Having started from pole position in the ALMS GT race, Aston Martin Racing led the GT class at Laguna Seca until the first refueling stops.
Competing in the third round of the American Le Mans Series, the team's #007 Vantage GTE had looked like getting its best finish to date. However, it became apparent that the time taken to refuel the Vantage GTE at pit stops - as a result of changes to ALMS fuelling restrictors - would harm the team's chances of victory.
Factory driver Darren Turner (GB) had qualified on pole position, almost half a second clear of his nearest rival. Team-mate Stefan Mucke started the six-hour race behind the wheel of the Vantage GTE, maintaining the advantage for the opening stint of the until the refueling delays dropped the car to ninth in class. Mucke set about fighting back through the field, setting fastest lap times among the GT class and rising back to fourth position over the course of the following hour.
A collision with another competitor brought a penalty for Mucke, which he served before pitting to hand over to Turner. The Briton rejoined the fray in 11th position in class before reeling in the tenth-placed car at a rate of three seconds per lap. Having recovered to eighth, Turner made way for Adrian Fernandez (MX), who drove consistently in the final stint to deliver the result and prove the Vantage GTE's durability over long distances.
John Gaw, Aston Martin Racing Team Principal, said: "Finishing eighth in class isn't what we wanted having started from pole position, but it's clear there is some work required to equalize refueling times of similar cars in the ALMS because these delays cost us the chance to fight for the win.
"This was our last outing before the 24 Hours of Le Mans and it's clear we have made great progress in the last six months. The priority was to log a race finish while proving we can compete with the world's fastest GT cars for the entirety of an endurance race."
The factory team will field a pair of the Gulf-liveried V8 Vantage racers at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 16/17 June. After three years in the prototype category, Aston Martin Racing has returned to the production class that earned it back-to-back victories at Le Mans in 2007 and 2008.
Away from the action on track, Aston Martin was saddened to learn of the death in Dallas on Thursday of racing legend and former Aston Martin race car driver Carroll Shelby. The 89-year-old ex-driver, team boss and car designer co-piloted the Aston Martin DBR1 sports car to victory in the 1959 Le Mans Grand Prix of Endurance alongside Briton Roy Salvadori.
Aston Martin CEO, Dr Ulrich Bez, paid tribute to Shelby: "I knew Carroll personally and admired his exceptional abilities as a driver and creator of classic sports cars. He played a huge part in what remains perhaps Aston Martin's finest hour at Le Mans, and our thoughts go out to his family."
As a mark of respect for Shelby, Aston Martin's Vantage GTE raced at Laguna Seca with a black number square and a black strip across the windscreen.