With momentum on their side following a dominant showing last time out at Silverstone in the European Le Mans Series, TF Sport were aiming to make it back-to-back victories this weekend (12-14 May, 2017) at Monza. Having qualified fourth and run in a similar position in the early stages of the race, a strong recovery drive brought a near perfect runner-up position and cemented the lead in the LMGTE standings heading to Le Mans.
“That was a big turn-around,” TF Sport Director Tom Ferrier began. “We were just running around really early on and I thought we’d maybe finish fourth…
“Our pace was actually much better than we expected it would be after qualifying, so we were right there in terms of lap time. Today we made the right calls as to when to pit and this helped gain two positions, so it was a mix of strategy and better than expected race-pace that turned it around for us today.”
Salih Yoluc, Euan Hankey and Nicki Thiim teamed up once again at the wheel of the #90 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE but it quickly became clear in practice and qualifying that the Balance of Performance changes made after Silverstone would make round two a more difficult affair.
Losing out in terms of pure straight-line speed, qualifying saw Thiim pushing to the maximum but only able to record the fourth fastest time. Race day followed a similar pattern initially, with Yoluc taking the start and struggling to maintain position, pitting and handing over to Hankey in sixth place.
Hankey was soon in a great battle with the Beechdean Aston Martin, gaining the position and then dropping ground after taking a strategy stop for fuel, whilst under a full course yellow. This later helped TF Sport make further gains.
Thiim put in another impressive performance, gaining two positions on track and further positions as strategy came into play to run second before handing back to Hankey for the final push with less than an hour remaining.
Closing down the gap to the eventual race winner to just eight seconds, Hankey brought the Vantage GTE home in an impressive second position, maintaining the lead in the championship by nine points over JMW Motorsport.
“P2 in the end is good as it was quite an intense race, a lot of strategy going on because of the many full course yellows,” said Thiim. “Everything got out of sequence with the other cars pitting at different times to us so in the end we finished eight seconds behind the winner. Which is alright and it’s the points that count and today we got 18 of them and I can’t wait for next ELMS race at the Red Bull Ring.”
The team now begin preparations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans that takes place 17 – 18 June, with the next ELMS race in Austria on 23 July.