In February this year Aston Martin Racing showed the world their new race car. It looked like a beast, even in white, and after last season it seems a new car would be very welcome. Having tickets for Silverstone (15-17 April) I could have waited to see the new car in action, but I couldn’t quite contain my curiosity. So off to France I went.
My friend and I did not fly from the UK, however. We decided to drive. So we left on Thursday and allowed ourselves two days to get to the south of France.
By the time we made it to Circuit Paul Ricard on Saturday morning the temperature was rising nicely and there was plenty of activity on track already.
It was also quite busy.
Having never been to pre-season testing before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turned out to be quite the attraction to the French. I think it’s nice so many people showed up, because having the public there is bound to add to the atmosphere.
In my post about the 6 hours of Nürburgring I mentioned the distinctive sound the Aston Martins make. It seems the difference with the other cars is just getting bigger. The AMR ladies (for some reason the drivers refer to their racing cars as ‘she’ and ‘her’) have a very low growl to them which I find very nice and which sets them firmly apart from the rest. And then there’s ‘that diffuser’. It does depend on the angle at which you look at the #97, but, yes, it is huge (questionable remark, since we are discussing a lady’s backside).
When I first saw the new colours I couldn’t really make out what type of green the cars are. It looked mostly grey.
Now I’ve seen them ‘in the flesh’ I can see the difficulty. They are very dark green, but the colour is surprisingly subtle. So even up close the light can turn these cars into grey cars, even though they are not. Nevertheless, they look absolutely stunning in every way.
And they seem to deliver. Marco Sørensen was caught doing one hell of a speed in the speed trap: 279.8 km/h, equalling the #31 Extreme Speed Motorsports LMP2 Ligier and leaving two other LMP2 cars behind him.
Of course this is testing. And during testing the teams do all sorts of things which we ‘mere mortals’ do not understand. To be honest, I get the idea that during any type of testing, especially on public days, most teams don’t want to show their hand. That’s best left to the first race.
Again looking at last season, it’s not uncommon to see an Aston Martin battle a LMP2 here and there. They even win some of these battles. So what can we really tell based on speed trap results? Nothing, I’d say.
What does tell me something is the atmosphere and mood in the paddock/pit lane and on social media.
Where last year the AMR drivers inevitably started showing their frustration with the balance of performance penalty and the consequent bad results, this year they seem to be jumping up and down like six year olds. They all seem in love with the car. I’ve not been able to catch them uttering/publishing one bad word or even a doubt.
And this goes beyond Aston Martin Racing.
I don’t keep up as well with other teams, but I do read enough to see that they’re all looking forward to a new season.
There are new teams this year, the LMP1 teams (dare I call them ‘the main players’?) have improved on their cars, promising more exciting racing. There is simply a lot to look forward to.
After a few hours in the French sun I am thoroughly sunburnt and the two day trip back didn’t go quite as smoothly as the trip in had gone. But I have to say that travelling about 2,000 miles in a few days for just a few hours of race track activity and a pit walk was well worth the effort.
Before this trip I was looking forward to the first race of the season: the 6 hours of Silverstone. Now I am very excited.
Let’s face it, it is simple: happy drivers/team make a happy fan. The cars look and sound amazing, the drivers are ready to go, the teams are pulling together one more time for yet another season of, undoubtedly, amazing racing. Let’s go!