ASTON Martin has made the surprise announcement it won’t be vying for outright victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours after putting the Valkyrie racing car programme on hold until further notice.
According to the car maker, the “Le Mans Hypercar” racing version of its halo Valkyrie road car won’t be taking to the track at the start of the new World Endurance Championship (WEC) season this September as it “re-evaluates the future” of its hypercar programme.
More specifically, the company claims its paused work on its Valkyrie racing car over recently confirmed changes to the sporting regulations. In January 2020, the Le Mans 24 Hours organiser ACO and North America’s motorsport governing body IMSA agreed plans to create a new “LMDh” class of purpose-built hybrid prototype racing cars, which would be able to race in the WEC against Le Mans Hypercars like the road car-based Valkyrie.
Aston’s president, Dr Andy Palmer, explained: “Aston Martin’s ambition to compete for the overall victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans remains undiminished, but it is only right that we reassess our position in light of a significant change in the landscape that was not anticipated when we committed last year.
“We entered Aston Martin Valkyrie in WEC and at Le Mans with the understanding that we would be competing with similar machinery and like-minded manufacturers. The situation has changed and it makes sense for us to pause and reconsider our options.”
Though Aston Martin is putting the racing version of the Valkyrie to one side for now, the company stressed this doesn’t affect its plans for the road-going versio, and said deliveries of the first customer cars are on course to begin during the second half of 2020.
The British car maker added that its other motor racing activities are unaffected by its Le Mans Hypercar decision, too. The company says it’s fully committe” to racing its Vantage GTE cars in the WEC and is still on-track to race its own cars in Formula One next year, when the current Racing Point team is rebranded as the official Aston Martin works team for the 2021 season onwards.
The Le Mans 24 Hours organisers are also confident the show will go on, even though Aston Martin’s decision means Toyota is now the only constructor that’s committed to racing its own Le Mans Hypercar this year. In a joint statement, the ACO and the FIA, motor racing’s international governing body, said: “the strategy concerning Le Mans Hypercar and LMDh remains unchanged”. Their also confirmed more details on their endurance racing plans will be announced next month.
It’s expected Toyota won’t be racing in a class of one, though, as more marques and teams are due to join the Le Mans Hypercar fray in the near future. The American racing car constructor Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus intents to have its SCG 007 on the grid at the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours and Peugeot has pledged to have its own hybrid hypercar ready to race in 2022. However, unlike Toyota and Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, the French firm hasn’t outlined any intentions of making a road legal version.