World title-winning Vantage hunts fresh glory in the FIA World Endurance Championship
Aston Martin champion Paul Dalla Lana returns to series with his own team
D’station Racing make the step up to world championship level
Le Mans-winners TF Sport aim for title after coming so close in 2020
Three Aston Martin Vantage GTEs will compete for FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) GTE AM honours as D’station Racing, NorthWest AMR and TF Sport all vie to give the car its first world title in the class when the 2021 series begins at Spa-Francorchamps, in Belgium, on Saturday.
The Vantage GTE, powered by a version of the four-litre, twin-turbo-charged V8 engine found in the road car from which it derives, was all-conquering in the WEC GTE Pro category during the 2019/2020 season. Recording five wins from eight races, including both Pro and Am classes at the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans, the car took Aston Martin to the FIA GT Manufacturers’ World Championship title and carried Danish duo Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen to the drivers’ crown.
It also helped TF Sport come within a hair’s breadth of winning the GTE AM crown, as the Le Mans class winners and long-time Aston Martin Racing partners finished runners up in the championship with four class victories – the most of any team. This year TF Sport aims to go one higher with a new driver line-up and a fresh resolve as GTE Am race-winner Ben Keating (USA) joins the squad along with co-drivers Dylan Pereira (LUX) and Felipe Fraga (BRA).
The last driver to win the GTE Am world championship with Aston Martin, Paul Dalla Lana (CDN) – in 2017 – also returns with his Vantage GTE, this time with his own team NorthWest AMR. Dalla Lana, embarking on his eighth season of WEC, is the most experienced Aston Martin driver in the field, and the most decorated having won 16 class victories during his stint with the works team. He is joined by two-time Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona winner and Intercontinental champion Augusto Farfus (BRA), and the 2020 Asian Le Mans Series champion Marcos Gomes (BRA).
TF Sport will also play an assisting role in D’station Racing’s first full foray into WEC, as the Japanese team enters a Vantage GTE for the first time at world level. No stranger to the famous wings – D’station leads the Super Taikyu Championship in Japan with its GT3 variant of Vantage – Satoshi Hoshino (JPN) is joined by regular co-driver Tomonobu Fujii (JPN) and rising British GT star Andrew Watson.
David King, President of Aston Martin Racing, said: “The Vantage GTE set the standard in FIA WEC last season, ensuring that Aston Martin is the reigning FIA GT Manufacturers’ World Champion. The car was equally competitive in the GTE Am class, and only missed out on the title at the last round. This year our aspirations lie in the hands of our world class partner teams, and I am confident they will be front runners in a very competitive class.”
The WEC will be contested over six rounds in 2021, beginning with the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on 1 May. New rounds in Portugal (8 Hours of Portimão) on 13 June, and Italy (6 Hours of Monza), follow before the 24 Hours of Le Mans takes place on its non-traditional date of 21-22 August. The championship then concludes with the 6 Hours of Fuji, in Japan on 26 September, and finally the 8 Hours of Bahrain on 20 November.
The WEC action begins on 26-27 April with the official two day Prologue test, also at Spa. Free practice for the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps will begin at 1530 CET on Thursday, 29 April, with the race taking place from 1330 CET on Saturday, 1 May.