Aston Martin could race its hypercar in the 24-hour event if rules change, says CEO Andy Palmer
Jim Holder
11 December 2017

Aston Martin could fight for outright Le Mans victories again, if the regulations are rewritten to allow race-modified versions of hypercars such as the Valkyrie to compete at the top level of the sport, CEO Andy Palmer has confirmed.

Speaking to Autocar at the launch of the new Vantage road and race cars, Palmer said he had been consulted by motor racing’s governing body, the FIA, on future regulations for sportscar racing.

Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro 1100bhp track car lands

The sport is currently in a state of flux because Toyota is the only works team confirmed to compete at the top LMP1 level following the withdrawal of Porsche, Audi and Nissan in recent years. “They were debating the future of LMP1 and asked me for my view,” said Palmer. “My personal perspective is very clear: Aston Martin will never compete in a prototype category because it has no relevance to us. “But if they allowed racing derivatives of road cars, that would be very interesting to us and, I suspect, the fans.

“Road-derived race cars fighting for the win is in keeping with the history of sportscar and Le Mans racing, and the prospect of the likes of Valkyrie fighting against McLaren P1, LaFerrari and more would be interesting to more than just me, I suspect.” Asked directly if Aston Martin would compete with the Valkyrie if the rules were changed, Palmer said: “Watch this space.”

The Valkyrie is the result of a collaboration between Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing, with the technical design led by renowned Formula 1 designer Adrian Newey. The partners have already confirmed that they will develop a race version with less weight and more power than the road car for a launch in 2020, although it is thought that a sportscar racing version would have to be more extreme again.

The Valkyrie AMR track model, of which just 25 will be made, costs more than £3 million – around £1m more than the standard road Valkyrie – with all cars already sold out. Aston Martin famously won Le Mans outright in 1959, when Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori took victory in the Aston Martin DBR1.

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11 December 2017

"

“But if they allowed racing derivatives of road cars, that would be very interesting to us and, I suspect, the fans.

“Road-derived race cars fighting for the win is in keeping with the history of sportscar and Le Mans racing"

But doesn't Aston Martin already have a racing derivative of their road car in sportscar racing, i.e. the Vantage? And before that it was the DB9R.

Sportscar racing has, and always will be, about the cars and while fans like GT cars, they also like sports-prototypes which are the main draw, especially top flight ones like LMP1. The speed, looks and technology of these spectacular sports-prototypes are what is so fascinating to fans. Otherwise sportscar racing will just be a GT series like the half a dozen or so that already exist. Sure, GT racing is close and exciting but the cars just aren't in the same league. And for manufacturers, sportscar racing is essentially about who makes the best and fastest car over a distance while also allowing them to develop new technologies, more so with LMP1 cars. And sports-prototypes have always existed almost from day one because manufacturers started creating purpose built cars to get ahead of the opposition, so contrary to what Andy Palmer states, prototypes have always been a mainstay of sportscar racing. We've also seen extreme evolution of road cars, to the point where you question whether they're actually road cars (like the Porsche 935), while we've seen manufacturers produce true road cars developed to as far as the rule book allows in order to dominate GT categories like the Group B cars of the early 1980s and the Ford GT40 of the 1960s. All in order to beat the opposition.

If sportscar racing becomes a GT series again it will inevitably see some manufacturers exploiting the rules and at some point we will again see pure, purpose built racing cars masquerading as road cars appearing again. Just like the mid to late 1990s GT1 cars. If the FIA and ACO got their act together a few years ago, LMP1 wouldn't be on its knees, while prototypes and GTs can, have always, existed side by side in sportscar racing. Sure, it'd be great to see true GT1 cars return to sportscar racing, i.e. true road cars like the early 1990s, but not at the expense of LMP1. And if LMP1 is canned, the FIA and ACO need to be very careful about the rules to avoid the re-emergence of prototypes as road cars otherwise someone will develop a modern day 911-GT1 or Mercedes CLK-GTR and we'll end up going full circle again.

11 December 2017

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11 December 2017

I loved watching the Vantage and DBR9s race. I get the notion that the prototype category has no relevance. But... Andy P, if that's the case, then how does F1 have relevance to Aston???

11 December 2017
Speedraser wrote:

I loved watching the Vantage and DBR9s race. I get the notion that the prototype category has no relevance. But... Andy P, if that's the case, then how does F1 have relevance to Aston???

 

Couldn't agree more!   Aston Martin shouldn't be wasting money in F1; a series it simply can't afford.

 

F1 used to be for millionaires to play around.   Max Mosley described it as such, and then corrected himself by saying it's now too rich for them that you need billionaires.   And Aston Martin doesn't even turn £ 20 million profit.

 

Aston needs to look elsewhere to show off its cars, not just a sticker on the side of a Red Bull that everybody knows is using a Renault engine.   Seriously, has anybody been duped by that one?

 

12 December 2017

And rather than (potentially) developing an F1 engine -- if F1 changes the rules to make it less outrageously expensive -- build your own V8 for the road cars rather than using an off-the-shelf someone else's engine!

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