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Dominik Baumann - Instructor at Scuderia Hanseat

Pole position followed by setbacks - a bittersweet 24 hours at Spa

63 GT3 cars, 13 manufacturers, 221 top drivers – and Dominik Baumann’s Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 on pole position: the 70th running of the famous 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps started off very promisingly for the sports car specialist from Austria.

Baumann and his R-Motorsport team went into the world’s biggest GT3 race from P1 on the grid after the original pole-sitter was handed a penalty. Baumann together with team-mates Marvin Kirchhöfer and Maxime Martin led the classic for the first few hours following the race start on Saturday at 16:30 CEST.

But after a promising opening spell, the number 62 Aston Martin was dogged by bad luck. When the team pitted after three hours, a refuelling problem kept them in the pit lane for a whole extra minute, long enough to drop them out of the podium group. Subsequent punctures and unplanned pit stops then deprived the number 62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin of any prospect of a decent result.

Because of the numerous setbacks, the team was no longer able to keep up with the leading group in the second half of the race, and in the closing hours, they simply focused on getting Aston Martin safely across the finish line.

After 485 laps – equivalent to 3,396.94 kilometres – the team came home in 35th place. This was Baumann’s third successive appearance at Spa, and having started from pole, he had obviously been hoping for a better outcome. After the disappointment of this first competitive outing in an Aston Martin entered by the Swiss R‑Motorsport team, he still comes away with positives.

Four questions for Dominik Baumann

Dominik, how did it feel to be leading the race during those first few hours?
It felt good. After the Audi was penalised, we were promoted to pole position. That was marvellous for a team that had claimed pole in each of the last three Blancpain outings. We knew that the car is especially good in qualifying. The first three or four hours of racing were great fun. I took over at the wheel of the Aston in the third hour and was immediately able to speed off in the lead. Early on, the car seemed to be running extremely well, and we thought that we were in for a good result.

Then you dropped out of the leading group because of a problem…
Yes, we had a problem with refuelling, and that cost us time. And if you’re no longer up there with the race leaders, it gets difficult. You have to take more risks, and the race automatically develops in a different direction. Unfortunately, the problems just kept piling up – and after it had all started so well. There was a succession of small things that cost us performance.

In your opinion, what might have been possible without the problems that afflicted the Aston Martin?
If everything had gone well, we could have made it into the Top Five. That was my personal expectation after the quali. We knew that the car was stronger in qualifying than in race trim. A result in that magnitude would have been brilliant. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the driver combination was new for Spa. The guys went about their business very professionally and with a high level of motivation right from the start. Working with R-Motorsport has been a lot of fun from the first test onwards, and I’d like to say a big thank-you for that.

What was your personal high point of the 24-hour race?
The first of my six stints was very good. It was the first time ever that I’ve driven a full stint in an Aston Martin. I was able to keep an Audi and a Lamborghini behind me, and the team were very satisfied with that too. For me, the first stint was essentially about seeing how everything works in the car. I quickly found out how to drive it optimally and how to get the best out of the tyres.

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