Another winning chapter in the Gulf Motorsport history book as Gulf and Aston Martin Racing take 2014 GTE Am win in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The script for Le Mans 2014, which saw the #95 Gulf sponsored and lubricated Aston Martin Vantage V8 take an emphatic victory in the LM GTE Am category, could almost have been something from the plot of a Hollywood movie.
Twelve months earlier, the world’s greatest endurance race had provided the greatest heartbreak in motorsport as, in a freak accident close to the start of the race, Gulf’s motorsport partners, Aston Martin Racing, lost one of their drivers – the immensely talented and likeable Danish driver, Allan Simonsen.
With the blessing of Allan’s family and those backing the Young Driver programme that had seen the cream of Denmark’s upcoming endurance race stars rise to World Championship level, Aston Martin Racing carried on to attempt to complete the race with its other Gulf liveried machines. Seeking to score a category win as a tribute to their lost team mate, the #97 car made the podium – having led up until the final hour – but it was a joyless ceremony that saw its drivers presented with a third placed trophy.
Contrast that with the scene of pure joy at the end of the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours as the #95 Young Driver Aston Martin Vantage GTE, driven by David Heinemeier Hansson, Nicki Thiim and Kristian Poulsen carried Gulf’s famous blue and orange colours to another win at Le Mans. The whole team celebrated the victory as one and there could surely have been no more popular a victory at Le Mans this year, as emotions ran high.
“We have achieved what we were aiming for last year but didn’t succeed,” comments Young Driver Team Owner Jan Struve. “We have now fulfilled it and we know that Allan has been cheering for us and smiling down on us and, of course, he has been in our thoughts. This win is extremely important to us and I’m proud of all of the team and drivers. They are all Le Mans winners.”
The 95 Gulf car came home two laps ahead of the second placed car, which was a comfortable enough margin, but to get to that position involved a huge amount of work and proved a tough struggle over the first half of the race, as the car was involved in an extremely close and hard fought battle with its sister 98 Gulf car and various Ferraris and Porsches.
All of the Aston Martin Racing team did extremely well to finish the endurance classic, as a spell of rain in the first quarter of the race put paid to the hopes of several cars and, according to the AMR drivers, the track manners of some of their fellow competitors left much to be desired.
Gulf’s technical partnership with Aston Martin Racing means that the company supplies the engine oil, transmission fluid and brake fluid that helped see all three Aston Martin Vantages through to the finish of the race. It was only a minor technical issue that prevented both #97 and #98 cars from taking a certain podium place. Such is the nature of Endurance Racing in 2014, that Le Mans is often nothing short of a 24 hour flat-out sprint for all of the cars and the smallest of problems can prove extremely costly.
Saving seconds becomes vital. Astute tyre management and other measures to reduce overall time at pit-stops, can prove to be the winning edge. To that end, Aston Martin Racing has developed its own unique approach to providing the top ups of Gulf engine oil that are necessary during the race.
The “Oil Bomb” as it is known, is a metal canister that contains the necessary amount of engine oil for the top up. It is pre-heated – in the team’s tyre warming racks – to bring the temperature of the oil closer to that of the race engine, so that it works efficiently from the off. Then, before the oil bomb is put onto the car – through a valve situated on the rear wing – it is pressurised so that it literally “dumps” its entire load into the oil system in a handful of seconds.
Time being so vital, the small power-steering issue to with both the #97 and #98 cars dropped them both out of the lead of GTE Pro and GTE Am categories, respectively, and they tumbled many places down the class order, with both fighting back to take sixth place in category at the finish.
Despite the misfortune, the teams had the consolation of scoring vital World Championship points (Le Mans counts for double points) and the pit crew of the #97 car won the organiser’s award for the best technical assistance team and presentation in this year’s Le Mans.
“The victory could not really have been more fitting and Gulf is very proud of what our motorsport partners have achieved this weekend and would like to congratulate Aston Martin Racing on a truly memorable result. We know it came as the result of a huge amount of extremely hard work and dedication,” enthuses Gulf Oil International Brand and Marketing Manager, Sam Cork.
“12 Months ago, everyone at Gulf, at Aston Martin Racing and throughout the motor racing community came together to grieve. Therefore, what is an incredibly hard earned victory for that same 95 car has allowed us, collectively, to celebrate this year. To my mind there can be no finer a demonstration of what Endurance is all about, than this.”
The World Endurance Championship now takes a mid-season break. Battle recommences for the Gulf cars in Austin, Texas on September 20th.
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