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Aston Martin Aims for 20th Class Victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as New Vantage GT3 Makes Debut

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Aston Martin’s new Vantage GT3 is all set to make its debut in the world’s most famous endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this weekend (15-16 June), as the ultra-luxury British sportscar manufacturer targets an incredible 20th class victory at the event.

Two examples of the Aston Martin Vantage GT3, which shares the mechanical architecture of the new Vantage road car unveiled earlier this year at Silverstone and which is built around Aston Martin’s proven bonded aluminium chassis and powered by its fearsome twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine, will contest the ‘twice around the clock’ race in central France. Both will compete in the new-for-2024 LMGT3 category as Aston Martin continues to lay the groundwork for its return to the top class with the Valkyrie AMR-LMH in 2025.

Aston Martin’s full-time FIA World Endurance Championship [WEC] partner teams, Japanese outfit D’station Racing and US-based entrant Heart of Racing, carry the marque’s honour at Le Mans, the most prestigious race of the global competition. The race features representation from an incredible nine GT manufacturers, an all-time high.

D’station Racing made history earlier this month as Tomonobu Fujii (JPN) and Charlie Fagg (GBR) claimed the new Aston Martin Vantage GT3’s first international race win in the SUPER GT GT300 class at Suzuka. Fujii, in his role as the team’s Managing Director, will oversee a line-up spearheaded by Aston Martin works driver Marco Sørensen (DEN), a three-time FIA World Endurance Champion and 2022 Le Mans class winner.

Sørensen will share driving duties aboard #777 with Le Mans debutant Erwan Bastard (FRA), a title winner in both the GT4 European and GT4 France series, and Team Principal Satoshi Hoshino (JAP), who makes his first FIA WEC appearance since finishing second in the 8 Hours of Bahrain season finale last year.

Heart of Racing, which will run the works Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR-LMH in the Hypercar class in 2025, scored its best result in the WEC season-opening Qatar 1812km with a second-place finish in the #27 Vantage to begin the LMGT3 era.

It aims to go one better at La Sarthe, where it finished sixth on its Le Mans debut last year. Team Principal Ian James (GBR) will be central to the team’s driving strength, while single-seater champion Daniel Mancinelli (ITA) and Spaniard IMSA race-winner Alex Riberas (ESP) will race alongside him.

Significantly, Le Mans—the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship—offers double points due to its length and difficulty. This gives both Heart of Racing and D’station Racing, who are third and fifth in the Teams’ Championship, the opportunity to take over at the top of the standings as the European portion of the season ends.

Aston Martin’s endurance racing is indelibly linked to Le Mans. A mere 15 years after the marque was formed by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin, it was racing at la Sarthe, its debut coming in 1928 with a pair of AM415 ‘Internationals’.

Three years later, it claimed its first victory when Augustus Cesare Bertelli and Maurice Harvey won the 1.5-litre class in an International. It also took class honours in 1932 and ’33. Two more wins in the ’30s for the Ulster meant that Aston Martin ended the pre-war era as one of Le Mans’ pre-eminent manufacturers.

The race wasn’t held between 1940 and 1948, with Europe affected by the Second World War, but once it returned in 1949, Aston Martin did too, making the 3-litre class its own through the 1950s. It won the class six times, finishing first, second and third with the DB2 in 1951. This halcyon era culminated in a glorious overall victory for Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori in the DBR1 in 1959.

In this period, Aston Martin became known as a haven for legendary racing stars. Among the many aces to have raced Aston Martins at Le Mans are Jim Clark, Sir Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, Sir Jack Brabham, Shelby, Salvadori, Tony Brooks, Phil Hill, Sir John Surtees, Innes Ireland, Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren.

This century, Aston Martin has once again emerged as one of the truly great GT manufacturers. Returning to the race with a GT1 class podium in 2006, Darren Turner, Rickard Rydell, and David Brabham recorded a famous victory over Corvette with the mighty V12-powered DBR9 in 2007. Aston Martin Racing repeated the win the following year.

In the WEC era in 2012, Aston Martin had five class victories with Vantage. The V8 Vantage GTE won the GTE Am class in 2014 with the Danish line-up of Nicki Thiim, Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier Hansson.

Then in 2017 Jonny Adam (GBR) delivered a famous last-lap pass on the rival Corvette to clinch a dramatic GTE Pro win along with team-mates Turner (Aston Martin’s most successful Le Mans racer with 15 starts and three wins), and Daniel Serra (BRA).

The Vantage GTE made its Le Mans debut in 2018 and claimed a breath-taking double-class victory in 2020. Alex Lynn (GBR), Maxime Martin (BEL) and Harry Tincknell (GBR) outfoxed Ferrari in a famous win without stopping for a traditional Sunday morning brake change, while TF Sport conquered GTE Am with Salih Yoluc (TUR), Adam and Eastwood. The team won again in 2022 in its world championship title year with Ben Keating (USA), Henrique Chaves (POR) and Sørensen.

A podium finish for TF Sport in last year’s centenary running of the race – also the 53rd time an Aston Martin had competed at the event – brought the curtain down on the GTE era at Le Mans and prepared fans for the dawn of the new LMGT3 category. The Vantage GT3 will be the 28th different Aston Martin chassis/engine combination to compete at Le Mans. No venue has given Aston Martin so much success or more steadfastly proven that our DNA is forged out of the essence of competition than Le Mans.

This year’s Le Mans will feature a 23-car LMGT3 field, the largest in the WEC season. The event runs over two weekends, with public scrutineering and the Official Test taking place between 8 and 9 June. Practice and qualifying will run through Wednesday and Thursday, while the race will begin at 1500 CEST on Saturday, June 15.

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