Aston Martin insists it was the introduction of the global LMDh formula that caused it to ‘postpone’ its Le Mans Hypercar program. Much of the funding for the project was to come from sales to customers which it feels it is now unable to achieve.
David King, Aston Martin’s Vice President, spoke to the media for the first time since the British marque announced of its decision today at COTA to provide further clarity. He was keen to fire back at the ACO/WEC statement in response to which, among other things, claimed that financial difficulties played a part in Aston Martin’s change of plan.
“It’s very disappointing for us, for you, for everybody involved,” he explained. “But we’re not making excuses or not blaming anybody. We made a genuine commitment last year to to bring Valkyrie to the FIA WEC. That’s a big thing for any company to commit to a major motorsport program like that. It’s a big investment. There’s always an element of risk in it.
“And of course, we had to get a board approval,” King continued, “(which was given) based on an assumption that more sports car brands would come into Hypercar, and that the class would flourish — maybe not in year one, but in year two — and we’d see a golden era of top-end sports car racing.”
King revealed that the final decision to ‘pause’ the program was made shortly after the IMSA-ACO convergence announcement was made at Daytona last month, explaining that a Hypercar program now appears to make little sense for the brand if LMDh cars can compete in the FIA WEC at a reduced cost. Aston Martin signed up for Hypercar, King says, in the belief that a Valkyrie customer car program would help fund it in the long run.
“We think that the market for customer race cars for us is damaged by that (convergence). Every racing Valkyrie is an expensive car because it comes from a road car which costs two and a half million pounds ($3.2 million). Now private teams — based on what we think other competitors will do — are going to be able to buy premium-branded LMDh cars that are much cheaper to buy and cheaper to run.”
King is adamant that the program is ‘paused’ rather than fully canceled, too. Aston Martin, he noted, will further evaluate the situation after the technical regulations for LMDh are released, which is expected to happen next month at Sebring. He added that Aston Martin would likely now feature in future IMSA Steering Committee meetings to gain more insight into what the global formula will look like.
“We need some time to evaluate it, but (convergence) changes (things) — it changes the conditions on which we got the project approved. So we have to take a pause and decide whether we should carry on with that or look at LMDh or look at staying in GT. This is nothing to do with Lawrence Stroll coming in, nothing to do with the fact that we’ve had a tougher than expected financial year. That’s as straight as I can be.”
As for the progress made behind the scenes since its original announcement that it would be racing in Le Mans Hypercar, King said they Aston Martin was close to building and testing the Valkyrie.
“(Aston Martin is) a long way advanced with the car. It would have to have run within the next couple of months to make the start of the season (and) we were about to build a car.”
But it will not compete next season. This leaves Aston Martin focused primarily on its forthcoming F1 program (running as the team now known as Racing Point from 2021) and on GT racing. King stressed that Aston Martin remains committed to GTE, though he wouldn’t give any detail on what its future in the category would look like or whether its commitment was specifically to the FIA WEC over IMSA.
“I’d rather wait and announce our longer-term GT plans when we are ready,” he said.
Currently Aston Martin is in the middle of a five-year commitment to racing in GTE through a partnership with the Prodrive organization, which lasts through the end of 2021.