Aston Martin and Toyota Hypercars Set To Challenge For Outright Victory at Le Mans in 2021
Aston Martin is hoping for some big results at this year’s running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the ultra-competitive GTE Pro class, but it also now has its sights set on an even bigger goal, an outright victory in the 2021 running of the world’s toughest endurance race. On the 60th anniversary of its last and only outright victory at the event, Aston Martin has announced it will be fielding a minimum of two works Valkyrie hypercars in the 2020/2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season, including in the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hour race.
And later the same day Toyota, which has dominated the current WEC LMP1 season, confirmed it will be joining Aston in the hypercar formula, also starting with the 2020/2021 campaign. The moves follow recent confirmation by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) of its hypercar regulations being introduced to the top category of WEC for 2020, wherein race-prepared versions of the world’s fastest road cars will race against hypercar prototypes. Aston and Toyota represent the two alternative paths, with Aston’s Valkyrie based on a road car while Toyota has confirmed it will build a hypercar prototype, albeit one based on the GR Super Sport road car. Both Toyota’s road and race cars are in their design and development phase and track testing of the race car, which will be hybrid-powered, will begin next year prior to the start of the 2020/2021 season.
With its move, Aston is seeking to became the first British-built road car derivative in more than a quarter of a century to win Le Mans outright. The marque is also seeking to continue its long Le Mans heritage. Aston took overall Le Mans victory in 1959, when the DBR1 prototype shared by Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby prevailed. The 2021 running of Le Mans will also mark 100 years since an Aston first raced at the event.
“The FIA World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans represent the ultimate challenge for the Aston Martin Valkyrie–the world’s most extreme hypercar,” said David King, Aston Martin vice president and chief special operations officer. “Designed and built with the purpose of pushing boundaries on the road, it’s natural to conclude that the next stage in its development would be to measure its capabilities on the track. I can think of no better way to do that than to compete in a world championship and the most prestigious and famous race of all.”
The Valkyrie is a result of a technical collaboration between Aston Martin, Red Bull Advanced Technologies–indeed it has been described as a “combined vision” with famous Formula 1 Red Bull designer Adrian Newey–plus project partner AF Racing. This 6.5-liter V12 hypercar and its track-only AMR Pro variant will both contribute much of their underlying technology to the upcoming race-spec Valkyrie. It will feature a race-prepared version of the bespoke high-revving normally-aspirated 6.5-liter V12 engine and Aston reckons this combined with its lightweight carbon fiber structure and F1-inspired aerodynamic technology will allow it to challenge for outright race wins.
“We have always said that we would one day bring Aston Martin back to Le Mans with the intention of going for the outright win when the time was right–now is that time,” added Aston Martin Lagonda president and group CEO, Andy Palmer. “David Brown came here in 1959, with a car and a team of drivers capable of winning. We intend to do the same in 2021. The Aston Martin Valkyrie is primed for such a challenge and sits perfectly within the ACO’s new ‘hypercar’ rule framework. Bringing to bear all of our previous experience and knowledge of competing at the top levels of motorsport, we embark on this most ambitious project with the necessary ingredients for success. What could be more evocative than the wail of an Aston Martin V12 leading the charge into the night on the Mulsanne straight?”
Toyota Gazoo Racing president Shigeki Tomoyama added that the team hoped the new hypercar regulations “bring about a new golden age of endurance racing, with several manufacturers fighting for Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship. For Toyota Gazoo Racing, this new era of competition is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate our credentials not only as a race team against some of the best in the business, but also as a sportscar manufacturer.”
Images courtesy of Aston Martin and Toyota