Looking back at a title-winning year, and forward to the 2017 WEC season
ASTON MARTIN RACING are 2016 World Endurance Champions! That’s a line we’ve been wanting to write for years. Thanks to a brilliant season-long performance by the team, and its Danish driving duo Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen in the #95 V8 Vantage GTE, the Banbury-based squad claimed both the GTE Pro team title and the FIA WEC GT Drivers’ Championship.
Fittingly, the silverware was won at the final WEC round - the Six Hours of Bahrain - which took place in November last year. Frustratingly for us here at Vantage, this was just a few days after the deadline for our Winter issue. Still, when it comes to delivering good news, we’re prepared to wait a few months!
Thiim and Sørensen drove brilliantly in Bahrain. Entering the race with a slim two-point advantage, they knew a 3rdplace finish was enough to secure the team and drivers’ titles. This could have led to a cautious race strategy, but the #95 car - affectionately known as the Dane Train by AMR and fans - engaged in a fierce battle with their main rivals in the #51 Ferrari 488 GTE during the opening hours of the race. It was tense stuff but, once in the lead, Thiim and Sørensen drove like champions to build a 20-second buffer with one hour of the race remaining.
With the Ferrari crew charging hard, that gap reduced to a little under 13sec at the flag, but the race victory (Thiim and Sørensen’s second of the season) was in the bag, and with it a well-deserved double for AMR. It’s a huge result, especially given the arrival of newer, turbocharged rivals from Ferrari and Ford. There were ups and downs along the way - the worst of the downs being another troubled Le Mans 24 Hours - but, despite the Balance of Performance issues, Thiim and Sørensen plugged away, scoring solid points to build a serious championship campaign as the season progressed, capped by their race and championship-winning drive in Bahrain. It was an emotional victory for team and drivers.
THE 2017 WEC SEASON doesn’t start until April but, such is the relentless nature of modern endurance racing, there have already been three top-level events around the world. Aston Martin wasn’t represented at the Dubai 24 Hours, but it had cars entered in both the Daytona 24 Hours in Florida and the Bathurst 12 Hours in New South Wales, Australia.
At Daytona, AMR was represented by a V12 Vantage GT3 crewed by Dalla Lana, Lamy, Lauda and newly crowned WEC champion Sørensen. US customer team TRG were also present, with a pair of V12
Vantage GT3S also running in the GTD class against familiar rivals Ferrari, Ford and Porsche from the WEC, plus all manner of other marques from GT3 racing. Daytona is known to be a particularly gruelling event, but this year was especially challenging due to appalling weather. Unfortunately the AMR entry suffered a power steering issue early in the race, which dropped them out of contention. The TRG cars ran strongly, but fell foul of time penalties issued during the numerous caution periods, then suffered radiator damage caused by debris from other cars.
The Bathurst 12 Hours is fast becoming a favourite of teams and drivers, thanks to the spectacular Mount Panorama circuit. Factory driver Darren Turner was invited to share a Vantage GT8 entered by Swiss-based R-motorsport - the same factory-built GT8 Turner shared in the Nürburgring N24 last year. Aston Martin was also represented by local AMR customer team Miedecke Stone Motorsport with a V12 Vantage GT3 fighting for outright honours in the world-class GT3 field.
The latter qualified an excellent 4th overall, but, come the race, fumes entering the car during a lengthy Safety Car period meant an early stop. The team continued and were progressing up the field, until a heavy accident led to the car’s immediate retirement. Meanwhile the R-motorsport GT8 enjoyed a fine race, the race-prepared
JUST AS WE WENT to press, AMR announced its main GTE Pro driver line-ups. Unsurprisingly, continuity is key for the #95 car, with Thiim and Sørensen returning to defend their title. Meanwhile, the #97 car is crewed by Darren Turner and Jonny Adam. The latter has previously driven with Turner in selected WEC rounds, but 2017 is the super-fast Scot’s first full WEC campaign. Meanwhile in GTE Am, AMR will once again run the familiar trio of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda. We’d like to wish them all, and AMR’S customer teams around the world, a safe and successful 2017 season.
For a special celebration of AMR’S championship year, seen through the lens of team photographer Drew Gibson, turn to page 42.
AMR 2017 CALENDAR April 16 Six Hours of Silverstone May 6 Six Hours of Spa-francorchamps June 17 24 Hours of Le Mans July 16 Six Hours of Nürburgring Sept 3 Six Hours of Mexico Sept 16 Six Hours of Austin Oct 15 Six hours of Shanghai Nov 18 Six hours of Bahrain
Above Champions! The full Aston Martin Racing squad in Bahrain after sealing the both the GTE Pro team title and the WEC GT Drivers’ Championship
Left and below V12 Vantage GT3 in action at the gruelling Daytona 24 Hours and Vantage GT8 in the spectacular Bathurst 12 Hours. Below: driver pairings for the 2017 WEC season, Darren Turner with flying Scotsman Jonny Adam, and reigning champions Marco Sø
limited-edition Vantage staying out of trouble to secure a commendable 5th in class for Turner and his co-drivers, R-motorsport’s team owners Florian Kamelger and Markus Lungstrass.