Marque co-owner Lawrence Stroll, who led the takeover of the British manufacturer in early 2020 and renamed its Racing Point Formula 1 team to Aston Martin, has revealed his intention to return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a factory.
He told a group of motoring journalists during a briefing at last week’s launch of the Aston Martin AMR22 F1 car that the brand was “in discussions” to return to French enduro and that the return would come “in the category that aligns with the message we’re trying to get across”.
Stroll said the Aston Martin Performance Technologies division being created within the new F1 facility being built at Silverstone will be involved in the brand’s range of mid-engined supercars, including the Valkyrie designed by Red’s technical director Bull Racing, Adrian Newey.
This lines up with indications that the Valkyrie LMH program, which was put on hold in early 2020, may be on the verge of a relaunch.
The new performance division will employ resources within the F1 organization freed up by the budget cap introduced for the 2021 season.
These could be deployed on the Valkyrie LMH, which originally came under Canadian organization Multimatic which partnered with Aston to develop the road car.
Aston Martin has already announced a track-only version of the Valkyrie, labeled AMR Pro.
He did 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 the design of an Aston Martin Valkyrie race car, aiming to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the new Hypercar category,” read its launch statement last year.
“This well-advanced design has now formed the basis of the radical new Valkyrie AMR Pro.”
It is unclear how a potential Valkyrie LMH program would be funded, as Aston’s original plan was to pay for development of the machine with the sale of cars to customers.
The January 2020 announcement of the LMDh class, which offers a cheaper alternative route to the WEC with LMP2-based machines, has 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 set up by Stroll.
Aston is known to have had discussions with at least two groups over the past 18 months about taking over funding for the Valkyrie program. What’s unclear is whether Stroll is pursuing this path or aiming to fund it internally.
A racing version of the Valkyrie was made possible in mid-2019 when LMH rules were changed to allow road machines to be modified to race in what was originally intended as a prototype-only category .
Aston announced its intention to participate in the WEC from the start of the 2021/22 season at Le Mans in June 2019 after being assured that a balance of performance system would be put in place to ensure a level playing field between both types of machinery.
Aston Martin has not expanded on Stroll’s comments or given any indication of a timeline for the brand’s first outright offering for Le Mans hours since 2011’s short-lived AMR-One LMP1.
“Sports car racing is part of Aston Martin’s DNA, and of course we want to compete at the highest level of endurance motorsport,” a spokesperson said.
“It’s also important to remember that we never left, Aston Martin Racing supporting our customers with Vantage GT programs around the world.”
Aston have announced the end of their Prodrive-run GTE Pro programme, which dates 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 GT onslaught in the WEC seems unlikely given that from 2024 the class will only be pro-am when moving to GT3-based rules.