Longstanding FIA WEC driver Paul Dalla Lana, who has competed with Aston Martin in the championship each year since 2013, has decided to retire from racing with immediate effect.
The 57-year-old Canadian, who had competed in the opening FIA WEC rounds of this season at Sebring and Portimao in the GTE Am class No. 98 Northwest AMR Vantage with Nicki Thiim and Axcil Jefferies, will step away from the championship before this weekend’s 6 Hours of Spa and shift his focus to his business interests.
As a result of Dalla Lana’s decision, the No. 98 entry will be taken over by reigning IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD class champion Heart of Racing. Ian James, Alex Riberas and Daniel Mancinelli are set to drive the car from this weekend’s race at Spa onwards.
Dalla Lana departs the FIA WEC as its most successful amateur driver, with 17 class victories, putting him fourth on the all-time winners’ list, behind Sebastian Buemi, Brendon Hartley and former teammate Pedro Lamy.
“To race for Aston Martin, compete at Le Mans and win a world championship title, has given me so many memories that I will cherish for the rest of my days,” he said. “But the racing always had to stop at some point, and for me, that time has been coming for a while now.
“It has become increasingly challenging to find enough time to prepare and compete at the highest level; and to fight for a world championship you must be able to give your all.
“I’ve been lucky enough to race alongside some great drivers and great friends and compete against the very best in sports car racing. I’ve been there as WEC has grown in stature and I’ve been able to drive the mighty V12, V8 and now the turbocharged V8 Vantages at places like Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans.
“It’s been one hell of ride and I’m very grateful to have been able to take it all on board an Aston Martin. Thanks to all the incredible fans that have come out to watch us over the years, and I’d like to wish Aston Martin luck in the future. I’m sure going to miss it!”
Huw Tasker, the AMR head of Partner Racing, paid tribute to Dalla Lana as part of the announcement, describing his racing career with the British marque as ‘outstanding’ and ‘legendary’.
“He is a legendary AMR driver and world champion, and the standards he has set as a ‘Bronze’ driver over more than 10 years of racing in WEC are unbelievable,” Tasker said. “We are unlikely to see anything like it again. To win 25% of all the races he contested in WEC is an amazing record, and to finish on the podium 37 times is equally astonishing.
“Aston Martin owes Paul a great debt of gratitude and we will miss his competitive drive and indubitable spirit inside the garage. On behalf of all of us at Aston Martin, thank you Paul, and congratulations on a fantastic career, you have done us all proud.
“We’d also like to take this opportunity to welcome Heart of Racing into the WEC paddock. The team has been doing a stellar job in IMSA for some time now, which was clearly shown by its victory in the Rolex 24 and IMSA GTD title, and we have every confidence that it can grow and develop to mirror those championship-winning achievements at world level.”
For Heart of Racing, this weekend’s FIA WEC race at Spa will be its first with a GTE-spec Vantage. The track time in Spa will be crucial in the build-up to its surprise Le Mans debut in June.
“The Heart of Racing team has had ambitions to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the FIA WEC for some time,” revealed Ian James. “We are an ambitious group and to add WEC to what we have been fortunate to achieve in our other programmes over the past three years is an honour.
“Going for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona/24 Hours of Le Mans double is very exciting. I’d like to take the opportunity to wish Paul well in the future, and to thank him for giving us the chance to take over his entry for the rest of 2023. It will be a baptism of fire in Spa, but we hope to continue the successful heritage of the No. 98 plate in WEC.”
Due to the FIA WEC’s entry regulations, the Heart of Racing Aston Martin will compete under the Northwest AMR banner for the remaining rounds this season, and retain the number 98.