Ahead of its most ambitious ADAC Zurich Nürburgring 24 Hours campaign to date, Aston Martin has enjoyed an encouraging day of testing and preliminary qualifying with all four of its official entries showing promising pace around the 25km circuit.
The first day of action at the 40th running of the ever-popular endurance race began with a 90-minute free practice session at 1500hrs CET. Under clear skies, but in cool and breezy conditions, Aston Martin broke into the top-ten as its #006 V12 Vantage GT3 (crewed by factory driver Stefan Mücke (D), Tomas Enge (CZ), Fredy Barth (CH) and Oliver Mathai (D)) set the sixth quickest lap time of the entire 170-strong field, stopping the clock at 8m 37.139s.
In the first of three qualifying sessions later in the day, the same car improved its pace even further having set the fifth best lap time overall with an impressive 8m 31.714s effort. During the four-hour session, in which the setting sun plunged the Germany’s Eifel region into darkness, the sister #007 V12 Vantage GT3 of Darren Turner (GB), Johannes and Ferdinand Stuck (A) and Dennis Rostek (D) finished in seventh position having set a time of 8m 32.247s.
The GT3 cars, run in conjunction with Aston Martin Racing and its long-standing partner team Young Driver AMR, see the marque represented in the headlining SP9 category for the first time. Alongside the pair of V12 Vantage GT3s, Aston Martin is also fielding a V12 Zagato and a V8 Vantage GT4, both in the SP8 category.
With ambitions of securing Aston Martin’s third SP8 class victory at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, the #005 V12 Zagato set the second fastest time in its category, having been driven by Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez (D), Chris Porritt (GB), Wolfgang Schuhbauer (D) and Richard Meaden (GB). The #85 V8 Vantage GT4 of Jürgen Stumpf (D), Robert Thomson (AUS), Peter Cate (GB) and Mal Rose (AUS), meanwhile, was third quickest in class once the session had drawn to a close.
David King, Head of Motorsport at Aston Martin, said: “We had a couple of really good sessions today. We got both GT3s out early in the first qualifying session so that they could get out onto a clear track and they were able to set encouraging times. The drivers were pleased with the performance of the cars and they all had plenty of time to re-familiarise themselves with the circuit and the V12 Vantage GT3.”
“Our V12 Zagato and V8 Vantage GT4 drivers all did their two laps to qualify for the race and they were able to get a feel for their cars around this tricky circuit. This is a very important race for Aston Martin and this is our most ambitious entry yet. We have a 100 per cent finishing record on the Nürburgring 24 Hours and the first goal is to protect that.”
The action resumes on Friday 18 May at 0935hrs with the second qualifying session, lasting for two hours. Grid positions will be determined by the best time set over both sessions. The 40 fastest cars will then contest the third and final qualifying session, which determines the starting positions at the front of the grid.