After five years of the same lineup, Aston Martin has moved for a change in their FIA World Endurance Championship works-Am car, bringing Darren Turner and Ross Gunn in as Paul Dalla Lana’s teammates.
It was clear at the Prologue that Aston Martin Racing was trialling all of their options for the works-Am car, as six drivers were put down for the #98 car on the entry list. This included the Super Season driver trio for the car (Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy – as a late edition – and Mathias Lauda) along with Gunn, Turner and Matthieu Vaxiviere. As the provisional 4 Hours of Silverstone entry list only had Dalla Lana in the car, it was heavily implied that Aston Martin was looking for a shakeup.
Turner’s return sees him back in a full-season entry after he was moved to a part-time role last season, only partaking in the 8-hour+ races with the #95 car. Having helped to develop the new Vantage last season, Turner comes to the Am team – now allowed to use the upgraded car – with a wealth of knowledge about the machine.
“I’m looking forward to joining Paul and Ross in the #98 car and challenging for the 2019/20 GTE Am championship,” Turner said. “It’s going to be very hard work and I think it is going to be the most competitive season in the category, with some very quick cars and some very strong line-ups.
“Paul is an extremely talented driver with a great deal of experience in WEC. I think as a package we are very strong, the Aston Martin Vantage GTE has been developing well in the hands of the Pro guys with two wins and a pole position at Le Mans.”
Gunn made his WEC debut at the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans, racing in Am with the Beechdean AMR team. Since then, he has continued to race with the team in the European Le Mans Series and become a test and reserve driver for the British manufacturer. He has been racing Aston Martins since 2015, with this announcement seeing him take on his first full WEC season.
“It’s a great honour to be joining the works Aston Martin Racing team for the start of the FIA World Endurance Championship season.” He said about the announcement. “I’m very excited to begin this new chapter of my career at the pinnacle of GT racing and I will be pushing for a solid result.
“I was very comfortable in the car at Barcelona during the Prologue and I feel like we can, along with Darren and Paul, be in the mix in the GTE Am Championship and fight for a podium at Silverstone.”
“I’ve been looking across the garage with envy for the past 18 months at the new Aston Martin Vantage GTE and now I finally get to race it myself in the GTE Am class.” Dalla Lana added. “We are coming into the new season with a fresh look and a new driver line-up determined not only to regain the championship title we won in 2017 with the #98 but also to try and finally take that class win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
“Darren is the most decorated GT driver in the team and has the pace and experience to guide us forward, while Ross is super-fast and very talented. I’m very excited about our new line-up and what we can achieve together.”
The line-up of the two Pro cars remains the same as last season, with Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin piloting the #97, and the Dane-train of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen at the wheel of the #95.
With the new format of the WEC races and new tyres from Michelin, the Aston Martin crews are feeling confident ahead of the first winter-season of WEC. John Gaw, managing director of the team, is taking the form that the team ended with (winning two of the three final races) as a sign of good things to come.
“We’re relishing the opportunity to fight against our old rivals Porsche and Ferrari, for together the three brands are the longest-serving teams in the championship,” Gaw stated. “Our driver line-up is very strong and all the GTE Pro drivers are capable of delivering race-winning performances, and they will need to be if we are to deliver on our targets.
“We have changed the GTE Am line-up after a long period of stability and we expect this to produce results. This is a great opportunity for Ross to prove his ability at world level, while I think we are all fully aware of what Darren is capable of, and this gives him a chance to fight for a world championship and capture a fourth Le Mans victory.”