Aston Martin has withdrawn its factory GTE team from the FIA World Endurance Championship as the manufacturer seeks to “switch the strategic focus” of its Vantage sports car racing program.
The reigning World Endurance GTE champion announced on Wednesday that it will no longer compete as a WEC manufacturer after eight seasons of involvement in the series.
As reported by Sportscar365 last month, Aston Martin is making changes to its GT racing structure amid budget cutbacks and its increased presence in Formula 1 from next year.
With the factory GT race program being pulled, the company will instead focus on supporting the customer teams running Aston Martin Vantage GTE, GT3 and GT4 models, while privately-run WEC entries remain a possibility.
The increased customer focus has resulted in a new “multi-year deal” with Prodrive, which continues to be the official manufacturer and distributor of Vantage race cars.
The news of Aston Martin’s decision to pull the plug on its factory team activities comes shortly after the conclusion of its most successful WEC campaign to date.
Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen won the GTE drivers’ world title sharing the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE while their teammates Alex Lynn, Maxime Martin and Harry Tincknell claimed victory in the GTE-Pro class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Those successes contributed to Aston Martin’s clinching of the manufacturers’ world title for the first time.
Additionally, customer outfit TF Sport won the GTE-Am category at Le Mans before going on to finish finishing second in the season standings.
“Vantage proved it has world champion pedigree in 2020, and in its GTE variant is a 24-hour race winner,” commented Aston Martin Lagonda CEO Tobias Moers.
“Now with the Vantage GT3 we wish to give our partners and customers the best opportunity possible to fight for victory against our closest rivals in the toughest endurance challenges GT racing has to offer.”
From next year Aston Martin will be “targeting blue riband endurance events with partner teams.”
Prodrive managing director John Gaw recently emphasized Aston’s focus on providing support to customers along with hopes to see those independent teams representing the brand in 2021’s major series such as the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Daytona class.
Vantage GT3 and GT4 customers already compete in a wide range of competitions including Super GT, IMSA, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and British GT.
“This year has been one of unprecedented success for Vantage in international motorsport,” said Aston Martin Racing president David King.
“At all levels, from GTE, through GT3 to the entry-level GT4, we have experienced significant championship success, winning 26 titles across the spectrum of world, international and domestic series.
“But there is more to achieve, and there is more to come from Vantage, which is why we have concluded that now is the time for us to shift the weight of factory support to our partners as we go in pursuit of success in the most important events in GT racing.”
Aston Martin has been represented on the WEC grid since the inaugural 2012 season, while Aston Martin Racing was established seven years prior.
In the WEC, AMR entries took 44 class wins – including two GTE-Pro victories at Le Mans in 2017 and this year – as well as nine titles including a trio of GTE-Am drivers’ crowns and the two championships won by Thiim and Sorensen in 2016 and 2019-20.
The first of the Danish duo’s titles came with the original V8 Vantage GTE while the second came with the current Vantage which was introduced for the 2018-19 season.
The departure of Aston Martin’s factory team from the WEC and Le Mans signifies a major blow to the GTE-Pro grid, which achieved a peak of five brands in mid-2019.
Ford and BMW left after the 2018-19 ‘Super Season’ leaving Aston, Porsche and Ferrari to contest a three-way battle during the most recent campaign.
Porsche has already confirmed two Manthey-supported entries for 2021, while Ferrari has not announced its program for next year but is expected to continue with two cars.