TF Sport and NorthWest AMR continue battle for GTE Am world crown
D’station Racing makes home debut on WEC’s return to Japan
Fuji Speedway back on the schedule for the first time since 2019
The Aston Martin Vantage GTE, and Aston Martin Racing partner teams NorthWest AMR and TF Sport, resume their fight for supremacy at the top of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship [WEC] GTE Am class standings when the series finally returns to Japan for the 6 Hours of Fuji next weekend.
The 2.835-mile circuit, situated less than an hour due East of Mount Fuji, has been a WEC mainstay since the series was established in 2012, but the event has not featured on the schedule since 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic began and the world went into lockdown.
With just two rounds remaining of the 2022 campaign, three cars remain locked in a fierce fight for the crown. Two of those are Aston Martins.
Championship leaders and 24 Hours of Le Mans winners TF Sport lead the championship with drivers Ben Keating (USA) and double GT world champion Marco Sørensen (DEN). While an excellent podium streak was brought to an end in the previous round at Monza, when their team-mate Henrique Chaves (POR) suffered an unfortunate crash not of his making, the two-time class pole-sitting #33 goes into Fuji as one of the favourites.
Just four points behind Keating and Sørensen in the standings are NorthWest AMR, owned by 2017 GTE Am world champion Paul Dalla Lana (CDN), partnered in the #98 by double world champion Nicki Thiim (DEN) and David Pittard (GBR). The trio won the first round at Sebring and followed that up with podium appearances at Spa and Le Mans, and have finished in the points at every race this season. Dalla Lana would dearly love to regain the points lead with a second victory at Fuji, to add to the one he recorded in 2016 alongside Mathias Lauda (AUT) and Pedro Lamy (POR).
Fuji’s return to the calendar coincides with the home debut for another Aston Martin partner team, D’station Racing, which along with Japanese drivers Satoshi Hoshino and Tomonobu Fujii, and British WEC rookie Charlie Fagg, is chasing its first class podium of the season, but comes off the back of a successful run with the Vantage GT3 in the GT World Challenge Asia Series.
The Vantage GTE, introduced in 2018, has a proud record at Fuji. The car put down a landmark on its debut year by recording its first pole position with Thiim in the GTE Pro class, and in 2019 when the series last visited the circuit, TF Sport won the GTE Am class with Salih Yoluc (TUR), Charlie Eastwood (IRL) and Jonny Adam (GBR) from pole.
In the midst of its fourth world championship campaign, Vantage remains as formidable a GT contender as ever. Powered by a race-developed version of the four-litre, twin turbo-charged V8 engine found in the road car form which it derives, this prototype version of the GT car was all-conquering in the WEC GTE Pro category during the 2019/2020 season. Vantage recorded five wins from eight races, including both Pro and Am classes at the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car also took Aston Martin to the FIA GT Manufacturers’ World Championship title and carried Thiim and Sørensen to the drivers’ crown. In total it has claimed 13 class victories so far in WEC.
Huw Tasker, Head of AMR Partner Racing, said: “We’re coming to the sharp end of a very hard-fought WEC season and Vantage has proved to be fast, robust and – with two cars in close contention for the championship – very much at the top of its game. It’s tight at the top, and we have seen some very tough competition from Ferrari and particularly the Dempsey Proton Porsche so far. All our partner teams have been outstanding this year, and we will watch with interest to see which of them comes out on top in Japan as they vie for position in the standings ahead of the Bahrain finale. I must say, it would also be fantastic to see D’station Racing gain some reward for the all the effort they have put in this year.”
Official practice for the WEC 6 Hours of Fuji begins on Friday, 9th September 1100, with the race beginning at 1100 on Sunday. Follow details of the race via the WEC website and App.