It wasn’t meant to be for TF Sport in the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, with the popular red Aston Martin Vantage forced to retire late in the eight-hour event at Bahrain International Circuit due to a broken fuel rail. As a result, the three-point advantage at the head of the LMGTE Am standings turns to a deficit of 15-points with four rounds remaining.
Due to the recent run of success – victories at Fuji Speedway and in Shanghai – the #90 Vantage GTE carried an additional 45-kilograms of success ballast but despite this, the team and drivers Salih Yoluç, Jonny Adam and Charlie Eastwood, topped the opening practice session. It was an encouraging sign and the team worked through the programme, feeling confident of both race and single lap performance heading into qualification.
Salih has shone in qualifying throughout the season and that was again the case as he set the pace amongst his fellow Bronze drivers. Jonny however didn’t find his fresh set of Michelins to his liking, resulting in a seventh place starting position in what was a very strategically open race.
Salih avoided the drama at the start, making up a couple of positions up during his single stint but unable to get further up the field. The team opted to go for an early stop for Charlie after 28 laps. This proved to be a good call as he carved his way through the field in his opening stint to run in third position.
However, an issue with the fuel rig cost the team 15-seconds in the pit lane with Salih resumed to complete his mandatory minimum drive time, running consistently in the top five.
Following 140 minutes of competition, Salih yielded for Jonny, running in sixth position before getting caught behind a Full Course Yellow ten laps into his run. Head down, the British GT Champion and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner made great progress in the cooler conditions of the evening to return the #90 into a potential podium position.
Charlie took over at the 130-lap mark but whilst running in a competitive fourth position, he started to experience a fuel feed issue and as a result was forced to box after just ten laps. The crew discovered a broken fuel rail that couldn’t be replaced in the time remaining, so with 35 minutes to go, the team attempted to finish the race by sending Jonny out to cover his minimum driving time, Sadly for the hard-working team, it was soon decided to retire the Vantage.
The calendar year may be coming to a close, but the FIA World Endurance Championship continues apace with the team crossing the Atlantic in February for Lone Star Le Mans, the fifth round of the championship at Circuit of The Americas.
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“Fuel rail issue on the engine, we couldn’t change it during the final two hours left to race. We tried to get back out to finish and get classified, but it was too bad by the end. We couldn’t run it without doing more damage to the car and putting Jonny in danger. It’s a shame, it’s a sad way to end what otherwise has been a fantastic year. We’re still fourth in the championship – not the end of the world as we’re halfway through the season and we know we can win – we’ve done it twice. Lets’ crack on again next year!”
“It was a difficult race for us, obviously with the 45 kilos it was always going to be difficult regardless but unfortunately in my second stint I started to struggle shifting up through the gears and it turned out that the fuel rail was the problem, starving the engine. Gradually it got worse throughout the race and unfortunately, we had to retire. It’s not the result that we wanted to finish off a pretty perfect 2019 but we’re still in the hunt for the championship. On the bright side it means less ballast going into COTA.”
“The team has done a mega job all year and it’s unfortunate we couldn’t wrap it up on a high. We worked on the car throughout the four hours of practice and it felt really good, despite the extra weight. It’s a shame it didn’t go our way in the first longer race, but 15 points adrift with half of the season to go means we’re still in contention going into COTA.”