Objective – Le Mans
Despite a forthcoming F1 partnership, WEC and GT remain at Aston’s core
Aston Martin may be beginning a partnership with Red Bull Racing in Formula 1 and it may have talked up the possibility of building its own powerplant for a team that will race as Aston Martin Red Bull from next season, but GT racing will always remain the heart and soul of the brand’s racing activities. That’s company chief executive officer Andy Palmer’s take on Aston’s motor sport.
“Racing at Le Mans and the in the WEC is our basic activity; Formula 1 is an add-on,” he says. “We would never dream of substituting or sacrificing the WEC and GT stuff. It’s about going racing with a car that our customers can drive.”
Palmer is putting Aston’s money where his mouth is as far as that commitment to GT racing goes. AMR’s WEC GTE Pro assault on the WEC became a factory-funded programme in the traditional sense at the start of 2017, the year that the GT titles finally became full FIA world championships. Prodrive’s funding model before was much more complex. AML provided only part of a budget for the organisation that has had the right to build GT racing Astons since the end of 2004.
“It is important that everyone in the company knows that the cash is coming off of the Aston Martin balance sheet,” says Palmer, who took over the reins of the British manufacturer in 2014. “That means, firstly, everyone has to support it and then, secondly, everyone has to use it.”
Palmer insists that Aston is committed to racing at the highest level of GT racing for the long term. That, he says, may or may not involve a switch to a new mid-engined Aston, which will share some of its DNA with the Valkyrie, planned to enter production in 2021.
There’s also a new set of LMP1 regulations on the horizon. One proposal for 2020/21 would create a set of rules that would provide manufacturers with the chance to give full-house racing prototypes the look of road-going hypercars such as the Valkyrie. Palmer offers up an analogy that hints that Aston’s could be interested in such a class.
“Sometimes you feel that we at Aston Martin celebrate our 1959 Le Mans victory in the same way as the English celebrate 1966 in football,” he says. “We really need to look forward, not backwards…”