Richard Westbrook believes his and Harry Tincknell’s extensive Ford GT experience has helped elevate Aston Martin Racing’s GTE-Pro effort to new levels as the British manufacturer seeks its first 24-hour class win with the new-generation Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
Both drivers have been drafted into AMR’s lineup for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans as third drivers in the squad’s season-long FIA World Endurance Championship entries.
Westbrook, who has teamed up with World Endurance GTE points leaders Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen in the No. 95 Aston, said that his four-plus years of experience with the Multimatic-engineered, Chip Ganassi Racing-run program has paid dividends since arriving into the Prodrive-opereated Aston squad.
“Me and Harry coming in, we quickly earmarked some things with the car that could be improved on,” Westbrook told Sportscar365
“We had a really good test in Aragon and worked really hard, especially on the Le Mans aero setup.
“We did quite a bit of preparation, in the Ford, at Aragon, so we were able to get a really good comparison of the two cars.”
When asked about the differences between the mid-engined Ford, which claimed GTE-Pro class victory at Le Mans in its debut in 2016 and the Aston, Westbrook said they’re “absolutely night and day.”
“But the Aston is really strong,” he said. It’s got a really good aero package with a very, very strong engine and really drivable.
“I think there’s a lot to look forward to.
“There’s a reason they’re doing so well in WEC. I think we can be optimistic for Le Mans.”
With its last Le Mans GTE-Pro triumph coming in 2017 with the previous-gen car, Westbrook believes is upbeat on their chances this year, particularly with some of the weak points having been solved or adjusted.
“Last year at Le Mans, I remember fighting against them and they were definitely struggling on the tire,” he said. “They’ve got a much better tire that suits their car more this year. Those problems will be gone.
“They’ve got massively hit after qualifying with BoP and that’s gone now too.
“But with Le Mans you have to see where the BoP is for everyone. It’s a circuit where it’s so dependent on what you’re given by the ACO because of the nature of the track with the long straights.
“If you’ve got the power, it’s a lot easier than if you don’t have the power.”
“Cream of the Field” Still in GTE-Pro Despite Reduced Grid
Westbrook doesn’t think the reduced field in GTE-Pro will have an effect on the race itself, with the majority of the top contenders still present.
After a 17-car field last year boasting factory efforts from six manufacturers, this year’s eight-car class features entires only from full-season WEC entrants Aston Martin, Porsche and Ferrari due to a combination of program withdrawals and travel-related issues stemming from COVID-19.
“I think it’s still really high,” Westbrook said. “I don’t think it’s going to make a difference because the cream of the field is still there.
“We’ve seen that with guys doing that championship week in, week out, will have an advantage. But procedure-wise, it’s less time adjusting.
“The cars we’re up against, it will be just as tough as last year. Yes there’s less cars but you still have seven quality cars.
“It’s going to be flat out from the word go. Le Mans will again be a sprint.”