Aston Martin president and group CEO Andy Palmer says the future direction of the Hypercar class at Le Mans looked “50-50” as recently as two weeks ago before agreements were struck ahead of their announcement.

Officials from the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and the FIA World Endurance Championship confirmed that a new Hypercar-based class will replace LMP1 as the premier category from the 2020-21 season, with a first visit to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 2021.

Aston Martin announced shortly after that it would be entering at least two of its Red Bull-designed Valkyrie Hypercar to the new top class from the 2020-21 season, marking its return to the top category in sports car racing.

Toyota is set to confirm its involvement later today, reviving multi-manufacturer competition in the premier class at Le Mans.

However, Palmer explained that plans had escalated quickly in the last couple of weeks amid negotiations between various stakeholders before the final announcement.

“If you’d asked me two weeks ago, I would have given you 50-50 odds on where it was going to go,” Palmer said at Le Mans when asked by Crash.net if he felt relieved the regulations had got over the line.

“It’s been a long haul here. Look, people are passionate about the sport, so that’s good news. People have different opinions of how you go racing, and their companies are in different positions.

“We’re fortunate in so far as we could have gone down a GTE route or a Valkyrie route, but obviously lots of teams can get you to GTE, so our natural preference was towards having a bit of a timing advantage on the Valkyrie. So therein lies our preference.

“But it’s only in the last week or so that it’s been clear that the ACO will carry the day with the Hypercar regs."

Asked about the debate between manufacturers, Palmer said: “There were two or three strands of opinions, and there always is, right? In fact, the ACO and the FIA invite that debate, because they want a series that is going to be successful. I think that was very healthy.

“It’s been a passionate debate, but now we can hopefully all align around the regulations as they are, and hopefully over the period of two or three years, more and more teams will come.”

Palmer also confirmed that Aston Martin will continue with its existing GTE commitments alongside the Valkyrie Hypercar project.

“We’ll continue to participate in GTE. The two are doing different things,” Palmer said.

“GTE is a continuum of demonstrating that our sports cars have legitimacy, front-engined, two seats. In their track version, we sell GT4s and GT3s, so you need a halo.

“On the other hand, the marketing role of Valkyrie is basically about demonstrating our legitimacy in mid-engines so that when the Vanquish comes to market in 21/22, none of you guys are going to say well they don't have any legitimacy, an Aston with a mid-engined car?

“That’s already gone at that stage. They’ve done Formula 1, they’ve done WEC, they’ve done Valkyrie 001, 002, 003. It’s obvious that Aston should be in that space. That’s the role that this does.

“So there’s room for both.”

 

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