The Japanese tyre manufacturer Yokohama notched up two podium finishes at this weekend's Nürburgring 24 Hours, as the two Yokohama-shod Aston Martin Test Centre cars, 'Zig' and 'Smurf' completed the arduous event second and third in the SP8 class and 26th and 33rd overall respectively.
Driven by Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez, chief engineer Chris Porritt, Test Centre Director Wolfgang Schuhbauer and journalist Richard Meaden, the No. 005 Aston Martin V12 Zagato (Zig) enjoyed a trouble-free run, despite the demanding nature of the event, the circuit and the rain which began to fall as dawn crept into the sky over the Eifel Mountains.
Also running were two Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 cars, Nos. 006 and 007. These were crewed by professional drivers with Aston Martin's World Endurance Championship team of Stefan Mucke, Tomas Enge, Fredy Barth and Oliver Mathai in No. 006 and Darren Turner, Dennis Rostek and sons of motor racing legend Hans-Joachim Stuck - Johannes and Ferdinand - in car No. 007.
The GT3 cars qualified 16th and 17th for the start but both ran in to early problems; 006 developed clutch issues which cost the team 15 laps while Turner damaged a tyre on car No. 007 and the resulting deflation left the car stranded on the circuit. The Young Driver AMR team managed to get a replacement wheel and tyre to him on the circuit and he was able to get back to the pits and continue, having dropped 13 laps in the process.
The team eventually took the decision to rest both cars until the final lap, having gained what it described as 'invaluable data' in the process.
Commenting, Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez said; "We did very well with the 005 car this weekend. We had a flawless race while the drivers of the Vantage GT4 had fun and managed a good result as well. This is the greatest and most competitive GT race in the world. It is the most demanding on people and cars."
David King, Aston Martin Head of Motorsport, said; "The [final] objective was to make sure we managed plenty of strong running with the GT3 cars. We knew we wouldn't have a trouble-free run with those but we learned an awful lot about the car and the circuit this weekend. This has been a fantastic example of teamwork and passion from the people that make Aston Martin special."
Head of Motorsport at Yokohama HPT Ltd, the UK distributor, Mark Evans, said; "I am delighted that the Aston Martin Test Centre team managed to achieve the double podium. The cars performed perfectly, as did the Yokohama tyres and we offer our congratulations to the team and Aston Martin as a whole.
"It's an amazing testament to the performance and durability of the cars that 'Zig' in particular was essentially a standard V12 Zagato, modified with primarily safety enhancements and to achieve a podium after 24 hours racing around the Nordschleife in a close-to-showroom specification car is outstanding.
"I am also pleased that the set-up on the V8 Vantage worked so well with the tyres. At one point, the team was running triple stints and a single set managed to cover 37 laps - an incredible feat.
"The GT3 cars suffered some issues but clearly, the team was expecting this to be a far tougher event for car numbers 006 and 007. The tyre deflation that Darren suffered on the fourth lap was very frustrating. There was a lot of debris on the circuit in the early laps and we feel that despite his best efforts, Darren must have damaged the tyre on some and this caused it to fail, stranding him on the circuit.
"The Young Driver AMR team did a fantastic job getting a replacement to him on the circuit to allow him to get back to the pits, take on a new set and refuel and continue the race. The cars were setting very competitive lap times and I'm sure that had they not been rested until close to the end, they would have featured higher in the overall standings.
"The support team and infrastructure that we provided for the Nürburgring 24 Hours remains in Germany this week, as this coming weekend sees the third round of the FIA Formula Two Championship also at the 'Ring but using just the modern circuit. As Official Tyre Supplier to F2, we have some 150 tyres heading out for the two-race event and are looking forward to seeing another excellent weekend of single-seater racing."
This weekend's F2 round sees two races as per the usual schedule, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. So far this season, all four races have been won by Luciano Bacheta but several drivers are piling the pressure on, notably Markus Pommer and 15 year-old sensation, Matheo Tuscher.