The Gulf 12 Hours at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, brought down the curtain on Optimum Motorsport’s standout 2019 racing campaign and while the overall result wasn’t as hoped for, it was a successful event in many ways as the team now begin preparations for its 2020 programmes.
The British-based squad fielded the #15 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 with David Holloway returning to the team alongside new-comers Michael Dinan and Dave Whitmore. The eventual fifth position at the chequered flag on Saturday night from sixth on the grid doesn’t really tell the full story which was one of strategy, a little bad luck and many highlights for both team and drivers.
The team worked through the free practice sessions, completing long runs, pitstop practice, in and out lap procedures. The average lap time of the three drivers resulted in sixth position on the grid and as a result, the team opted on a gamble and that was to pit at the green light at the very start of the first segment of the 12-hour race.
Sure enough, Dave Whitmore peeled into the pitlane as the field roared off to turn one, taking one of the five mandatory pitstops required in the six-hour segment. 150-second minimum stop time completed, he was back out circulating and desperately hoping for what would be an elusive Safety Car period.
The strategy didn’t pay off in this occasion and to compound the matter, the Vantage soon developed a traction control issue which resulted in the V8 engine cutting out. A lap down, Dave started the chase on the #44 of Steve Tandy ahead, whilst putting in lap times on a par with the GT4 class leaders.
The first stop came 29 laps into the race where Dave handed over to Michael Dinan. The team took the opportunity to reset some systems in a bid to cure the traction control issue and while successful, this cost an additional 90 seconds in pitlane. Michael completed his stint, recording the fastest lap in class along the way before David Holloway completed the driver cycle.
The first part of the race concluded and following a break, the David resumed in sixth position. All three drivers showed great pace but the damage – in terms of the result – had already been done and it was a case of bringing the #15 to the flag. Despite a scare for Michael following contact whilst being lapped that necessitated a new steering arm, the team worked flawless to finish in fifth position after an impressive 275 laps of competition.
Indeed, were it not for the time lost early in the event, we would have been a contender for the victory.
Shaun Goff, Team Principal
“It’s been a great season as a whole and we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here at the Gulf 12 Hours. Yes, we gambled on there being a safety car early on as we were starting at the back anyway. Shortly into our first stint, the Aston developed a random traction control issue, cutting the engine power and having to do resets each lap to power up and off, it was costing us too much time.
“We worked on this in the first stop and that cost us further time, but then the drivers were able to push on without a problem and we were unlucky to just miss out on getting the lead back at the six hour point. We then gave each driver targets, for example Michael to chase down the McLarens ahead. Then there were three cars going into the penultimate turn and we bent the steering arm through no fault of our own. P5 is P5 but we have all really enjoyed this event and now we look ahead to the new year.”
“This has been the best experience of my life and I am so grateful to everyone at Optimum Motorsport for making this a possibility for me; a world class outfit. Early on the Aston had a traction control fault but we were consistent on track and we managed to close the gap to the other GT4s ahead. Again, a massive thanks to the team for the unforgettable day.”
“First of all, the venue and occasion and the whole setup here has been incredible. The team have been awesome all week and my teammates have been great fun. This race was the first time I have ever raced beyond 25-minutes and I absolutely loved it. The circuit has been a real challenge as has the traffic as with the GT4, you’re always under fore from behind from the GT3 guys. I started the second half of the race and for me it was all about getting track time and that we did. An excellent week with Optimum Motorsport.”