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Nürburgring Endurance

Aston Martin Enters NLS Round with Factory Vantage GT3

Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3 to contest NLS race with factory drivers Thiim, Martin…

Image: Aston Martin Racing

Aston Martin Racing will return to the Nürburgring Nordschleife GT3 ranks for this weekend’s NLS round with a factory-run Vantage driven by Nicki Thiim and Maxime Martin.

The British manufacturer has joined the top SP9 category for the ADAC Barbarossapreis four-hour race on Saturday, marking its first outing at the historic German circuit since the debut of its current-generation Vantage GT3 at the same event in 2018.

Aston Martin says that one of the primary targets of the one-off NLS race entry is to “demonstrate the car’s potential” to existing and possible future customer teams.

It is also using this weekend to help set up the Vantage GT3’s Balance of Performance “ahead of any potential NLS or Nürburgring 24 Hour entries in 2022”.

Aston’s last factory GT3 crack at the N24 came in 2018 when Martin, Thiim, Marco Sorensen and Darren Turner finished fourth in a previous-generation V12 Vantage.

Since then its presence at the race, which was last won by a non-German brand in 2002, has concentrated on the categories outside SP9 with different types of Vantage machinery including the GT4 version.

“Despite our various successes at the Nürburgring, for one reason or another Aston Martin has never had a sustained presence in the top class of the NLS or the Nürburging [24],” commented AMR President David King.

“The time is ripe for a change now that we have a world-class GT3 contender in the Vantage.

“So we will be going there this weekend with the intent to show what the car is capable of to potential customers and partners, and of course to try and notch up another win for the Vantage GT3.”

While Saturday’s enduro will mark AMR’s first Nürburgring GT3 appearance in three years, both Thiim and Martin have driven at the circuit in 2021.

Thiim signed with Phoenix Racing for the Nürburgring 24, finishing 17th overall in an Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo, while Martin joined Porsche outfit Frikadelli Racing Team.

Both AMR factory drivers have also made NLS starts with their respective independent teams this year.

“I haven’t raced the latest Vantage GT3 on the Nürbrurging Nordschleife, so I’m very interested to see how it feels now that it has been developed and has proved itself a winner all over the world,” said double FIA World Endurance GT champion Thiim.

“It’s always an honor to race for Aston Martin, and I think everybody knows that I absolutely love the Nürburgring so we are going to go hard to prove the Vantage is a car that can be competitive in the NLS.”

Martin added: “It’s obviously improved a lot since we last raced the car there on its debut three years ago, and even then we knew it had enormous potential.

“I think it will be great fun to race alongside Nicki, and we will be working very hard to make the most of this opportunity. To be back racing on one of the greatest circuits of them all is always good. I can’t wait.”

This weekend’s NLS round is set to mark the first Aston Martin Racing factory entry under that team name since the manufacturer withdrew its works AMR GTE-Pro team from the WEC at the end of last year.

The departure coincided with AMR fully shifting its sporting focus onto supporting its global customer support network for the Vantage GTE, GT3 and GT4 models.

It also backed a Pro-class entry into the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa where Thiim, Sorensen and Ross Gunn claimed an overall podium driving for customer squad Garage 59.

AMR managing director John Gaw told Sportscar365 last month that the Prodrive-run factory operation wants to “win the big races” with its customer teams including the Nürburgring 24.

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

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