Aston Martin is “in discussions” to return to the premier category of the Le Mans 24 Hours and bid for its first overall victory at the French classic since 1959, co-owner Lawrence Stroll has revealed.
Speaking at the launch of the Formula 1 team’s new AMR22 car at the manufacturer’s Gaydon headquarters on Thursday, the Canadian billionaire made the admission that the British car maker has greater ambitions than simply maintaining its presence in GT racing.
“We fully intend to go back to racing other than in F1,” he said. “We’ve never stopped racing in GT3 and GT4, and we won [the GTE Pro class at] Le Mans two years ago. That programme will continue and be enhanced.
“Now that I’ve started Aston Martin Performance Technologies as a division of the F1 team, it will get a lot more involved in the development of our mid-engined programme out of the new F1 factory [currently being built near Silverstone].
“In addition, we are in discussions to go back to Le Mans.”
Stroll refused to be drawn on a timescale for the return – but it is believed an entry for next year, which will mark the 100th anniversary of the world’s most famous endurance race, should not be ruled out despite the short timescale.
“We’re not there yet,” he said. “I’m a racer myself. I have been all my life. Racing is in my blood, which is why I’m here. We should be racing in whichever category aligns with the message we are trying to deliver for Aston Martin.”
Aston Martin had been primed as one of the first manufacturers to enter the new Hypercar era, which began last year at Le Mans and in the World Endurance Championship. But a programme based around the Valkyrie was scotched by Stroll following his consortium takeover of Aston Martin Lagonda early in 2020. Since then, the LMH category has launched with only Toyota and boutique manufacturer Glickenhaus having so far made it on to grids with bespoke new cars.
But this year, Peugeot is readying its own LMH contender, the 9X8, which could race at Le Mans in June. Meanwhile, the sports car racing world is anticipating an explosion of competitiveness in 2023 as Ferrari returns to the premier class for its first factory assault on Le Mans in 50 years.
In addition, the parallel and economically less demanding LMDh class – based on LMP2 chassis with standardised hybrid systems mated to an open choice of engines – has lured both Audi and Porsche back, along with BMW, Acura (Honda), Cadillac and Alpine. Bentley, Lamborghini and McLaren entries are also future possibilities.
If – and it is believed when – Stroll presses the button on a Le Mans programme, he is expected to commit Aston Martin to the same LMH class that Toyota, Peugeot and Ferrari have chosen, with a car based on the Valkyrie AMR Pro. Pitched as the ‘ultimate no-rules hypercar’, the 1000bhp hybrid-enhanced V12-powered car was built with a specific target to lap the 8.5-mile Le Mans circuit in 3min 20sec. Last year, Kamui Kobayashi took pole position for the race in Toyota Gazoo Racing’s GR010 Hybrid in 3min 23.900sec.