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Gaw: Pittard is “NorthWest AMR Driver” Not Factory Driver

Aston Martin seeks to clarify David Pittard’s status after initial works driver announcement…

Photo: Jan Brucke/VLN

Aston Martin Racing managing director John Gaw has stated that David Pittard is not a factory driver for the British marque despite being announced as such last week.

AMR made a statement on Monday, Jan. 24 in which it described Pittard as a “works signing” but that terminology was retracted by the manufacturer during the Rolex 24 at Daytona weekend.

According to Gaw, NLS race winner and lap record holder Pittard is instead being termed a “NorthWest AMR driver” to reflect his signing with Paul Dalla Lana’s GTE-Am entry for the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship season.

The Nürburgring Nordschleife specialist and WEC debutant is Silver-rated by the FIA, whereas factory drivers are currently ranked in either the Gold or Platinum bands.

If Aston had recruited Pittard as a factory driver before the FIA issued its final driver ratings list in November, the NorthWest AMR crew of which he is a member alongside Dalla Lana and Nicki Thiim would have been ineligible due to two of the drivers being above Silver status.

2019-20 FIA World Endurance GT champion Thiim is a Platinum, while non-professional driver Dalla Lana fulfills the requirement for a mandatory Bronze in GTE-Am.

The NorthWest AMR trio contested the Rolex 24 together last weekend in an Aston Martin Vantage GT3, with factory driver Charlie Eastwood added to the lineup.

“We did the [WEC] rookie test in Bahrain with all the top Silvers we knew,” Gaw told Sportscar365.

“Some of them are now rated Gold. Valentin Hasse-Clot would have been in for a seat. He was a Junior factory driver in the past and an Academy winner, and it would have been lovely to put him with Paul.

“And then Pittard stayed Silver. So Paul said, ‘I’ll have him’. He’s signed by Paul, for Paul’s program. He’s a NorthWest AMR driver.”

Gaw iterated that Pittard cannot be considered an Aston Martin factory driver because the 30-year-old is not on the company’s payroll, and is instead being paid this season by Dalla Lana who funds the NorthWest program as a customer.

But he indicated that Pittard’s full-time WEC position with NorthWest AMR will enable the Brit to develop an affinity with Aston Martin throughout the year.

“For sure he’s going to get a great experience this year, and he’ll get lots of help from us free of charge,” Gaw said.

“Aston Martin are not paying him. But we’ll give him all the help we can this year, the same as we’re giving the [AMR] Academy winner Roman [De Angelis].

“Both of these guys in the future could be fully paid factory drivers. We’re trying to bring people through. Running programs like Paul’s enables you to do that.

“It’s double confusing because Prodrive, who have the Aston Martin contract, also run Paul’s car. People in the past thought Mathias [Lauda] was a factory driver. He was not contracted to Aston Martin.

“So when we submit the list to the FIA of who our factory drivers are, these guys are not on that list.”

Gaw was adamant that Aston Martin is “not trying to manipulate the system” with its close association to Dalla Lana’s Silver-rated co-driver.

“Of course we’re trying to put the best Silver in the car we can,” he said. “But the fact is the FIA decided he was Silver. The FIA could have upgraded him to Gold last year.

“After this year, will he be Silver? Absolutely no chance. All the teams have been trying to get the best Silvers in the car. But what it comes down to is, who is paying the guy’s wages?

“We don’t fund the car so I’m not sure how we could manipulate the system.

“Of course, Paul and us are going to try and get the best Silver in the car. Ben Keating’s going to do the same. How is it different to Ferrari doing that? If it was an AMR car I can understand, but it’s not. It’s a NorthWest AMR car.

“OK, it’s confusing because it’s got AMR on the car. But that’s a business model that Prodrive is allowed to have by Aston Martin. And all the customers are happy with that.

“I think it’s completely transparent. Across the years, lots of different names have been given to drivers by manufacturers, but the FIA have sought to clarify that this year and I think it’s clear on who is [factory] and who isn’t.”

When asked why Aston Martin initially announced Pittard as a factory driver, Gaw replied:

“That’s probably slipped through the net over Christmas and New Year. We always try and do the right thing for the drivers.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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