Britain’s Aston Martin aiming for 20th class victory as 24 Hours of Le Mans marks a century of endurance racing

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2023 FIA World Endurance Championship Le Mans Test Le Mans, France 2nd - 4th June 2023. Photo: Nick Dungan / Drew Gibson Photography

Ultra-luxury British sportscar manufacturer Aston Martin goes in search of an incredible 20th class victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the world’s most famous endurance classic celebrates its centenary edition this coming weekend (10 June).

The British sportscar manufacturer’s involvement with the event stretching back 95 years, having made its own debut with a pair of AM415 ‘Internationals’ in 1928.

Aston Martin can proudly boast that a car bearing its name has been entered for 53 (including 2023) races in the event’s history.

The world’s most famous endurance classic celebrates its centenary edition this weekend. Photo credit Aston Martin

Aston Martin Racing’s Vantage GTE is the most successful GT racing car in the history of the company. A record five current-generation Aston Martin Vantage GTEs will contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans, run by four AMR partner teams, as the car seeks its third LMGTE Am class victory at the French race. Aston Martin is also challenging for its first back-to-back wins since the glorious GT1 class double with the Aston Martin DBR9 in 2007 and 2008.

Reigning world champions and last year’s LMGTE Am class winner TF Sport brings two cars to the race. The #25 ORT by TF Vantage, which finished third in the most recent WEC round at Spa-Francorchamps will be driven by one of several Aston Martin race rookies, Ahmad Al Harthy – the first Omani to contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He will be joined by 2020 class winner Charlie Eastwood (IRL), and another race debutant Michael Dinan (USA). The team also brings its European Le Mans Series trio Arnold and Maxime Robin (FRA) and works driver Valentin Hasse Clot to race the #72 TF Sport-run Projet 24 car.

As well as running its own cars, TF Sport assists Japanese team D’station Racing, back for its third crack at the race with owner Satoshi Hoshino (JPN), team manager Tomonobu Fujii (JPN), and Aston Martin Academy candidate Casper Stevenson (GBR) who finished second in class with the team’s Vantage GT4 in the recent Fuji 24 Hours.

The Heart of Racing team makes its Le Mans debut as it seeks to rack up a second major 24 hours race victory of the year. Having won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona back in February with team principal Ian James (GBR), Marco Sørensen (DEN), Roman De Angelis (CDN) and Darren Turner (GBR), the team has taken over Paul Dalla Lana’s NorthWest AMR entry and will field the #98 car this weekend. Joining James on driving duties will be IMSA race winner Alex Riberas (ESP) and Daniel Mancinelli (ITA).

2023 FIA World Endurance Championship Le Mans Test Le Mans, France 2nd – 4th June 2023 Photo: Jamey Price / Drew Gibson Photography

Last year’s LMGTE Am class winner and reigning world champion Sørensen also returns to the race with a new team to the Aston Martin stable. Danish squad GMB Motorsport has formed a new type of ‘Dane Train’ with the #55 Vantage, having gained entry to the race via its Le Mans Cup title, and Marco, who is chasing his third Le Mans class win will guide rookie Gustav Birch (DEN) through his first Le Mans along with fellow countryman Jens Reno Moller (DEN).

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. 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, Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, Jack Brabham, Shelby, Salvadori, Tony Brooks, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Innes Ireland, Paul Frére, 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’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 breathtaking 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 last season in its world championship title year with Ben Keating (USA), Henrique Chaves (POR) and Sørensen.

In total, a little under 240 drivers have raced Aston Martins at Le Mans in the past 95 years in 27 different chassis and engine combinations through virtually every famous era. 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.

Renato Bisignani, Head of Global Marketing and Communications, said:

“That Le Mans is just as important to the world’s great car-making pioneers now as it was 100 years ago, is a great testament to the sporting traditions and heritage of this extraordinary event. We congratulate the ACO and all who organise the 24 Hours of Le Mans for this outstanding landmark achievement. Aston Martin is proud to have been a competitor at Le Mans since the very earliest days, and we remain so today through our loyal, dedicated and talented partner teams. We wish them all well as they take on the challenge of winning a 20th victory for Aston Martin at Le Mans.”

This year’s Le Mans will feature a 21-car LMGTE Am field – now the only GT class thanks to the abolition of the GTE Pro contingent at the end of 2022. The event runs over two weekends with public scrutineering and the Official Test taking place between 2-4 June.

Practice and qualifying will run through Wednesday and Thursday while the race will begin at 1600 CET, Saturday, 10 June.

 

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