NorthWest AMR, Paul Dalla Lana, Nicki Thiim and David Pittard lead WEC GTE-Am championship ahead of world’s most famous race
TF Sport seeking to convert pole-winning form into another class victory
D’station Racing returns to La Sarthe for second attempt at Le Mans with the Vantage GTE
Three Aston Martin Vantage GTEs will fight to continue the car’s sparkling recent GT record in this weekend’s 90th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Since the turn of the decade, an Aston Martin has finished on the podium in every class it has entered at the most famous motor race of them all – including two glorious victories in 2020.
Now, with 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship [WEC] GTE-Am champion Paul Dalla Lana (CDN) and his NorthWest AMR team-mates Nicki Thiim (DEN) and David Pittard (GBR) leading this year’s class standings, and Vantage having set the pace in both the opening rounds – the 1000 Miles of Sebring in the US, and the 6 Hours of Spa – the British ultra-luxury sportscar brand starts the most important event in the endurance racing calendar as one of the favourites.
The event marks the fifth year of the Vantage GTE’s participation at Le Mans. It’s halcyon double-victory in the 2020 remains the highlight, when the works #97 Vantage driven by Alexander Lynn (GBR), Maxime Martin (BEL) and Harry Tincknell (GBR) beat Ferrari in a legendary race-long GTE Pro class duel, while team-mates Thiim, Marco Sørensen (DEN) and Richard Westbrook (GBR) finished third. In the same race TF Sport took the Vantage GTE, on its GTE Am debut, to a brilliant win for Jonny Adam (GBR), Charlie Eastwood (IRL) and Salih Yoluc (TUR).
In 2021, TF Sport came close again, taking second place in class for Ben Keating (USA) and his #33 crew. The American and the TF Sport team return this year with an even stronger line-up that includes double FIA GT world champion Sørensen and Henrique Chaves (POR). So far this season the car has started every race from pole position, before going on to finish second. The run means Keating and Sørensen are only six points behind the NorthWest AMR squad at the top of the standings.
NorthWest AMR’s owner/driver Dalla Lana (CDN) heads into Le Mans with his best chance ever of winning the French classic. WEC’s second most experienced driver, Dalla Lana is also the most successful GTE Am driver in the series’ history with 17 wins. And on his tenth visit to the 24 Hours of Le Mans a victory would be the crowning achievement of a glittering career. He’ll be supported by 2014 Le Mans GTE Am winner Thiim and Pittard – who won on his WEC debut.
TF Sport will also play an assisting role in D’station Racing’s second assault on Le Mans with Aston Martin. The Japanese team enters a Vantage GTE for Super Taikyu champions Satoshi Hoshino (JPN) and regular co-driver and team manager Tomonobu Fujii (JPN) along with rising British GT star Charlie Fagg. This promising trio is seeking to improve on the sixth place it recorded at Sebring in March.
Head of AMR Partner Racing, Huw Tasker said: “Aston Martin’s pedigree at Le Mans is unquestionable. It is a brand that knows how to win the great endurance races and with Vantage we have a car that we know can give our partners the power, speed and endurance to compete for the highest prize in the sport. We wish all our teams well as we embark on another great adventure at the Circuit de la Sarthe.”
Embarking on its fourth world championship season, Vantage remains as formidable a title contender as ever. Powered by a race-developed version of the four-litre, twin-turbo-charged V8 engine found in the road car from which it derives, this prototype derivative of the GT car was all-conquering in the WEC GTE Pro category during the 2019/2020 season. It recorded 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 Thiim and Sørensen to the drivers’ crown. In total it has claimed 12 class victories so far in WEC.
This year’s Le Mans will feature a record-equalling 23-car GTE-Am entry, as the race’s schedule returns to its traditional mid-June date. Practice and qualifying will run through Wednesday and Thursday while the race will begin at 1600 CET, Saturday, 11 June.
The Le Mans 24 Hours is the third round of the 2022 WEC, which features six rounds, beginning with the 1000 Miles of Sebring (USA) on 11 March, followed by the 6 Hours of Spa on 8 May. After Le Mans the series heads to Italy for the 6 Hours of Monza on 10 July. WEC then returns to Japan for the first time since 2019 for the 6 Hours of Fuji (ITA) on the 11 September. The series will then conclude with an eight-hour race in Bahrain on 12 November.