This year would a big one for Aston Martin.
If only because the marque celebrates its centenary in 2013.
However, as well as the usual celebrations that comes with such a milestone Aston Martin Racing are set to embark on what the team describes as their “strongest ever attack on the FIA World Endurance Championship”. Technically those particular superlatives are a little hollow, with the WEC only coming into being for the last season, and AMR only entering a single car for the series.
However, in reality the rhetoric heralds a four car team for the championship, with a pair of V8 Vantages in each of the Pro and the Am branches of the LMGTE class confirmed for the full season. Given that the works team only returned to the GT ranks for the start of last season and only ran a single car though the inaugural WEC season the escalation to their 2013 is startling.
For John Gaw – the Managing Director of Aston Martin Racing – and a man who begins the team’s 2013 launch event stating that he was a “massive advocate” for bringing the Aston Martin name back to the GT classes there is obvious pride, but he admits the daunting scale of the plans.
“We ran one car last year so it’s a big step up to run four but that’s been made possible by the competitiveness of the car last year,” he tells theCheckeredFlag.co.uk at the launch of Aston Martin Racing’s 2013 GTE car and team.
The 2012 car that Gaw speaks so highly of claimed three pole positions in the second half of the season – only missing out in Japan – and winning the final round of the championship for Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke. As the new car comes into the Pro class the 2012 car drops to the GTE Am class to de driven by Stuart Hall, Roald Goethe and Jamie Campbell–Walter and – returning after a one-off outing for the team the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year – the all-Danish trio of Allan Simonsen, Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen.
“We know the Am car is going to be competitive because the car’s sealed from last year and the balance of performance is too but let’s hope we’ve made the right step with the Pro,” says Gaw. “I think we have and we’ll find out soon.”
The upturn in form, aided to some extent by a shift in the balance of performance, Gaw explains, coincided – somewhat coincidentally – with the first discussions about 2013.
“I think it was Sao Paulo actually, in August time. I had it in my head probably in the middle of my head that it was possible and we started talking about in August and started approaching partners. It’s taken a long time to come together and these things always come together at the last minute but all the contracts are signed – all the deals are done.”
The most eye-catching of those late deals has been to draft Bruno Senna into the #99 GTE Pro car alongside Fred Makowiecki and Rob Bell. However, the late surge in form has allowed AMR to re-sign deals with sponsors. Chief amongst them – and the most noticeable as Mucke and Turner pulled the covers from the 2013 machine – was the retention of Gulf as the team’s main sponsor with a deal that will make their stay with Aston Martin the longest continuous link with a manufacturer.
The expansion of Aston Martin’s GT plans goes beyond simply the WEC. Link-ups with Kraft Racing and TRG have already borne some fruit with podiums in Asia and North America, while in Europe the brand already has four representatives in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship with other teams and drivers interested in adding more Astons to the grid during the 2013 season. Alongside Andrew Howard’s Beechdean outfit and a new Barwell Motorsport run car for Britcar graduates Mark Poole and Richard Abra it is a series that Gaw himself will compete in this season with long-term co-driver Phil Dryburgh.
“We [Aston Martin Racing] want to go and win the championship so we’ll give proper support to all our customers. I think Mark Poole and Richard Abra are a fantastic team together, Barwell are one of our best customer team. Andrew will obviously get support from us and I might tail round at the back of the grid, but we’ll enjoy ourselves,” he jokes.
“I’ve got a personal target of having ten percent of the cars on every grid. I think we’ve achieved that in WEC and with a fifth car we’ve achieved that at Le Mans but we’re going to struggled to do that in British GT because there might be forty cars on the grid.”
AMR’s fifth car at Le Mans remains in the reserve list – Stuart Hall named as the lead driver – but Gaw tells that should sufficient teams drop out from those already invited to Le Mans to promote a fifth Vantage to the grid then the car could appear for further WEC rounds.
Such a move may well call Jonny Adam and Daniel McKenzie into action, the two men named as reserve drivers for the WEC squad as well as joining Howard for the Blancpain Endurance Championship, including the Spa 24 Hours, where, Gaw promises, a works driver will complete the team to put a pro-am assault on the race together after he and Dryburgh drove with Beechdean regulars Adam and Howard in Belgium in the 2012 edition.
With AMR also near confirming a works entry in May’s Nurburgring 24 Hours – previously the domain of the Aston Martin’s road car arm or, in the case of the two GT3 cars that raced around the Nordschleife last year, customer teams – their centenary year could include more celebrating than just a simple anniversary.