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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Pro Aston Martin to Contest 24H Spa with WEC Champions

Garage 59 to run Pro-class Aston Martin Vantage GT3 at Spa for Thiim, Sorensen, Gunn…

Photo: Aston Martin Racing

Aston Martin outfit Garage 59 will make a bid for overall victory in the Total 24 Hours of Spa with an all-factory driver lineup involving the reigning FIA World Endurance GT champions Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim.

Ross Gunn will join the Danish pair for the Belgian enduro on July 31-Aug. 1.

Aston Martin announced on Tuesday that 2016 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup champion Garage 59 will run the entry, returning both team and manufacturer to the top tier of the now Fanatec-sponsored GT World Challenge Europe series for the first time since 2019.

Thiim and Sorensen are set for their first race together since the 8 Hours of Bahrain last November, where they clinched their second GTE world title with Aston Martin Racing.

That marked the final race of the Aston Martin Racing factory team program before the organization shifted to a sole focus on supporting GT customer teams from 2021.

Sorensen has not raced professionally since that change, although he was recently confirmed in a TF Sport Aston for the British GT round at Silverstone later this month. Thiim, meanwhile, has been driving LMP2 and Audi GT3 machinery for Phoenix Racing.

Their co-driver Gunn, who piloted a GTE-Am Aston in the WEC last season, competes full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the European Le Mans Series, working with customer teams The Heart of Racing and TF Sport.

“After an amazing season in 2020, winning both FIA World Endurance Championship titles with the team, and the Vantage GTE winning Le Mans, I am really happy to be returning to contest one of the biggest GT3 races on the planet,” said Thiim.

“As always it’s an honor to represent the Aston Martin brand and to be able to show what this car is capable of.

“There are new goals within the Aston Martin family, but the target remains the same – to win.

“Spa represents the perfect scenario for this, to race against the best of the best. It’s great to keep the ‘Dane Train’ alive and to be able to drive alongside the ‘Gunn’ is great too, and Garage 59 is a very impressive team.”

Sorensen, who is set for his 24H Spa debut, reckons the four-liter turbocharged V8 Aston Martin has “the potential to fight at the front” despite it being a one-off entry against a field of full-season GTWC Europe Endurance Cup participants.

“I am really looking forward to going racing again at Spa,” he said.

“To have the shot at an overall win in one of the great GT endurance races is a great opportunity, so I have to say thanks to Garage 59 and Aston Martin.

“I think with Ross joining the ‘Dane Train’ we make a pretty strong line-up and the Vantage definitely has the potential to fight at the front.

“The team has won championships at this level and always produces a competitive car so I am looking forward to learning more about them.”

Gunn added: “Competition in GT3 racing is at an all-time high and we have lots of work to do at the test to get ready.

“But we have a great team behind us and a fantastic car to work with so I am confident that we can have a strong event.”

Garage 59 already runs two Astons in the Silver and Pro-Am categories of Endurance Cup and is set to add fourth drivers to its full-season driver trios in those cars for Spa.

The British squad last entered the top class two years ago with a current-generation Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for Come Ledogar, Jonny Adam and Andrew Watson.

That was also its first appearance with Aston in the Spa 24-hour race after a move away from McLaren, with which the team clinched the 2016 Endurance Cup title.

“Garage 59 has been one of Aston Martin Racing’s most valued partners ever since it switched to the new Vantage GT3 at the beginning of the 2019 season,” said Aston Martin Racing managing director John Gaw.

“Running a Pro car with works drivers at Spa is more evidence of AMR’s evolution from a works program to a fully integrated customer operation that has the ability to support its customers not just with drivers, but also personnel, technical back-up and world championship-winning experience.

“We hope Spa showcases what is possible when teams work closely with us to achieve their goals, and we expect to make further announcements through the summer.”

The best Aston Martin result at the 24 Hours of Spa to date came 15 years ago, in the form of a second-place finish for Marcel Fassler, Jean-Denis Deletraz, Andrea Piccini and Stephane Lemeret aboard a Phoenix Racing-prepared DBR9 in 2006.

More recently in the GT3 era, R-Motorsport placed ninth in the 2018 edition with a first-generation Vantage GT3 driven by Thiim, Jake Dennis and Matthieu Vaxiviere.

That was Aston Martin’s most recent top-ten in the race, which counts as a round of both GTWC Europe Endurance Cup and the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli.

The most recent Pro-level Aston entry in the IGTC series occurred at the 2020 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, where R-Motorsport ran a pair of cars.

Aston has declared that Garage 59’s upcoming entry is signed up for a “one-off assault”.

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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