Former BMW factory driver Maxime Martin says his switch to racing with Aston Martin Racing for the 2018/19 FIA WEC season was triggered in part by the uncertainty over the future of the German DTM touring car championship, since the announcement that Mercedes will pull out of the championship after 2018.
Martin has been with BMW for five years, competing part-time in GT3 and full-time in DTM (below) for the past four seasons. The Belgian told RACER that the offer to switch to full-time GTE racing with Aston Martin Racing, which will debut its new Vantage in 2018, came at just the right time.
“It’s a really big and good step. It’s come at the right time, too, with the new Vantage GTE coming,” he explained. “They’ve put a lot of effort in to make it as competitive as it can be. It’s a great moment to join.
“It’s never an easy move to change manufacturers. It was hard for me to leave BMW because I’ve been there for five years and done a lot of things with them. But I’m really convinced it’s the right move.
“I think my switch is a mixture of a lot of different things. I think the WEC, especially in GTE with more and more brands, is going to the top of motorsport. I’ve been speaking with Aston Martin for a long time now, about what they’ve planned going forward and I like the direction.
“There’s also the DTM factor, because with Mercedes leaving at the end of 2018 it’s quite a difficult moment for them. I’ve done four years in that; I’ve won races, been on the podium and I want a new challenge and with DTM having an uncertain future, this was a good option for me.”
Next year BMW will join the GTE Pro ranks of the WEC with its M8 GTE program, the driver line-up for which has just been revealed. But even with that program coming, for Martin it wasn’t a straight choice between a GTE Pro campaign with BMW or Aston Martin, as he said he would have continued in DTM with the potential for selected GTE outings had he re-signed with the German marque.
“I would have done some races in their GTE, but my main program would have been DTM, so I wanted to change a bit; I wanted to do something else and have a fresh start,” he revealed.
“To be honest, being back in a world championship was important for me because DTM is a bit more European now than it has been. It’s still quite German, and I wanted to get back into international racing. WEC is definitely a great platform, especially in GTE. It’s not the top class but it’s where the manufacturers are looking, so it’s the right place to be.”
Interestingly, Martin has driven the M8 GTE during its testing phase, and still opted to make the switch, even though he hasn’t yet driven the new Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
“I haven’t driven it yet, and up until very recently I’d actually only seen pictures!” he said. “But I think my first test will be in January with the team.
“I don’t know who I’ll be driving with yet either, but I know Alex Lynn because he was with BMW at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, and the other drivers I know them from racing against each other. Some of them are the best GT drivers in the world, when you look at what they did with the older car. It’s a really good line-up, so I’m not worried about who I’m with.”
Despite having no time behind the wheel, Martin’s still bullish about Aston Martin’s chances in the ‘Super Season’ although he admits it will be both strange and challenging at first, turning up at a race meeting and competing against BMW after so many years as one of its works drivers.
“It’s difficult to predict where we will be, but when the car is fully developed, I think we’ll have a really competitive season. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to win races.
“It will be odd for me to race against BMW, though, especially at the beginning. It won’t be easy because I know everyone – the engineers, the drivers – so when I see them at the track for the first time without being with them it will be hard.
“But we’re all professional – my new team is AMR, and I’m fully focused on performing with them.”