Aston Martin’s multiple championship-winning Vantage returns to action in the world’s two most prestigious sportscar series – the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) and the North American-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – this weekend, with four of AMR’s key partner teams all competing.
Reigning FIA WEC LMGTE Am class champion TF Sport and fellow Aston Martin Racing partner teams NorthWest AMR and D’station Racing contest the 6 Hours of Portimão event on Sunday with a trio of Aston Martin Vantage GTEs. The Vantage GTE is the prototype version of the British-built race car derived from Aston Martin’s critically-acclaimed ultra-luxury sportscar and shares the same aluminium body-frame and a specially-tuned version of the four-litre V8 turbo-charged production engine. Aston Martin’s triple 24 Hours of Le Mans class-winning race car is aiming for its first podium at Portimão on its final visit to the Portuguese track before the class switches to GT3 machinery from 2024.
All three AMR teams displayed good form in the season-opening 1000 Miles of Sebring (USA) last month, with the #23 ORT by TF Vantage GTE driven by Omani driver Ahmad Al Harthy, Michael Dinan (USA) works star Charlie Eastwood (IRL) qualifying a highly-competitive third in class. Paul Dalla Lana (CAN) and his NorthWest AMR team showed great race pace alongside FIA WEC GTE Pro world champion Nicki Thiim (DEN) and Axcil Jefferies (ZWE) while Japanese team D'station Racing’s owner Satoshi Hoshino (JPN) and regular co-driver Tomonobu Fujii (JPN) gelled quickly with rookie Casper Stevenson (GBR). But with misfortune preventing all three crews from capitalising on their potential, they are keen to kick-start their seasons on WEC’s return to Europe.
Vantage began the extended 2023 FIA WEC season with two GT world titles from the past three campaigns, but faces a packed 14-car field featuring tough competition, particularly as the LMGTE Am class now constitutes the only GT competition within the WEC. Moreover, the season is longer this year thanks to the addition of the Portimão event, which is swiftly followed by the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL) race on 29 April. The centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA) takes place on 10-11 June, followed by the 6 Hours of Monza (ITA) on 9 July, the 6 Hours of Fuji (JPN) on 10 September and the traditional 8-Hour finale taking place in Bahrain on 4 November.
In all its variants (GTE, GT3 and GT4), Vantage is phenomenally successful, and is currently the reigning Rolex 24 at Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner as well as defending champion in the GT Am class of both the FIA WEC and IMSA.
Indeed, the Heart of Racing team heads into the third round of the IMSA series, the 100-minute Grand Prix of Long Beach on the world famous Californian street circuit, in searingly hot form. The team followed up its GTD class victory and strong GTD Pro class showing at the Rolex 24 with two fantastic, if unrewarded, race performances in the Sebring 12 Hours.
It means that works driver and reigning LMGTE Am world champion Marco Sørensen (DEN) starts his first IMSA Sprint race, alongside reigning champion Roman De Angelis (CAN), full of confidence in the #27 Vantage and determined to retain the season’s positive early momentum. Works driver Ross Gunn (GBR) and Alex Riberas (ESP) meanwhile, are looking to return the kind of performance that gave them their first win in the GTD Pro class at the same event last season.
Huw Tasker, AMR Head of Partner Racing, said: “While Sebring was tough on all our teams, the pace of Vantage - particularly in the IMSA race - was reassuring. Portimão is a more conventional venue and perhaps offers our WEC teams a more solid foundation with which to build a strong weekend upon. On the other side of the Atlantic, Vantage has a proven pedigree around the streets of Long Beach. Everywhere we have been this season, the Heart of Racing team has shown why it is the reigning IMSA GTD champion and there is no reason to expect anything but more of the same from the first Sprint race of the season.”
Official practice for the 6 Hours of Portimão begins on Friday, 14 April, at 1030 CET, with the race beginning at noon on Sunday. Follow details of the event via the official WEC website and App. The Grand Prix Prix of Long Beach begins with free practice at 0900 PDT on Friday with the race starting at 1405 on Saturday. Go to the IMSA website for details of how to follow the race.