Northern California-based The Racer's Group will continue its showcase of Aston Martin's line of Vantage racecars this weekend at Monterey as factory driver Darren Turner and former World Challenge champion Brandon Davis unveil the Rolex GT version of the marque's GT3-spec V12.
TRG owner Kevin Buckler piloted the V12 Vantage GT3 for the first time in Pirelli World Challenge trim last month at Sonoma Raceway (ABOVE), placing sixth in close proximity to the team's base in Petaluma, and has now prepared the chassis for Grand-Am competition.
With new tires, a smaller rear wing and a change in ECU vendors required to comply to the Rolex Series' interpretation on FIA GT3 machinery, the team took the No. 66 entry to the Buttonwillow track for a bit of pre-race testing before loading into Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“We did some testing at Buttonwillow--more of a systems check on the Continental tires, and a lot of the effort is adapting the car to the Bosch ECU,” Turner told RACER. “It still needs a lot of work to optimize it. And it was for me to have a bit of time with the car on these tires, and for Brandon, who knows the tires, to learn the car a little bit. It wasn't a major development program, but we did work through some fundamentals so we can avoid them when practice begins.”
Like the other GT3 cars that have been adapted to Rolex GT regulations, the V12 Vantage will face a significant learning curve before it becomes a competitive option. Based on its performance in Europe in standard GT3 specification, the Aston has been a winner, giving Turner an optimistic view of what it can eventually achieve in America.
“We won the Silverstone Blancpain [Endurance Series] with the car in June, and every kind of competitive GT3 car in the world races there,” he continued. “Every time we've gone out with a strong driver lineup, it has been very competitive and has shown quite well. It's a lot of fun to drive in GT3 spec, and interestingly enough, the Continental tire is a lot different than what we use in Europe, so that's the big task for us to work through and adapt the car to perform on.
“We'll also run a lot lower downforce spec than it does in Europe because of the Grand-Am rules, so it's not something you can just show up and be bang on the pace. This weekend is really about starting to develop the car for this championship.”
The factory link between TRG and Aston Martin Racing continues to evolve, and like all of Buckler's ventures, vehicle and parts sales are the underlying purpose for the program's existence. This weekend's showing of the V12 Vantage an important step in developing the chassis for potential customers in the United SportsCar Racing series, but as Turner shares, he wouldn't mind having a strong result behind the steering wheel.
“It's important for TRG and AMR so people can look at the car and see it as an option for next year, so that's the main reason for bringing the car out to race,” he said. “And we need to make it competitive, and that requires track time so we're using the race weekend to gain some of that. There's a side of us that says we need to get a great result weekend, but we're also understanding it would be hard to make a big impact first time out.
“As a racer, I always want to be fighting for the best possible result; I'd love a podium at Laguna, but that's not the main thing to set our sights on. We need to show it's reliable and has potential to be a fast car for customers to race next year. If we can also get up there and get in the mix with some of the established guys, that would be even better.”