The introduction of the LMDh platform has “damaged” Aston Martin’s financial conditions around its planned Valkyrie Le Mans Hypercar program according to Aston Martin Racing president David King.
The British manufacturer, which was due to debut the Multimatic-developed V12-powered production-based hypercar in the 2020-21 FIA World Endurance Championship season, halted work on the factory effort “a few weeks ago” when it became apparent customers would likely flock to the joint ACO-IMSA LMDh model instead.
Speaking to assembled media Saturday at Circuit of The Americas, site of this weekend’s WEC race, King explained that the selling of customer Valkyrie LMH cars was a “significant part” of the funding needed for the overall program.
He said “some facts” changed since Aston Martin’s initial commitment to the platform last June.
“We made a genuine commitment last year to bring Valkyrie into WEC,” King said.
“That’s a big thing for any company to commit to a major motorsport program like that; it’s a big investment and there’s always an element of risk in it.
“Of course we had to get a board approval for that last year.
“That board approval is based on an assumption that more sports car brands would come into hypercars and the class would flourish, maybe not in Year 1 but in Year 2 and we’d see a golden era of top-end sports car racing.”
King explained there was a “financial condition” around the approval of the program that would have seen Aston Martin recover some of its investment of the Valkyrie LMH cars by the third season through customer sales.
He wouldn’t say the number of customer race cars that would have needed to be sold.
Sportscar365 understands that R-Motorsport was among the targeted customers, although the Swiss operation recently pulled the plug on its Aston Martin DTM program.
“What we saw since that point, there wasn’t the new entrants, the commitments from other manufacturers that we were all hoping for, into hypercars,” King said.
“I think that meant the ACO and WEC had to pragmatically look at some backup options.
“The IMSA thing has been bubbling for some time and it came to a point where they announced in Daytona the intention for the IMSA convergence with the LMDh cars and that changed things for us.
“We think the market for customer race cars, for us, is damaged by that because a racing Valkyrie is an expensive car.
“It comes from a road car that costs £2.5 million ($3.2 million USD).
“If you are a private team and are set up to race Valkyries to win Le Mans and win WEC, you’re going to be spending many millions to buy your two cars to to get set up, and a very expensive program to run.
“Now those private teams will be able to, based on what we think other competitors will be able to do, will be able to buy premium-branded LMDh cars that are much cheaper to buy and run.
“We don’t think there’s a customer market that was there originally. We don’t know that for sure and we need some time to evaluate it.
“But it changes the conditions on which we got the project approved, so we have to take a pause and decide whether we should carry on with that or look at LMDh or look at staying with GTs.
“I don’t know what the outcome of that is going to be.”
King said the decision was not influenced with Lawrence Stroll’s recent £500 million ($656 million) investment into the company that will see the Racing Point F1 team owner become Aston Martin’s executive chairman.
“It’s got nothing to do with Lawrence Stroll coming in; it’s got nothing to do with the fact that we’ve had a tougher-than-expected financial year,” King said.
“I understand the disappointment it’s caused in the sport but there’s really nothing more behind it.”
King: “We Were About to Build a Car”
While Aston Martin had been silent on the status of the program for months since its initial announcement at Le Mans in June 2019, King said the company and its partners had been working “flat out” on the race car, which was due to hit the track in the spring.
“We’ve worked flat out since we announced in June last year to when we turned the gas off a couple of weeks ago,” he said.
“We were a long way advanced with the car.
“It would have had to run in the next couple of months to meet the start of next season. We were about to build a car.”
King said a deadline has not been established on a decision to potentially resume development for the LMH program or evaluate alternative options, which includes LMDh.
He confirmed Aston Martin will “probably” now be present at the IMSA-ACO steering committee meetings, with the next meeting scheduled for Tuesday in Daytona.