Mathias Lauda, Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy claimed a “dream” world endurance championship double in the Bahrain Six Hours season finale.
From pole position, the #98 was dominant throughout the six hours, and Lamy brought the car home for a well deserved championship for the crew who have been the class of the field in 2017.
Nearest rivals, the #77 Dempsey Proton Racing crew were in contention to snatch the crown, but an early problem forced the car into the pits and when it rejoined some laps later, it was too far behind to make up time and be a factor in the race.
Speaking after the race, ex-Formula 1 driver Lamy said: “This is a dream come true. We’ve been trying so hard for four years now and finally we’ve won.
“We were so strong in the past taking so many pole positions and race wins even when we were not in the fastest car on the grid.
“For so many seasons we’ve missed out on that feeling of winning a championship but now we’ve got that feeling and I’m incredibly happy.
“I just want to say that it’s a big honour to win this championship and to do that with Aston Martin.”
Dalla Lana, the first Canadian driver to win a FIA WEC title said: To describe the feeling of winning this championship in one word… finally!
“It’s so hard to get here, you need hundreds of people behind you but to have finally made it feels great. It’s going to have to sink in over some time but for now I just want to really enjoy this moment.
Lauda, the son of three-time F1 world champion, Niki, said that to neutralise the threat of the Dempsey-Proton challenge, he “took my time my opening stint without taking any risks to make the pass” before using the pace in the car to complete his stint.
“With Paul and Pedro we’ve won 12 races in the three years that I’ve been in this car,” he reflected afterwards “and the championship has always been our main goal and finally we’ve done it!”
John Gaw, Managing Director of the team said: “Paul is great team player and he made the difference again today with his strong middle stint, just as he made the difference in qualifying.
“Mathias drove well to put the car in the right position at the start and Pedro delivered what was needed to bring home the title.”
No fairytale send-off for V8 vantage
While the AM class team were able to secure their title, the same could not be said the Pro class squad, who were fielding the stalwart V8 Vantage for the final time.
Despite good pace in qualifying, race pace was a disappointment and 2016 champions Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorenson were unable to make an impact in the race, fading to seventh in class, behind team-mates Darren Turner and Jonny Adam.
Ferrari #71 AF Corse drivers Sam Bird and Davide Rigon took Pro class honours as team-mates James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi let the sister car through late on, on their way to securing the crown for the Scuderia.
“It was always going to be difficult when you have to run four sets of tyres over a six-hour race,” said Turner.
“Once the first hour is done you don’t really know where you are because everyone is going to split their strategies to suit themselves and it is not so easy to understand the pace relative to the others,” he said before adding his congratulations to the AM class title winners.
Paul Howarth, Aston Martin Racing Team Principal said, “It’s brilliant to still be world champions as a team. Seven poles, four wins, the Am class and GTE Pro wins at Le Mans and Mexico.
“It’s the icing on the cake for the whole team and everyone involved in Aston Martin Racing.”
He continued: “The V8 Vantage GTE has bowed out in real style. It’s a Le Mans winner, a world championship winner for the second year in a row.
“It can be recognised as one of the greatest cars in GT racing and going forward the next generation of race cars have a hard act to follow.”