hadn’t suffered damage to the car….
He added, “…but actually, I think that makes this finish rather special. Often people focus on the drivers, but what the team did to make each of those repairs so quickly and efficiently shows their quality and expertise. To get the deficit back down to five laps after our earlier issues wasn’t down to just one driver, but to the whole team and I think that encapsulates the spirit of Aston Martin and racing in general”.
Radio Le Mans star Hindhaugh added after the podium finish, “To be an Aston Martin driver is a dream come true. I’ve been absolutely blown away by everything this weekend. The level of professionalism, support and the down-to-earth attitude I’ve experienced has been outstanding. The team has pulled relentlessly in the same direction. Whether it be the four drivers who hail from very different backgrounds or the technicians and engineers who’ve been invaluable in providing a great car and helping us to find more time session after session. I love motor racing and to have experienced it from this angle has completely blown me away”.
Paul Hollywood said after taking the chequered flag, “To do the last stint was a real privilege and the whole of the Aston Martin team has been fantastic. It’s a big effort to complete a 24-hour race not just for us drivers but the mechanics who keep that car going too. The Vantage is an absolute legend and the Vantage GT8 is the one of the best I’ve raced over the years. The team should be incredibly proud of themselves because I must admit, I am a little bit proud myself. This has been a real honour to be a part of it”.
Peter Cate is no stranger to the Vantage GT8 having won the SP8 class at the Nürburgring 24 Hours earlier this year in the very same car.
After winning his second 24-hour podium of the year with Aston Martin, Cate said, “That was much harder than the first podium this year. I don’t know if that’s because I’m six months older, but the car was absolutely sterling. It just went and went, and while the track changed a lot the car could cope with it throughout. The team gelled so well and our achievements have suddenly dawned on me. To have Andy, Paul and John to drive with me like this has been a huge honour”.
While the team claimed second in the race, they were victorious in another competition; Radio Le Mans’ coveted Spirit of the Race Award chosen by listeners and fans around the world.
Palmer added, “To not only take away silverware but to receive the acknowledgement from fans worldwide is deeply heart-warming and I thank everyone who watched and supported us throughout the weekend”.