Nancy Knapp Schilke, WEC correspondent
Aston Martin Racing endurance team confirmed their 2012 plans today in Gaydon, England. The British-based team is excited to take on the inaugural FIA World Endurance Championship, which will include the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Their car of choice is the Vantage GTE which will contest the eight events as they aim for the GTE Pro class title.
For Le Mans, the works team will field a second car on the famous La Sarthe circuit. Aston Martin has two class wins at the 24 hour race. Aston Martin Lagonda Chairman David Richards said, “It’s great to be returning to our core motorsport activity; production-based GT racing. 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.”
Based on their success with the Vantage GT2 car, the V8 engine has changes in the latest edition tagged with “GTE” for improved performance. The new AMR racing machine also has an improved drivetrain and suspension.
The Vantage GTE is a great car; she’s coming along nicely now.
Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Adrian Fernandez will be the champion drivers that will take on the challenge with the first race just weeks away. While Aston Martin celebrates its latest racing machine in March, the historic Twelve Hours of Sebring will celebrate its 60th race.
Turner, who was with the team when they won the GT class at Sebring in 2005 in the then-brand new DBR9 commented, “I’m excited about this program as it’s our opportunity to take Aston Martin back to the top of the world of GT racing. 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.”
Mucke said, “I’m really looking forward to racing the Vantage GTE and I’m optimistic that the car will be competitive. 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.”
Adding to their preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, AMR will also take on the street circuit in Long Beach plus the Laguna Seca road course. Both circuits are well known by the former open-wheel racing star. Fernandez moved to racing sportscar prototypes after leaving the Champ Car (CART) series but this will be a new adventure for the Mexican racer. Prototypes are not that far different from and open-wheel racing machine, but the GT class is more like driving a road sports car with modifications.
"GT racing will be a new experience for me because I have raced single-seaters and prototypes for the majority of my career. It's always a pleasure to try something new as a racing driver and with Aston Martin's past success in the GT category, I'm sure I will learn how to get the most out of the Vantage GTE very quickly. We have a strong driver line-up with my teammates Stefan and Darren, who have a lot of experience in GT racing,” said Fernandez.