Why Aston Martin should forget F1 and return to Le Mans

Why Aston Martin  should forget F1 and return to Le Mans

Having missed the previous two years due to strict Covid-19 restrictions, it was terrific to finally return to Le Mans in mid-June for the famous 24-hour race. It remains the pinnacle of motorsport and as much fun as when I first went 25 years ago.


VIEWPOINT 

Paul Walton explains why Aston should forget F1 and return to Le Mans


It was especially satistying to see the Aston Martin Vantage of TF Sport take top honours in the GTE-Am class (pictured below), the British team’s second victory with the car in three years. You’ll remember Aston Martin itself used to have a works entry, winning the GT class four times since its 2004 debut and GTE-Am once in 2014. Considering the always stiff competition, it’s a fine record but Aston pulled out of sportscar racing at the end of 2020 in preparation to enter Formula 1 the following year leaving the racing to independent teams such as TF Sport.

Yet I’d argue its class victory does more for Aston Martin’s image than Sebastian Vettel’s sixth at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix over the same weekend. With the racing car looking largely like the road version, it shows what the Vantage is capable of whereas the company’s recent F1 effort has been on the whole disappointing, especially for a company with such a distinguished history in motorsport.

Due to new and complicated GT rules from 2023 onwards, it remains to be seen whether there will be a Vantage in next year’s 24-hour race, but there is an even more exciting proposition: the Valkyrie. Designed primarily for Le Mans’ new Hypercar class (which replaced LMP1 in 2021), Aston’s previous management pulled the plug on the car’s racing programme before it could turn a wheel in anger. Yet it’s been widely reported that Lawrence Stroll – the Canadian billionaire that became a major shareholder in Aston Martin during early 2020 – is seriously considering entering the car in next year’s event.

I don’t suppose there’s a motorsport enthusiast anywhere in the world that doesn’t want to see a Moss Green Valkyrie charge down the Mulsanne Straight side-by-side with Ferrari’s as yet unnamed Hypercar entry, a repeat of the 1959 race when, as I’m sure you’ll know, Aston came out on top to take its so far only overall victory.

In my eyes, with British manufacturers involved in the French 24-hour race since its 1923 inception, Le Mans and the heritage that goes with is a better fi t for Aston’s image than being stuck in the Formula One mid-field.

No matter what happens, I’ll definitely be there in 2023, hoping to witness my first win of this historic race by a British team. 

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