Sunday, 12 June, 2022, Le Mans: Aston Martin claimed another famous victory with its Vantage GTE as partner team TF Sport conquered the GTE-Am class at the 90th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans last weekend. The victory, in a year featuring a record-equalling 23-car GTE-Am entry, marks a second in three years at Le Mans for TF Sport following its class success in 2020.
The winning crew of Ben Keating (USA), double FIA GT world champion Marco Sørensen (DEN) and Henrique Chaves (POR) – all first-time victors at Le Mans – steered the #33 Vantage home with a performance that was close to perfection. The result lifts Keating, Sørensen and the TF Sport team into the class lead in the FIA World Endurance Championship [WEC] standings.
A strong weekend performance for Aston Martin was completed by a fighting third place podium finish for 2017 FIA WEC GTE-Am champion Paul Dalla Lana (CDN) and his NorthWest AMR team-mates Nicki Thiim (DEN) and Le Mans rookie David Pittard (GBR) in the #98 Vantage, which had led this year’s class standings ahead of Le Mans having set the pace in both the opening rounds – the 1000 Miles of Sebring in the US and the 6 Hours of Spa. The event marked the fifth year of the Vantage GTE’s participation at Le Mans, and the 1-3 result, in the wake of the double GTE-Pro and Am victory in 2020, is the car’s third GTE-Am win.
The Aston Martins rose up the order having made safe and steady progress from the start on Saturday at 4pm CET. The NorthWest AMR Vantage started from P5 on the GTE-AM grid, with TF Sport three places further back. The third Vantage, entered by D’station Racing on its second assault on Le Mans with assistance from TF Sport, started in P19.
As daylight turned to dusk and then into darkness, both crews in the NorthWest AMR and TF Sport Aston Martins rose into the top four. Just before the half-way mark, the TF Sport #33 took the lead for the first time and by Sunday morning, Keating and his team-mates were fully established at the top. As the full house of spectators that had returned to Le Mans this year enjoyed their breakfast, NorthWest AMR made it an Aston Martin 1-2 at the top of the class. As the morning progressed, Dalla Lana and his team-mates found themselves delayed by a series of slow zones and a safety car interruption. But they continued to battle for a podium finish in the #98 Vantage into the afternoon and when a rival ahead of them hit trouble less than an hour and a half from the 4pm finish, the car was perfectly placed to move back into a podium third place.
Meanwhille, the #33 TF Sport Vantage increased its advantage through Sunday morning and into the afternoon, aided by more than one spin from its main rival, to secure a famous victory.
The #777 D’station Racing Vantage, driven by Super Taikyu champion Satoshi Hoshino (JPN) and regular co-driver and team manager Tomonobu Fujii (JPN) along with rising British GT star Charlie Fagg (GBR), retired with suspension damage following an on-track incident.
“This is a great result and performance from TF Sport,” said a delighted Keating on the victory. “We’ve had no penalties, no mistakes, no trips to the gravel or anything.”
Pittard was also delighted with a podium finish on his Le Mans debut in what was Dalla Lana’s 10th start at Le Mans. “We are competing in the full championship and there are a lot of guest entries here with very fast drivers,” said Pittard. “But the consistency of both Aston Martins and our driver line-ups have brought us up. It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions because after half an hour I’d have been happy to even finish in the top 10. But for 20 hours we were fighting for a place in the top three. This is not the team’s first rodeo, so they have kept me calm. It’s been amazing, one of the best weeks of my life.”
Lawrence Stroll, Executive Chairman, Aston Martin said, “To enjoy this kind of success at the top level of endurance racing is testimony to the quality of the Vantage GTE, the TF Sport team and the Vantage road car that is the basis of the race car. Congratulations to Ben, Marco and Henrique on a faultless race and their first win at Le Mans. Aston Martin was born 109-years ago out of a love of racing and competing at all levels of motorsport is at the heart of Aston Martin’s DNA. It is fitting that Vantage, our most focused performance sports car is a true success with our customers on the road and track - Vantage F1®️ Edition, V12 Vantage, Vantage GTE – all winners.”
Embarking on its fourth world championship season, Vantage remains as formidable a title contender as ever. Powered by a race-developed version of the four-litre, twin-turbo-charged V8 engine found in the road car from which it derives, this prototype derivative of the GT car was all-conquering in the WEC GTE Pro category during the 2019/2020 season. It recorded five wins from eight races, including both Pro and Am classes at the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans, the car took Aston Martin to the FIA GT Manufacturers’ World Championship title and carried Thiim and Sørensen to the drivers’ crown. In total it has claimed 12 class victories so far in WEC.
The Le Mans 24 Hours is the third round of the 2022 WEC, which features six rounds, beginning with the 1000 Miles of Sebring (USA) on 11 March, followed by the 6 Hours of Spa on 8 May. After Le Mans the series heads to Italy for the 6 Hours of Monza on 10 July. WEC then returns to Japan for the first time since 2019 for the 6 Hours of Fuji (ITA) on the 11 September. The series will then conclude with an eight-hour race in Bahrain on 12 November.
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