Aston Martin Racing Confirms Le Mans And WEC Programmes

Aston Martin Racing will embark upon an exciting new challenge in 2012 as it prepares to make a return to international GT motorsport in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The team will campaign a V8-powered Vantage in the GTE Pro category of the eight round series, which spans three continents. At the third round of the championship, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Aston Martin Racing will field a second works Vantage GTE.

The Vantage GTE is a development of the Vantage GT2, with significant improvements to all areas including the engine, drivetrain and suspension. Carrying the iconic Gulf colours, the new car will make its competitive debut at round one of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the 60th anniversary edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring, on March 17th. The driver line-up has been confirmed as Darren Turner (GBR), Stefan Mücke (D) and Adrian Fernandez (MX).

Aston Martin Lagonda Chairman David Richards shared his enthusiasm for the new project: “It’s great to be returning to our core motorsport activity; production-based GT racing. It formed the basis for Aston Martin’s return to competition when the DBR9 GT1-racer was launched in 2004, and it was in GT racing that we achieved our famous victories at Le Mans in 2007 and 2008.

“The GT category is also now the most competitive class in world sports car racing and with the new FIA World Endurance Championship the GTE class will, I believe, offer the closest fought and most exciting spectacle. We will see many premium sports car brands competing with great sounding racing cars based on their production models, which all the fans can relate to.”

In order to give the team more competitive experience of the Vantage GTE ahead of Le Mans, Aston Martin Racing will also contest the Long Beach and Laguna Seca rounds of the American Le Mans Series on April 14th and May 12th respectively.

At the heart of the Vantage GTE is the road-going Aston Martin V8 Vantage. The GTE is a significantly updated version of the original GT2 car and has been specifically designed to compete in championships running to the Automobile Club De L’Ouest GTE regulations. Under the bonnet, the engine is based on the standard Aston Martin V8, but with competition components including cylinder heads, connecting rods, valves, camshafts and a racing exhaust system. As in the road car, the transmission is mid-rear mounted, but with a six-speed semi-automatic sequential transmission and competition clutch. The transmission also has a dedicated oil/air cooling system.

The bonded aluminium structure is taken directly from the V8 Vantage road car. Into this, Aston Martin Racing integrates an aerospace specification steel roll cage built to FIA standards. With the exception of the roof, the bodywork is manufactured from lightweight carbon fibre and features an advanced aerodynamic package with carbon fibre splitter, flat floor and diffuser, and a carbon fibre rear wing designed using the latest computational fluid dynamics (CFD) techniques. The Vantage GTE retains the road car’s double wishbone suspension layout at the front and rear, but with bespoke wishbones and coil springs over Koni adjustable aluminium bodied dampers. Powerful but lightweight six-piston Brembo racing calipers are fitted to the front axle with similar four-piston calipers at the rear.

Aston Martin Racing’s decision to enter the FIA World Endurance Championship will ensure that the brand continues to compete at the very highest level of endurance sports car racing. As of the 2012 season, all of Aston Martin Racing’s competition cars are based on the road-going Vantage, reflecting its status as the sportiest car in Aston Martin’s model range.

Factory driver Darren Turner said: “I’m excited about this programme as it’s our opportunity to take Aston Martin back to the top of the world of GT racing. The Vantage GTE is a great car; she’s coming along nicely now and we’re ready to take on what we expect will be tough competition. The FIA World Endurance Championship calendar looks good to me, especially as I’ve already won in an Aston Martin at half of the tracks: Sebring, Silverstone, Interlagos and of course at Le Mans. We are going to Sebring next month with a brand new car, but that’s exactly what we did with the DBR9 back in 2005 and we won that race. I’m not promising we can repeat that but we’ll certainly try!”

Team-mate Stefan Mücke explained the team’s ambitions for its first year in the FIA World Endurance Championship: “I’m really looking forward to racing the Vantage GTE and I’m optimistic that the car will be competitive. We always aim high and target podium finishes at every race, but we are also determined to prove the speed and reliability of the Vantage GTE in 2012.”

Adrian Fernandez added: “GT racing will be a new experience for me because I have raced single-seaters and prototypes for the majority of my career. It’s always a pleasure to try something new as a racing driver and with Aston Martin’s past success in the GT category, I’m sure I will learn how to get the most out of the Vantage GTE very quickly. We have a strong driver line-up with my team-mates Stefan and Darren, who have a lot of experience in GT racing. I am excited for the start of the season as well as the opportunity to represent Lowe’s both in a world championship and the American Le Mans Series.”

Aside from a two-car campaign at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Aston Martin will also host the inaugural Aston Martin Racing Festival, which gives all owners of its GT competition cars the opportunity to participate in an exclusive 45-minute race on the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe on the morning of the 24-hour epic.

12 Comments on Aston Martin Racing Confirms Le Mans And WEC Programmes

  1. Looks fantastic, nice to see Aston playing safe after last years disastrous le mans effort. Going to miss the old Lola-Aston though, last of the ‘big-banger’ v12 racers. It’s more realistic for a smaller marque like Aston to be more competitive in the GT category.

  2. I’m sure this will work out better than their LMP1 project last year, especially because there is no really strong competition in the WEC GT class this year: they are the only works-supported team. But who will take notice of that? I hope they will at least score a class victory at Le Mans against Corvette, to have at least something to do some advertising with.

  3. To win the GTE class at le mans is the best a relatively small operation like Aston Martin would be perfect, especially against a big yank operation like GM. That would be more than sufficient for British sportscar fans!

  4. Good to see Aston bsck in the GT category where they belong. The Aston-Lola LMP1 was a nice looking and great sounding car, but didn’t really have a place (couldn’t compete with the other manufacturers due to the diesel regs, but couldn’t really be touched by the privateers.)

  5. @ KW. You are wrong if you think there’s no strong competitition on the WEC GT class, and Aston Martn will notbe the only Works supported team. Besides LeMans might not be between Aston and Corvette.

    In the WEC, Ferrari (AF Corse), and Porsche (Felbermayr)have just as much of a budget as Aston Martin, and their personnel would not be too much different if they were full works teams. They are simply entered under privateer banners.

    Even though Aston and Corvette used to dominate GT1, corvette only won lemans last year after ferrari and bmw had troubles. So we should not assume it will be just between these 2 at lemans.

  6. Risi is generating some top dollars just offering up support to ESM, Luxury Racing, and whoever else might want to run ferrari challenge in Grand AM.

    Risi is also very upset at the ALMS for allowing the BMW M3’s to have been competitive last year even though the cars were not in “full” GTE spec, while the ferrari was fully compliant with the regulations.

  7. Interesting to see Lowes on the front lip of the car. Guess that means Fernandez is back for another year…

  8. It’s great to see a proper factory-funded/backed Vantage effort in ACO-rules racing because it always had the pace, it just lacked having a top notch team to run it. By the way, @William Adrian had inked a three-year factory driver deal with Aston Martin Racing so this is the last year for his current contract with them.

  9. Sam123

    I’m with you there. I wish the Lola-Aston was in that green aswell, would have looked awesome.

  10. Well JMW in the European LeMans series did run the Vantage in 2010. They had Darren Turner and Rob Bell doing the driving. But they kept qualifying and finishing well behind the BMWs, and lead Porches and Ferraris.

    From then on, no other team wanted to try the car. Because JMW is a top squad and they had Aston Martin factory backing and driver and Dunlop’s lead development driver. And Dunlop was giving them developmental compounds not customer slicks.

    Their best result was a pole position and 3rd place at silverstone, an that was because Dunlop made a compound just for that track and no other team had data for the new layout of the circuit.

    The project was supposed to be an all british juggernaut that would stick it to the germans (m3, RSR), italians (ferrari) and french (michelin) but it fell far from expectations.

    JMW still have that vantage for sale since 2010. Can’t get rid of it quick enough. http://www.jmwmotorsport.com/12.html

    So hopefully Dave Richards and his crew have thoroughly retooled the package since then, for a proper GT2 battle.

    It hasn’t been too much fun watching all these still-births by legendary British makes (jaguar, lotus).

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