Never trust a businessman who doesn’t use his own product. Or, in this case, never trust a businessman who runs a car company who doesn’t go racing. For me, in general, I don’t trust car companies that don’t go racing. It’s just a personal quirk, and I know a lot of auto manufacturers are just in this business to make money. Fine for them, but for me, if your company doesn’t race, it gives me the heebee-jeebees.
It would be like if Leo Fender didn’t play guitar for some reason. Dr. Andy Palmer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin of Gaydon, England on the other hand is not like that. Got to give the boy props. He’s no dilettante. He’ll be running this year’s Hankook 24 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas (CoTA) in Austin, Texas.
His ride, naturally, will be an Aston Martin Vantage GT8, the very same car that won its class at the Nürburgring 24 Hours earlier this year, a backbreaker of a race on a track that is notoriously dangerous. He will be paired with Paul Hollywood, John Hindhaugh, and Peter Cate throughout the twice-’round-the-clock endurance race happening this weekend, November 11th and 12th.
“It is a real treat for me to take part in the race at COTA,” Dr. Palmer said. “I have a fantastic car, some great co-drivers, and a top team behind me, and we are going out there to try to win the SP3 class.”
Coaching & Instruction
The Doc. is an intense amateur racer, having competed in Aston Martin Owners Club events at Snetterton, Brands Hatch, Rockingham (England), and Silverstone this year alone. The 24 Hours of CoTA marks his return to 24-hour racing after a stretch of shorter competitions. Along the way to getting back into the driver’s chair for this long haul, he as been mentored by such highly qualified types as Darren Turner and Jonny Adam, both of whom won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Aston Martin this past June.
“It’s a fantastic circuit with some fast sections and some tight, technical corners and I know our WEC drivers enjoy racing there,” Dr. Palmer continued. “I have no delusions of being the next Turner or Adam, but I’m grateful for all the advice I can get from the professionals.”
Teamwork & Dreamwork
Palmer’s teammates have strong links to Aston Martin. For example, Paul Hollywood (that’s his real name) gets his kicks racing an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 with the Beechdean AMR team in British GT races. He’s also known for something called the Great British Bake Off which is a TV show of some sort that, based on the title alone, has zero interest for me. There is no mention of Peter Cate’s baking chops, but he has raced for Aston Martin many times, notably taking a class win in the GT8 at the Nürburgring 24 Hours this year.
Then there is John Hindhaugh, a fellow who normally watches races rather than competing in them. Turns out he’s the main commentary guy for Radio Le Mans, but this weekend he’ll be going all George Plimpton (look it up) and getting behind the wheel. Given the team’s, uh, varied levels of experience and abilities, this will probably make for an interesting spectator experience.
The action starts with a practice session on Friday (November 10th) around lunchtime before the hour-long qualifying run that afternoon. Not that qualifying counts for all that much in a race this long. Second practice is on Friday night to give the drivers the opportunity to acclimatize to racing at night. Curiously, the race is run in a split format. The race itself takes place on Saturday between 9:00 in the morning and 11:00 that night, then takes up again on Sunday from 8:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening. Yes, the cars do remain in Parc Ferme conditions overnight, and yes, this does allow the racers to grab some hard-earned rest, but it’s also kind of a weenie deal, and they should just run it in one long continuous go. In my opinion.
“Our plan is to emulate the motto of another Aston Martin racer, Nicki Thiim: ‘Go hard or go home,’” Dr. Palmer added.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias toward lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.