GTE Pro was down on numbers but certainly not excitement this year. A sublime performance from Aston Martin Racing’s No. 97 crew scored an emphatic first Le Mans 24 Hours win for the Vantage AMR, after the winning trio of Alex Lynn, Maxime Martin and Harry Tincknell outlasted a race-long challenge from the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari.
This one was an Aston vs Ferrari battle for the entire race, as Porsche’s pair of 911 RSR 19s lacked pace in their Le Mans debut. Porsche not featuring in this one, having scored pole position on Friday, is almost as big of a story as Aston taking the win.
Neither 911 RSR 19 could keep up with the front-runner. Both dropped like stones to the back of the pack early in the race and wouldn’t make any sort of challenge for the remainder of the 24 Hours. The No. 92 suffered the worst after a power steering issue made the race an extended test session after the opening hours. It would finish 15 laps back in sixth, four laps off the sister car which finished a lowly fifth.
The lack of a Porsche in contention didn’t make for a dull affair, though, as the pendulum swung between the two leading marques throughout the race. As the conditions changed so did the balance of power, before the Vantage carried the advantage through Sunday morning to the end of the race.
Ultimately it was the Lynn/Martin/Tincknell team’s day — all three pushed hard, had a clean run and didn’t even need to undergo a brake change en route to victory, finishing a lap ahead of the No. 51 Ferrari.
Yet the winning margin was just 93 seconds by the end of the race, showing just how tight it was. Any small issue and James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra would have been ready to pounce and make it two straight wins in a row at Le Mans for AF Corse.
“I won’t lie — that was emotional. I had a few tears on the last lap,” admitted Lynn. “I have drjven this exact car for the last three years and so much hard work and sweat has gone into it.”
Tincknell added: “I feel incredibly lucky to be part of this team and experience. It’s fantastic to be a winner in an Aston Martin at Le Mans. The history that the brand has here and the emotion of the British fans, who couldn’t be with us but are still watching at home… it’s really something special. I have to pinch myself that I’m going to be a small part of Aston Martin’s history forever.”
Behind, the No. 95 Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen and Richard Westbrook made it a double podium for the British marque with a third-place finish. It wasn’t a clean race for the No. 95, which fell away as the race wore on, but nevertheless secured an important set of points for the title race, which will see the top three crews in this race head to Bahrain before the end of the year with a shot at the crown.
One title was settled, though, as with a 1-3 finish Aston Martin was crowned the 2019/20 FIA WEC GTE Manufacturers World Champion with a race to spare. It’s a remarkable achievement against stiff competition from AF Corse and Porsche throughout this elongated season.
— 24 Hours of Le Mans (@24hoursoflemans) September 20, 2020
The No. 71 AF Corse 488 GTE was due to finish fourth after Sam Bird, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina persevered in the second half of the race following a puncture and trip to the garage that set them back. But the car ground to a halt on the final lap, believed to have run out of fuel.
This cruel twist of fate promoted Risi Competitzione’s Ferrari 488 GTE to fourth place. It was a strong, well deserved outcome for Risi, which surely would have challenged for a podium had Sebastien Bourdais not had an off into the gravel at the Porsche Curves after a damper failure. A brake change, damper change and door replacement were required after the incident, which dropped the car seven laps behind the winner.