Richard Westbrook feels he is “better suited to the situation” by contesting the 8 Hours of Bahrain in GTE-Pro rather than GTE-Am, after the British driver was moved across to replace Alex Lynn in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s top GT class at late notice.
Westbrook was initially set to contest the 8 Hours of Bahrain in the Am-class No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE with Paul Dalla Lana and Ross Gunn, but Lynn’s positive COVID-19 test forced Aston to alter its lineups for the 2019-20 season finale.
The No. 97 Pro Aston, which is battling the sister No. 95 car for the world championship, will now feature ex-Ford GT IMSA regular Westbrook alongside Maxime Martin.
In turn, Pedro Lamy has been drafted into the No. 98 crew for his first WEC appearance of the season.
“It would have been my debut in GTE-Am and maybe one day in the future that will come about, but I’ve got a lot more experience in GTE-Pro so I feel like I’m better suited to the situation,” Westbrook told Sportscar365.
“There’s only two people in the car so I get more track time, which is beneficial because I’ve only ever been here in a [Porsche] Supercup car.
“I think it will be better for me going back to GTE-Pro because that’s what I know best. But one day, who’s to say that I won’t be in a GTE-Am?
“It’s really strange circumstances. My heart goes out to Alex. It’s bad enough being involved in a championship and missing one race, but when you’ve got a proper chance of becoming world champion which Alex had if he had been here, it’s really tough.
“It’s a driver’s worst nightmare and a lesson to us all, the situation we’re all in. I’m just going to do my best for Max.
“It’s not what I expected when I was told I was racing here in the No. 98, but I know Max well and I’ve shared a car with him before. We’re going to try to make Alex proud.”
Westbrook has never previously driven the Aston in the high-downforce aero bodywork it is wearing for Bahrain, but he is nonetheless optimistic about his transition from the low-downforce Le Mans-spec aero he drove to third in the 24-hour race two months ago.
“The last time I was here was in Supercup in 2009,” said Westbrook.
“I tested pre-Le Mans at Aragon, but that was all in the low-downforce aero kit. That’s going to be the biggest difference, but that’s a good thing.
“It would be much harder going from low-downforce to high-downforce. It’s just going to feel better.
“I know the track well and Max well. I expect it to be OK, but I just need to get that first practice out the way and get going.”
Martin admitted that the late change of co-driver will make it harder for him to mount a challenge on points leaders Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen.
The Belgian driver and Lynn are 15 points off the lead and in mathematical contention having gained a 50-point haul by winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Harry Tincknell.
“It’s a big shame that Alex isn’t there,” said Martin.
“We have been sharing the car for three years and it’s the first race we’re not doing together since I joined Aston Martin three years ago. It’s definitely a big hit.
“From my side, it’s definitely not optimal to start the weekend with a new teammate, especially for the last race of the season when we’re up for the championship.
“But I know Richard very well. We have done the Nürburgring and other races together. He has been in GTE for many years, so he knows the whole story.
“He was definitely the best option for me with Alex not being here. I’m going to help him as much as I can with the experience I have with the car and see where we end up.”