Paul Dalla Lana says that he has the “best of the best” people from Aston Martin Racing’s 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship programs on his NorthWest AMR GTE-Am entry this season.
Dalla Lana has returned to the WEC for an eighth term, but this marks the first in which his AMR/Prodrive-supported GTE-Am entry has not shared a garage with GTE-Pro cars.
Aston Martin Racing’s two-car WEC factory team program was brought to a close after a title-winning 2019-20 campaign that included a class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Customer driver Dalla Lana, who is teamed up with two new full-time teammates in Augusto Farfus and Marcos Gomes, explained that his No. 98 NorthWest AMR entry is benefiting from staff who operated on all three Prodrive-prepared machines last season.
“I really wasn’t sure if I would do it again, with everything going on,” Dalla Lana told Sportscar365.
“The lure of Le Mans and other things is too strong, so I’m back again. But although the colors are a little bit different, it’s the same AMR guys.
“It’s all the number ones from every car, so it’s a really crack team.
“It was appealing to get the guys from the factory back doing something. It was a big change for them, so it was two things meeting. They were keen and I was willing, and so we put it all together.
“It’s obviously piggybacking on a lot of historical success, with a little bit new, but it’s basically the same crew with all the knowledge and expertise.”
The No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE is engineered by Gavin Fuller, who previously worked on the No. 95 GTE-Pro car.
Additionally, Aston Martin Racing Head of Performance Gustavo Beteli is positioned as NorthWest AMR’s team manager.
“I’ve known all of them and over the eight years I’ve been doing it, I’ve had a number of the guys on the car,” said Dalla Lana.
“I think it’s the best of the best at Aston. The crew’s going to be on the job.
“Part of the challenge for some of the guys will be moving into the Am world and noting that there are probably more possibilities for not perfect execution. That’s more mental than anything.
“But Gavin’s been my engineer before, I think 2017. So we’ve worked together and know everyone. I think it’s a real plug-and-play situation.”
New Lineup Set Before AMR Factory Withdrawal
Dalla Lana explained that a matter of timing meant that he did not reach deals to work with any of the continuing Aston Martin Racing factory drivers that were left without full-time WEC seats in the wake of the manufacturer’s GTE-Pro exit.
Aston is understood to have given all factory drivers the option to remain on the roster in 2021. Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen and Maxime Martin continued out of the Pro squad, while Alex Lynn chose to focus on his new full-time Formula E drive with Mahindra and a return to prototypes. The retained drivers are able to secure drives with other teams.
“It was a fluid situation,” said Dalla Lana. “In the end, it worked out that Nicki, Marco and Max were all available.
“When I had to take the decision, it was still up in the air and people were looking for programs. Everyone was a bit undecided.
“I didn’t really know that, and I think just having worked with Augusto in the past, it became a bit of a default to just put the pin in and go along with it. Any of those guys would have been super quality.
“It’s just the way it worked out. I think there’s lots of hope that there would be programs and people were working on different things, but it just wasn’t clear what was available when I had to make the call.
“I went with this group and that was it. It was a bit of a quick reaction call with limited information.”
Dalla Lana added that his former full-time co-driver Ross Gunn’s promotion from Silver to Gold-rated status, combined with other program commitments, ensured a wholesale lineup change. Darren Turner joined the pair for five rounds in 2019-20 while Farfus and Pedro Lamy made guest appearances.
“With Ross being upgraded, that was the other difficult thing,” said Dalla Lana.
“He had his program in IMSA and ELMS before I made my decision, so I guess I could have pulled rank, but I didn’t want to dislocate everyone. It was tough not to go back with Ross.
“He’s a super quick guy. The only water with the wine this year is not to continue on, but I’m good friends with Augusto and we’ve been working together since last year, so it was easy.
“When I searched around for people that are capable Silvers, Marcos was really top of that list.
“He has so much experience in GT3 around the world and some ELMS and Le Mans stuff. I felt like that was a really good addition to the team.”