On June 11 of this year, the Aston Martin Racing team (AMR) returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans, the scene of their triumph in the 2017 edition of the “Le Mans 24 Hours” race. The AMR team used the occasion to present to the public the two all-new Aston Martin Vantage GTEs that competed in this year’s “GTE Pro” class. With 17 cars competing, this line-up represented the most competitive field ever assembled for this class.
“The Le Mans 24 Hours is the jewel in the crown of sportscar racing, and one of the principal reasons we build racing cars is to go out and beat our rivals in this race. Le Mans provides the ultimate test of durability and performance on and off the track” – David King, Aston Martin’s Vice President and Chief Special Operations Officer.
The two Vantage GTEs are based on the critically-acclaimed Aston Martin Vantage road car. They are powered by the same 4.0-litre, V8 turbo-charged engine but have been optimised by AMR for the series. One is the #95 car driven by Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen, both from Denmark, along with the three-time Le Mans winner Darren Turner from Great Britain. The other is the #97 car driven by Maxime Martin from Belgium, along with the British duo of Alex Lynn and Jonny Adam.
The two cars were put through extensive development programme and testing that covered 35,000 kilometres over the winter. “We were very happy with how the car ran during the test day, and our drivers reported that it behaved well through the critical sectors of the lap. So now it’s up to us to ensure it remains reliable and consistent for them to perform in the biggest race of them all,” said Dan Sayers, Aston Martin Racing Technical Director before the race.
The new Vantage GTEs had an impressive debut in Spa-Francorchamps, the first race of the series, with both cars finishing in the points. Then disaster, or it nearly was. During testing at Le Mans, the #95 car had an accident while being driven by Sørensen. The driver was unhurt, but the car was not so lucky. The AMR’s technicians and engineers had to work around the clock in split-shifts to build a brand-new chassis, and an entirely new #95 ‘DaneTrain’ racer around it. It then had to be shaken down and made ready for scrutineering in just six days.
Last year’s winning cars were also back to compete. One of them was driven by AMR’s 2016 GTE Am class championship winning trio of Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy. This year, the car has already added Spa to its list of accolades.