In Race Reports

The sunny outlook in the south of France extended further than just the bright Mediterranean skies and hot sunshine on the 16th July at Le Castellet, as Ben Tuck and his fellow crew claimed a surprise podium position after a dramatic 4-hour race. The result came as the perfect conclusion to an enforced 2-and-a-half-month long break after Round 2 of the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) at Imola was cancelled in May.  So, the beautiful mountains of Provence became host to a redesignated Round 2 of the ELMS, with fans and teams hungry for the resumption of track action.

The race at Le Castellet, better known as the Paul Ricard Formula 1 circuit, with its distinctive track markings and very long straights, did not disappoint, serving up track action and incidents aplenty.

Importantly, two of those incidents resulted in an LMGTE class podium position after penalties were applied post-race, after what was already a fantastic team performance by the #95 TF Sport Aston Martin of Ben Tuck, Jonny Adam and John Hartshorne.

“I’m so happy for the team, what a great race!” said Ben. “The car felt brilliant. We had a bit of bad luck earlier in the race, but we had great pace across all of us [drivers] and the podium was really what we could have got anyway, so it’s great that it happened after all!”.

The weekend got off to a solid start. Friday free practice in the baking conditions continuing to Saturday practice and qualifying, with no issues evident on the car. According to ELMS regulations, the crews’ Bronze ‘amateur’ rated driver, John Hartshorne, qualified the car claiming 10th spot on the grid in the LMGTE class.

Race day continued with the hot conditions but with less wind along the extensive back straight. The standard team strategy was adopted for the driver rotations, with Bronze, John Hartshorne, starting the race with a double stint, followed by Tuck as the Silver rated driver for the middle stint, and Jonny Adam as the Platinum rated Aston Martin factory pro driver to take the #95 car to the finish.

As the race got underway, Hartshorne took and held 9th spot despite having a spin part way through his stint. Drama arrived at the very end of his stint in the form of multiple incidents in close succession resulting in Hartshorne electing to pit a lap early at exactly the same time as the sister #72 Aston Martin, which was involved in a collision, resulting in both cars arriving at the garage almost simultaneously. In the urgency, the team incurred a pit infringement penalty of 10 seconds to be served at the next pitstop.

Nevertheless, Tuck took over from Hartshorne in 7th and smoothly progressed the car through the field, putting in a consistent series of sensational lap times. After just over an hour, he brought the car home in the lead. A smooth and efficient stop saw the car serve its penalty and was then refuelled to the finish with Aston pro driver Jonny Adam at the wheel.

From there, Adam calmly drove the car to the flag, finishing 5th on the road. However, the car in 4th had already been given a penalty resulting in a promotion for the TF Sport crew to 4th place, a superb result in itself given the earlier spin and pitstop penalty. After the race, incidents involving a number of other cars were still being investigated, one of them involving the #57 Ferrari car sitting in 3rd place. Several hours after the race, the stewards’ verdict was handed down and #95 was promoted to 3rd position.

Without the earlier issues, 3rd position would have been genuinely achievable, so TF Sport wholeheartedly accepted the result as a true reflection of their performance. Equally, Ben Tuck was pleased with his contribution, ending the weekend as the fastest of the Aston Martin drivers based upon outright lap time, average lap time and each one of the sector times.

With just a month to wait until the next round at Aragon in Spain on the 26th August, the team are rapidly building confidence in this season’s car and crew. TF Sport will need every bit of that confidence at Aragon as the race is to take place at night, the only night race on the ELMS calendar. However, Ben Tuck and his team can look forward to Aragon with spirits high.

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