Aston Martin Racing will compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship this year, it has been confirmed.
The team will campaign a V8-powered Vantage in the GTE Pro category of the eight round series, which spans three continents. At the third round of the championship, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Aston Martin Racing will field a second works Vantage GTE.
The Vantage GTE is a development of the Vantage GT2, with 'significant improvements to all areas' including the engine, drivetrain and suspension.
Carrying the iconic Gulf colours, the new car will make its competitive debut at round one of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the 60th anniversary edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring, on March 17. The driver line-up has been confirmed as Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Adrian Fernandez.
“It's great to be returning to our core motorsport activity; production-based GT racing,” said Aston Martin Lagonda Chairman David Richards. “It formed the basis for Aston Martin's return to competition when the DBR9 GT1-racer was launched in 2004, and it was in GT racing that we achieved our famous victories at Le Mans in 2007 and 2008.
“The GT category is also now the most competitive class in world sports car racing and with the new FIA World Endurance Championship the GTE class will, I believe, offer the closest fought and most exciting spectacle. We will see many premium sports car brands competing with great sounding racing cars based on their production models, which all the fans can relate to.”
In order to give the team more competitive experience of the Vantage GTE ahead of Le Mans, Aston Martin Racing will also contest the Long Beach and Laguna Seca rounds of the American Le Mans Series on April 14 and May 12 respectively.
At the heart of the Vantage GTE is the road-going Aston Martin V8 Vantage. The GTE is a 'significantly' updated version of the original GT2 car and has been specifically designed to compete in championships running to the Automobile Club De L'Ouest GTE regulations.
“I'm excited about this programme as it's our opportunity to take Aston Martin back to the top of the world of GT racing,” Turner said. “The Vantage GTE is a great car; she's coming along nicely now and we're ready to take on what we expect will be tough competition.
“The FIA World Endurance Championship calendar looks good to me, especially as I've already won in an Aston Martin at half of the tracks: Sebring, Silverstone, Interlagos and of course at Le Mans. We are going to Sebring next month with a brand new car, but that's exactly what we did with the DBR9 back in 2005 and we won that race. I'm not promising we can repeat that but we'll certainly try!”
“I'm really looking forward to racing the Vantage GTE and I'm optimistic that the car will be competitive,” Mucke added. “We always aim high and target podium finishes at every race, but we are also determined to prove the speed and reliability of the Vantage GTE in 2012.”