When the latest version of the Aston Martin Vantage GTE was unveiled earlier this year, all talk focused on its visually dramatic rear-diffuser, which takes full advantage of new regulations that permit the bodywork to protrude up to 100 mm beyond the rear of the car. Ahead of its first major test at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Racing.GT asked AMR Technical Director Dan Sayers and driver Richie Stanaway to address the thinking behind the design and its impact on-track.
At a circuit such as Le Mans, where straight-line speed and aerodynamic efficiency are paramount, one of the major concerns teams face is minimising drag. Aston Martin Racing are no different in this regard and have had to get rather creative in the wake of all-new designs from Ford and Ferrari which have moved the goalposts in the GTE category.
“Because we’ve got a slightly larger frontal areas and a bit more drag than on the Ford or the Ferrari, we’ve had to focus a lot of our attention to that end,” explains Sayers. “There’s not a lot done over-body now because of drag, so to generate the downforce again we’ve had to work the underfloor quite hard and take advantage of the regulations.
“We’ve had to use pretty much all of the free volume you’re allowed to try and generate as much downforce as we can, although the shape of the car at the rear does make it look more exaggerated because it’s more rounded than the other cars.”
From the cockpit, Stanaway says the difference is marked, although the performance benefits have yet to translate into race-contending pace due to, among other things, AMR’s limited data on the Dunlop tyres after switching over from Michelin.
“It’s a big difference compared to last year, as a driver you can feel the car has a lot more central downforce,” he said. “When you get closer to another car and you’re in dirty air you can feel the whole car get a lot lighter, as opposed to when you have this over-body aero you didn’t notice it as much. It’s been a pretty noticeable difference and a big improvement for our package for sure.”
But does the aggressive styling make it vulnerable to contact?
“Yes it does, but the good thing about it is the way the diffuser is removed and attached to the car, it’s a very quick release,” Stanaway points out. “If we do get rear-ended or somehow it breaks, I imagine they can probably do a diffuser change in a similar time to doing the fuel and tyres.
“It’s not like if it gets damaged, we need to spend half an hour in the garage to change it. They obviously thought about that beforehand and ensured it’s a timely process to replace one if need be.”
“That is one concern we had going into the season because through testing you don’t get that kind of contact, but touch wood, Silverstone and Spa have been fine,” Sayers adds. “Let’s hope it continues that way!”