24h Le Mans
24 Hours of Le Mans – Aston Martin determined to hang on to LMGTE Am crown
In 2020, Aston Martin triumphed in both LMGTE classes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the Vantage AMRs ruled at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Fast forward 11 months. The British manufacturer, having switched its focus to Formula One, has no works team on the grid. Four privately entered cars will, however, fly the Aston Martin flag in LMGTE Am.
TF Sport, a team with ambition
No works Vantage AMRs will be on the grid to defend the LMGTE Pro title. Nonetheless, a strong, four-pronged LMGTE Am challenge will be mounted by private outfits. Aston Martin Racing will still be there, in the background, providing support to TF Sport, running three of those four cars.
Team owner Tom Ferrier recalls the 2020 win. “It seems so long ago!” he jokes. “We ran an error-free race although one of our drivers had a bit of a sweat in the Porsche Curves, but he got away with it. Apart from that, everything went perfectly. We didn’t even need to change the brakes.” Keeping the same brake discs and pads throughout the race – a first for an LMGTE Am class winner – proved a race-winning strategy for the British team, who finished just one minute ahead of its nearest rival.
The key architect of that win was undoubtedly Jonny Adam. The graduate of the British GT school, winning the title with TF Sport in 2016, had signed up as a works driver for Aston Martin. The 2017 LMGTE Pro-class winner – the one who outfought Corvette in a thrilling finale – brought all his experience to the TF Sport team in 2020 with a series of solid stints.
No numerical advantage
This year, TF Sport is fielding three LMGTE Am entries with contrasting ambitions and fresh line-ups. A new start in effect. The #33 car will have Dylan Pereira, Ben Keating and Felipe Fraga sharing driving duties. Keating and Fraga were on the top step of the podium in 2019 with a privately entered Ford GT, but were subsequently disqualified for an illegal fuel tank capacity. They will be aiming to repeat that on-track success this year, without the post-race disappointment. Their chances are good, according to Ferrier. “They will be a strong line-up. On the other hand, we have rookies in the #777 so it will be tougher for them. Finally, in the #95 car, we’ll be able to rely on Ross Gunn’s experience. We have a good chance.”
The Vantage AMRs will benefit from the manufacturer’s total support. The firm has seconded three engine specialists and two engineers to TF Sport, while some of the mechanics were also part of the LMGTE Pro adventure. While not officially entered, Aston Martin certainly remains committed to the cause. “Their backing is as strong as ever. Perhaps even more so,” Ferrier insists.
Should the Vantage AMR secure another class win, it will eclipse the previous generation (the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE) that won the LMGTE Am title just once. That was in 2014 with the Dane Train of David Heinemeier Hansson, Kristian Poulsen and Nicki Thiim.