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  3. Aston Martin aims for 20th class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as new Vantage GT3 makes debut

Aston Martin aims for 20th class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as new Vantage GT3 makes debut

13 Jun 2024
  • How do D'station Racing and Heart of Racing plan to leverage their recent successes and Aston Martin's storied legacy to achieve a class victory at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans?

Aston Martin’s new Vantage GT3 is all set to make its debut in the world’s most famous endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this weekend (15-16 June), as the ultra-luxury British sportscar manufacturer targets an incredible 20th class victory at the event.

Two examples of the Aston Martin Vantage GT3, which shares the mechanical architecture of the new Vantage road car unveiled earlier this year at Silverstone, and which is built around Aston Martin’s proven bonded aluminium chassis and powered by its fearsome twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine, will contest the ‘twice around the clock’ race in central France. Both will compete in the new-for-2024 LMGT3 category as Aston Martin continues to lay the groundwork for its return to the top class with the Valkyrie AMR-LMH in 2025.

D'station Racing and Heart of Racing Aim for Glory in 2024

D'station Racing and Heart of Racing Aim for Glory in 2024

Aston Martin’s full-time FIA World Endurance Championship [WEC] partner teams, Japanese outfit D’station Racing and US-based entrant Heart of Racing carry the marque’s honour at Le Mans – the most prestigious race of the global competition – which features representation from an incredible nine GT manufacturers; an all-time high.

D’station Racing made history earlier this month as Tomonobu Fujii (JPN) and Charlie Fagg (GBR) claimed the new Aston Martin Vantage GT3’s first international race win in the SUPER GT GT300 class at Suzuka. Fujii, in his role as the team’s Managing Director, will oversee a line-up spearheaded by Aston Martin works driver Marco Sørensen (DEN); a three-time FIA World Endurance Champion and 2022 Le Mans class winner.

Sørensen will share driving duties aboard #777 with Le Mans debutant Erwan Bastard (FRA), a title winner in both the GT4 European and GT4 France series, and Team Principal Satoshi Hoshino (JAP), who makes his first FIA WEC appearance since finishing second in the 8 Hours of Bahrain season finale last year.

Heart of Racing, which will run the works Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR-LMH in the Hypercar class in 2025, scored its best result in the WEC season-opening Qatar 1812km with a second-place finish in the #27 Vantage to begin the LMGT3 era. It aims to go one better at La Sarthe, where it finished sixth on its Le Mans debut last year. Team Principal Ian James (GBR) will be central to the team’s driving strength, while single-seater champion Daniel Mancinelli (ITA) and Spaniard IMSA race-winner Alex Riberas (ESP) will race alongside him.

Significantly, Le Mans – the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship – offers double-points due to its length and difficulty. This gives both Heart of Racing and D’station Racing, who are third and fifth in the Teams’ Championship, the opportunity to take over at the head of the standings as the European portion of the season ends.

Aston Martin’s endurance racing is indelibly linked to Le Mans. A mere 15 years after the marque was formed by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin, it was racing at la Sarthe; its debut coming in 1928 with a pair of AM415 ‘Internationals’. Three years later it claimed its first victory when Augustus Cesare Bertelli and Maurice Harvey won the 1.5-litre class in an International. It took class honours in 1932 and ’33 as well. Two more wins in the ’30s for the Ulster meant that Aston Martin ended the pre-war era as one of Le Mans pre-eminent manufacturers.

The race wasn’t held between 1940-1948 with Europe affected by the second World War, but once it returned in 1949, Aston Martin did too, making the 3-litre class its own through the 1950s. It won the class six times, finishing first, second and third with the DB2 in 1951. This halcyon era culminated in a glorious overall victory for Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori in the DBR1 in 1959. It was also in this period that Aston Martin became known as a haven for legendary racing stars. Among the many aces to have raced Aston Martins at Le Mans are Jim Clark, Sir Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, Sir Jack Brabham, Shelby, Salvadori, Tony Brooks, Phil Hill, Sir John Surtees, Innes Ireland, Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren.

This century Aston Martin has come to the fore once again as one of the truly great GT manufacturers. Returning to the race with a GT1 class podium in 2006, Darren Turner, Rickard Rydell and David Brabham recorded a famous victory over Corvette with the mighty V12-powered DBR9 in 2007. Aston Martin Racing repeated the victory the following year.

In the WEC era, which began in 2012, Aston Martin has five class victories with Vantage. The V8 Vantage GTE won the GTE Am class in 2014 with the Danish line-up of Nicki Thiim, Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier Hansson. Then in 2017 Jonny Adam (GBR) delivered a famous last-lap pass on the rival Corvette to clinch a dramatic GTE Pro win along with team-mates Turner (Aston Martin’s most successful Le Mans racer with 15 starts and three wins), and Daniel Serra (BRA).

The Vantage GTE made its Le Mans debut in 2018 and claimed a breath-taking double-class victory in 2020. Alex Lynn (GBR), Maxime Martin (BEL) and Harry Tincknell (GBR) outfoxed Ferrari in a famous win without stopping for a traditional Sunday morning brake change, while TF Sport conquered GTE Am with Salih Yoluc (TUR), Adam and Eastwood. The team won again in 2022 in its world championship title year with Ben Keating (USA), Henrique Chaves (POR) and Sørensen.

A podium finish for TF Sport in last year’s centenary running of the race – also the 53rd time an Aston Martin had competed at the event – brought the curtain down on the GTE era at Le Mans and prepared fans for the dawn of the new LMGT3 category. The Vantage GT3 will be the 28th different Aston Martin chassis/engine combination to compete at Le Mans. No venue has given Aston Martin so much success, or more steadfastly proven that our DNA is forged out of the very essence of competition, than Le Mans.

Adam Carter, Head of Endurance Motorsport, said: “The 24 Hours of Le Mans is among the most iconic races in motorsport, so it’s absolutely right that Aston Martin’s competitive history should be so indelibly linked to it. While we prepare for our return to the top class with the Valkyrie AMR-LMH Hypercar in 2025, this year we will see two outstanding partner teams, D’station Racing and Heart of Racing, give the new Vantage GT3 its Le Mans debut. That in itself is a momentous occasion. This is the 54th Le Mans to feature the Aston Martin name, and through all that time we have learned that to conquer this race, takes more than just raw speed. It requires performance, enduring technical excellence and no small measure of fortitude. All attributes that Aston Martin will strive to uphold as we step forward in to the fight for a 20th class victory in this famous race.”

Motor 283

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24 Jul 2024

The new Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR-LMH has hit the track for the first time, as Aston Martin with The Heart of Racing begins a comprehensive testing programme ahead of the British ultra-luxury sportscar brand’s bid to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright next year and for the first time since 1959.

The new Hypercar, developed by Aston Martin Performance Technologies and works team The Heart of Racing, completed a shakedown and initial evaluation testing in the UK this week, The car was driven by Aston Martin High Performance development driver Darren Turner (GBR), The Heart of Racing’s Mario Farnbacher (DEU) and Harry Tincknell (GBR), who won the LMGTE class of the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans with Aston Martin.

Aston Martin with The Heart of Racing will now commence a full development schedule to prepare the car ahead of FIA homologation in the autumn and its competitive debut in early 2025. The Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR-LMH is the first racing car to be built to Hypercar regulations to contest both the FIA World Endurance Championship [WEC] and the US-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship [IMSA] simultaneously.

The Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR-LMH is unique in the top Hypercar class of global endurance motorsport in that it is the only one among its contemporaries to derive its roots from an existing production-based extreme performance car – Aston Martin Valkyrie, the ultimate hypercar. Works team The Heart of Racing will enter two Valkyrie AMR-LMH contenders in WEC and a single car in IMSA in 2025.

Adam Carter, Aston Martin Head of Endurance Motorsport, said: “The Valkyrie AMR-LMH sets its own standard as a thoroughbred endurance competition car. It is a pure, leading edge racing machine, and while it is very early in the testing cycle, from what we have witnessed so far, we are satisfied that it is achieving the targets and criteria we have set out for it to accomplish.”

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