Aston Martin could soon return to top-level prototype competition, with the British manufacturer expressing “keen interest” in the next-generation LMP1 regulations, according to Aston Martin Racing President David King.
It is the latest manufacturer to confirm discussions with the FIA and ACO on the new ruleset, which is set to debut in the 2020-21 World Endurance Championship season, and potentially as a shared platform with IMSA.
According to King, the concept of incorporating significant styling cues from high-end production cars has given Aston Martin a reason to take a serious look at the possibility.
“We’re involved in the discussions and have expressed a keen interest,” he told Sportscar365.
“We can’t make a commitment until we see what the regs are really going to be it and whether we can really afford it and get board approval for it. But we’re interested.”
While having been absent from LMP1 competition since the ill-fated AMR-One project in 2011, Aston Martin has been a mainstay in GT competition worldwide, and debuts its new-generation Vantage GTE in this weekend’s WEC season-opening Total Six Hours of Spa.
It also confirmed on Friday plans for new GT3 and GT4-spec Vantages, which will debut in 2019.
King indicated that the recent launch of the Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro at the Geneva Motor Show could give a glimpse into the 2020-21 LMP1 regulations.
“It wasn’t directly [intended] but it’s been quite useful in helping the debate with the FIA and ACO about what the future LMPs might look like,” he said.
“Regardless of whether or not we’re going to be involved in that, and we are at the table in discussions, the sport needs top class cars at Le Mans looking a bit like road cars.
“Although the technology of these generic LMP1s have been amazing, it’s not been great for the overall sport, I think, because the fans can’t relate to the cars.
“I’d love to think that McLarens, Ferraris, Astons, Lamborghinis, Porsches and Fords will be competing for the top step of Le Mans again.
“If the regulations come right for us and if the budgets are going to be controlled to a sensible level, and if the regulations demand cars that look quite a lot like these hypercars for the road, then it would be very interesting?”
King said the styling cues for the proposed regulations would need to be more defined than what’s currently seen in DPi cars, more to the lines of GTP-era machinery, in order for the manufacturer to commit.
“You’d need some profile in the side, the lights in the right position and cockpits that look like proper two-seaters but aren’t too square and boxy,” he said.
“If we can get to something that looked a bit like a Valkyrie that we could race, that would be awesome.”
LMP1 Program Possible in Addition to GT Involvement
While admitting it would take a “big commitment” financially to put a LMP1 program in place, King indicated that it would have the capability to “reorganize and restructure” its existing programs to accommodate a return to top-level prototype competition.
Aston Martin is understood to be one of at least six manufacturers currently in roundtable discussions with the governing bodies, alongside Toyota, Ford, McLaren, Ferrari and an undisclosed Asian automaker.
“It’s always a challenge,” King said. “The big OEMs don’t want to risk being beaten by the small ones and the small ones don’t want to risk being beaten by the really small ones.
“If you make it too cheap, any kit car manufacturer can win, and if you make it too expensive, only Toyota can win.
“Politically and technically, it’s quite a challenge to get the balance right. They’re working really hard to listen to the manufacturers.”
The ACO is targeting to release details of the new regulations next month at Le Mans.