2012 was about reliability and competitiveness for Aston Martin Racing with their Vantage GTE. In the FIA World Endurance Championship, the V8 engine machine delivered, finishing second overall — success which surprised the team.
AMR says it has built on that platform for this year with some extensive changes. Thirty per cent of the car is new, indicating that the 2013 championship is likely to be much tougher than last year.
Racing.gt spoke to key team members about the changes and how they focused on three main areas:
- Boosting performance
- Improving component durability
- Making the car more driveable
The chassis of the Vantage has been stiffened up and the rear suspension is totally new. These make the car more stable under braking and so more predictable for the driver going into a corner.
Handling is further improved by lowering the car’s centre of gravity mostly achieved through weight savings.
The driveline has been redesigned. The clutch and the starter are mounted to the gearbox, reducing inertia and improving gear shifts.
All the electronics are now controlled by fly-by-wire technology. This also helps the gear shift, which means the throttle and engine are optimised.
Pit stop times have been reduced with shorter refuelling and wheel changes, with savings up to two seconds being talked about.
All these add up to faster laps, as works driver Darren Turner told Racing.gt: “The biggest issue we had last year was instability under braking. We solved the problem during the year and it meant we could win in Shanghai.”
Looking at the qualifying results of the Vantage GTE at the first and last WEC races last year, fixing the instability appeared to pay big dividends. At the 12 Hours of Sebring in March, AMR was 1.48% off the pace of the pole-sitting AF Corse Ferrari. Seven months later, in Shanghai, the AMR Vantage was on pole, 0.6% faster than its nearest GTE Pro rival.
That’s some turnaround and Turner says the changes over the winter should make the car even better to drive.
“Hopefully the new base means we’ve got a more balanced platform, which means we can dial the car in quicker when we go to these circuits.
“I’ll be less scared when I get there (the corner). Previously we tended to be fighting the rear end of the car in trying to get the car turned for the apex and it meant that you’re on the defensive. With the expected development and improvement it means we can be a bit more aggressive and hopefully I’ll be able to overtake a little bit easier as well.”
One area which hit the Vantage last year was fuel economy. The AF Corse’s 458s were able to pit less giving them an advantage.
AMR Team Principal John Gaw: “The Vantage is quite a draggy car and so it uses a lot of fuel to drive it through the air. We also tend to run a pretty high down force set up. We haven’t changed that this year but what we have done is focus on fuel efficiency with the engine perspective. We have the option to be five or ten per cent more fuel efficient, if we want to be, which we didn’t have last year.”
That’s going to be achieved with the introduction of new engine mappings. Chief Engineer Dan Sayers: “We’re going to try some different configurations for the maps, try and get a leaner map but it’s very, very difficult without direct inject which competitors have. Trying to get the extra three laps that Ferrari had at Le Mans, for example, you know we’re not going to achieve that.”
Outside of the car, there are some minor changes to the front fenders but the side sills are very different. These now house the exhausts and keeping them outside of the car has a big benefit for driver comfort.
“In endurance, the cooler you can keep them (the drivers) the faster and more consistent they are. They do have air conditioning but the cockpit can reach massive temperatures. The more heat you can keep away, even from their feet, the better,” Sayers told Racing.gt.
Development has taken place using a combination of Computational Fluid Dynamics and real track testing for the aerodynamics. AMR say it’ll be using more CFD too to further refine its race cars.
Outside of the WEC, the first big test for the car will be Sebring again next month. John Gaw: “It’s the toughest race on the car and the driver. If your car comes through that, it’s going to be reliable all year. We’re going there to try and break a few things. Let’s hope we can do that in practice and not in the race but if we don’t break anything we probably haven’t tried hard enough.”