WEC: Aston Martin bids for double glory as Championship begins in Sebring
No less than six Aston Martin Vantage GT race cars will contest two of the biggest endurance races on the international motorsport calendar this weekend as the world-famous Sebring International Raceway plays host to the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship – the 1000 Miles of Sebring – on Friday, followed by the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship blue riband race – the Sebring 12 Hours – the next day.
All three of Aston Martin Racing’s regular FIA WEC partner teams, D’station Racing, NorthWest AMR and TF Sport return for fresh assaults on WEC with their Vantage GTEs, and each has a revised driver line-up that can claim to be realistic contenders in the highly-competitive GTE Am class this season.
The 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans class winners TF Sport have finished runner-up in the GTE Am division for the past two WEC seasons, and arrive for this year’s campaign with arguably the team’s strongest line-up yet. GTE Am race-winner and vice-champion Ben Keating (USA) is joined by double GT FIA World Endurance Drivers’ champion and Aston Martin works driver Marco Sørensen (DEN), as well as French racer Florian Latorre.
The last driver to win the GTE Am world championship with Aston Martin (in 2017), Paul Dalla Lana (CDN), also returns for a tenth year to contest his eighth consecutive season, with his NorthWest AMR team. Dalla Lana is the most experienced Aston Martin driver in the field, and the most decorated ‘Bronze’-rated entrant, having taken 16 class victories during his stint with the works team. He is joined by another double-world champion and 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner, works driver Nicki Thiim (DEN), and NorthWest AMR’s rising GT star David Pittard (GBR).
TF Sport also plays an assisting role in D’station Racing’s WEC campaign, as the Japanese team returns for a second season with its Vantage GTE. No stranger to the famous wings – D’station won the 2021 Super Taikyu Championship in Japan with its Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Satoshi Hoshino (JPN) will be joined in the team by regular co-driver Tomonobu Fujii (JPN) and exciting young prospect Charlie Fagg (GBR) who makes the step up from GT4.
The Vantage GTE, introduced in 2018, is embarking on its fourth world championship season and remains as formidable a title contender as ever. Powered by a race-developed version of the four-liter, twin-turbo-charged V8 engine found in the road car from which it derives, this prototype version 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 then took Aston Martin to the FIA GT FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ title and carried Thiim and Sørensen to the drivers’ crown. In total it has claimed 11 class victories at WEC level.
The Vantage GT3 also fires back into action this weekend as IMSA’s blue riband Sebring 12 Hours takes place on the Saturday, the day after the WEC opener. The 70th running of North America’s most famous sportscar race features two works Aston Martin drivers in the two-car The Heart of Racing line-up, while Rolex 24 at Daytona podium finishers Magnus Racing return for their second race with the British luxury sportscar.
Aston Martin’s Ross Gunn (GBR) and Maxime Martin (BEL) join Alex Riberas (ESP) in the #23 The Heart of Racing GTD Pro entry, while Aston Martin Academy winner Roman De Angelis (CDN) partners team principal Ian James (GBR) and rising British star Tom Gamble in the #27 GTD car. Magnus Racing will run its regular American line-up of Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly and John Potter.
Huw Tasker, Head of Customer Racing for Aston Martin Racing, said: “The fact that there are no less than six highly-competitive Vantages aiming for the podium split across the two most important sportscar championships this weekend says a great deal about our ambitions. The Vantage has never won its class at Sebring, which is something we seek to rectify. Our WEC GTE Am line-up is one of the strongest we’ve ever had, which is just as well given the strength of the class, while in the IMSA GTD category of the Sebring 12 Hours we’re interested to see what The Heart of Racing can achieve with its new Pro car while the GTD car returns to the race after finishing on the podium for the past two years. Magnus Racing impressed us very much on their Aston Martin debut at Daytona last month, and we’re confident they can deliver again at Sebring.”
The WEC will be contested over six rounds in 2022, beginning with the 1000 Miles of Sebring on 18 March. The Total 6 Hours of Spa then returns to its regular position in the calendar on 7 May with the 24 Hours of Le Mans next on 11-12 June. The championship then moves on to Italy and the 6 Hours of Monza (10 July) and the 6 Hours of Fuji, in Japan on 11 September. The series concludes with the now traditional 8 Hours of Bahrain on 12 November.
Official practice for the WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring begins on Wednesday 15 March at 1105 EST, with the race beginning at noon on Friday. Follow details of the event via the official WEC website and App. The Sebring 12 Hours begins with free practice at 1015 on Thursday with the race starting at 1010 on Saturday. Go to the IMSA website for details of how to follow the race.