PokerStars and Aston Martin Racing on the podium
Two safety car periods fell unkindly for the PokerStars Aston Martin Racing cars at the third round of the American Le Mans Series at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, yet despite the set-backs, and a puncture while leading the GT1 class, Darren Turner and Tomas Enge finished on the podium for the third successive race in their Aston Martin DBR9.
Pedro Lamy crossed the line in the 009 Aston Martin DBR9 three-tenths of a second behind Enge to take fourth position at the end of the two-hour, 45-minute race.
The team ran an aggressive strategy which allowed Turner to lead GT1 at the end of his opening stint. The British driver was the last to pit and hand to Enge, but the Czech driver returned to the pits almost immediately when he suffered a puncture. A fantastic pit stop by the team meant that Enge re-joined in third position and set about closing the gap to the leaders with a series of fast laps. Unfortunately a third safety car period dropped the number 007 car to a lap behind the winners at the checkered flag.
In the number 009 Aston Martin DBR9, Lamy's team-mate Sarrazin was struggling during the opening stint with oversteer and had dropped back from the leading three cars when the first safety car period was called. The Frenchmans track position meant that he lost a lap to the class leaders. Lamy took over and benefited from the second safety car period to close on his team-mate Enge.
"We lost the race due to safety car decisions," said Prodrive Chairman, David Richards. "We were not quite on the pace, but the strategy was superb and we lost it because of some rather strange safety car decisions."
Aston Martin Racing Team Principal, George Howard-Chappell, added: "Our best chance of winning was by going longer on the fuel which we did. This very nearly paid off but a puncture and the safety car decision ruined that chance. We were hoping when the Corvettes had pitted and we were still out that there might be a safety car, but it did not work out as we hoped."
Turner, who started from pole position, immediately dropped a place to one of the Corvettes at the start of the race. "The left lane for some reason didn't go when the flag dropped," said Turner. "The right lane was away, the Corvette got past me. I cut across to make sure the other Corvette didn't go through. It took three or four laps to get heat into the tires and then I was a bit lucky with some of the traffic, but the strategy was good and it is a pity we didn't get more from it."
Enge took over, and almost immediately suffered a puncture. "We have to analyze exactly why it happened," said the Czech driver. "Otherwise I was pretty happy with my run. Darren did a good job at the beginning of the stint. We had a different strategy to the 009 car and at the end of the race, Pedro was putting some very good lap times on slightly newer tyres, and I was trying to save fuel. We took third place, but we know that it could have been so much better with no problems."
"We are very disappointed because the safety car periods messed it up for us," said Sarrazin. "These are only short races and when you are unfortunate like that, the race is finished for you."
Lamy was battling with the handling of his car in the second half of the race, yet was still able to pressure Enge. "The car was suffering from a lot of oversteer, which slowed us down," he said. "The safety car periods were frustrating, and we hope for better days."