Marque co-owner Lawrence Stroll, who led a buy-out of the British manufacturer in early 2020 and renamed his Racing Point Formula 1 squad as Aston Martin, has revealed an intent to return to the Le Mans 24 Hours as a factory.
He told to a group of automotive journalists during a briefing at last week’s launch of the Aston Martin AMR22 F1 car that the marque is “in discussions” to go back to the French enduro and that the return would come “in whichever category aligns with the message we are trying to deliver”.
Stroll has stated that the Aston Martin Performance Technologies division being set-up within the new F1 facility under construction at Silverstone will become in involved in the brand’s line of mid-engined supercars, including the Valkyrie conceived by Red Bull Racing technical director Adrian Newey.
This ties in with indications that the Valkyrie LMH programme, which was put on hold early in 2020, could be about to be revived.
The new performance division will employ resources within the F1 organisation freed up by the budget cap introduced for the 2021 season.
These could be deployed on the Valkyrie LMH, which was originally under the remit of the Canadian Multimatic organisation that partnered with Aston in development of the road car.
Aston Martin has already announced a track-only version of the Valkyrie, tagged the AMR Pro.
It made much of the racing origins of a car that is longer and wider than the standard Valkyrie and like the planned LMH is a non-hybrid.
“In 2019, Aston Martin, Adrian Newey, Red Bull Advanced Technologies (RBAT) and engineering partner Multimatic worked intensively on an Aston Martin Valkyrie race car design, aimed at winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in the new Hypercar class,” read its launch statement last year.
“That well-advanced design has now formed the basis of the radical new Valkyrie AMR Pro.”
It is unclear how a potential Valkyrie LMH programme would be funded, as Aston’s original plan was to pay for the machine’s development with the sale of cars to customers.
The announcement in January 2020 of the LMDh category, which offers a cheaper, alternative route into the WEC with LMP2-based machinery, derailed its business model, according to Aston.
The move, which was billed as a postponement or “pause” rather than a cancellation, the following month also followed the takeover of Aston by a consortium put together by Stroll.
It is known that Aston has over the past 18 months had discussions with at least two groups about taking over the funding of the Valkyrie programme. What is unclear is whether Stroll is pursuing this route or aiming to fund it internally.
A race version of the Valkyrie was made possible in mid-2019 when the LMH rules were changed to allow road-going machinery to be modified to race in what was originally conceived as a prototype-only category.
Aston announced its intention to compete in the WEC from the start of the 2021/22 season at Le Mans in June 2019 after receiving assurances that a system of Balance of Performance would be put in place to ensure a level playing field between the two types of machinery.
Aston Martin has not elaborated on Stroll’s comments or given any indications of a timeline for the marque’s first outright bid for Le Mans hours since the short-lived AMR-One LMP1 of 2011.
“Sportscar racing is part of Aston Martin’s DNA, and of course we have a desire to be competing at the highest level of endurance motorsport,” said a spokesman.
“It’s also important to remember that we have never left, with Aston Martin Racing supporting our customers with Vantage GT programmes around the world.”
Aston announced the end of its Prodrive-run GTE Pro programme, which dated back to the revival of the WEC in 2012, after winning the 2019/20 title with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen.
A return to a full-factory GT assault in the WEC would appear unlikely given that from 2024 the category will be pro-am only on the switch to GT3-based rules.