Aston Martin bids farewell to the V8 Vantage
Photo: WEC/Adrenal Media

Aston Martin bids farewell to the V8 Vantage

It may be the oldest car in the field, but the Aston Martin Vantage will bow out of the FIA World Endurance Championship at the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain as one of the series’ most enduringly successful machines.

It may be the oldest car in the field, but the Aston Martin Vantage will bow out of the FIA World Endurance Championship at the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain as one of the series’ most enduringly successful machines.

Built at Prodrive in Banbury (some 15 miles/24 km from Silverstone), the Vantage GTE can trace its roots back to 2008, but has continued winning in its final year before being replaced by a newer model next season. 

Aston Martin Racing celebrated pole in both the LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am classes in China, while a third GTE Am victory of the season put Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda in command of the title race as the final race of the year approaches.

Here are five of the Vantage GTE’s best moments in WEC competition. 

5. 2013 6 Hours of Silverstone – Victory on home soil in both classes

The Vantage had already chalked up its WEC first victory at the Shanghai season finale in 2012, but that is squeezed out of this list by a double victory on home soil to kick-start the 2013 season. 

The lead No.97 Aston of Darren Turner, Stefan Mücke and Bruno Senna won by more than a lap in GTE Pro, with team newcomer Senna’s decision to stay out on slicks during a mid-race rain shower proving crucial. 

In a sign of things to come for the fondly-titled No.95 ‘Dane Train’, Allan Simonsen, Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen vindicated AMR’s decision to expand into the GTE Am ranks with a crushing victory, three laps ahead of their nearest opponents.

All three Vantages claimed silverware, as Frédéric Makowiecki, Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana finished a creditable third in GTE Pro on the latter’s first WEC appearance. It was the beginning of a fruitful partnership between Lamy – one of the original six drivers of the Aston Martin DBR9 GT1 in 2005 – and Dalla Lana, which has yielded 14 Am class victories to date.

4. 2013 6 Hours of Shanghai – First 1-2 result puts AMR on the brink 

Although their quest for the 2013 title ultimately came up short due to engine problems in Bahrain, Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke’s third win of the season at the penultimate round in China looked to have put the Vantage on the cusp of glory in both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ championships.

2013 remains the strongest year for the Vantage to date, as AMR took home GTE Pro spoils on four occasions: Bruno Senna and Fred Makowiecki teaming up to win in car No.99 at COTA – and a further five in GTE Am, including two wins for eventual champions Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall in car No.96.

The car’s enviable pace was clear to see at Shanghai, as Turner and Mücke led home Senna, Pedro Lamy and Richie Stanaway for the team’s first 1-2 finish in the WEC. With the Ferrari of main championship rivals Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella down in fourth, victory for the No.97 team put them 5.5 points clear in the Drivers’ standings and handed AMR a 17.5 point advantage in the Manufacturers’ contest. 

But the disappointment in Bahrain meant the wait for a GT Drivers’ title would go on for another three years… 

3.  2014 24 Hours of Le Mans – Dane Train pays tribute to Simonsen

Although the Vantage experienced great success on the track in 2013, clinching the GTE Am title by a single point, it was overshadowed by Allan Simonsen’s tragic death at Le Mans. Stunned by the loss of their team mate and compatriot, Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen bravely rallied to win twice more that season and lift Young Driver AMR’s spirits ahead of its return to Le Mans in 2014, this time with Poulsen joined by rising star Nicki Thiim and David Heinemeier-Hansson. 

On such an emotionally-charged occasion, there could be no room for mistakes and the No.95 crew duly delivered. The car didn’t miss a beat and won by two clear laps. 

The Vantage’s success story didn’t end there however. All told, Aston Martins won the GTE Am class seven times from eight starts in 2014, Poulsen and Heinemeier-Hansson claiming the title with four wins while the sister No.98 car of Nygaard, Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana took a further three en route to second in the points. 

As a way to honour Simonsen, it couldn’t have been done any better.

2. 2016 6 Hours of Bahrain – World domination for Thiim and Sørensen

One year ago marked the pinnacle of Aston Martin’s involvement in the WEC, as Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen clinched the British marque’s first GT Drivers’ and Team’s titles.

After a disappointing 2015 season, the Vantage received its most radical upgrade package yet to keep pace with brand-new designs from Ferrari and Ford. 
Consistency was the key in the first half of the season, but victory at COTA earmarked the Danish pair as potential title contenders.  And so it proved, as the No.95 crew headed into the season finale in Bahrain with 12 points in hand over Ferrari’s Davide Rigon and Sam Bird.

Thiim and Sørensen only needed to finish third to seal the title, but claimed a second win of the year to do it in style after early race leaders Darren Turner and Jonny Adam lost a wheel on the sister No.97 Vantage. 

1. 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans – Outright victory 

Image copyright of Aston Martin Racing

After near misses at Le Mans in 2013 and 2015, AMR was determined to give the Vantage GTE a good send-off at Le Mans in 2017, but nobody could have written the script as it unfolded. 

Nine years on from the team’s last GT1 victory over Corvette Racing in 2008, endurance racing fans were again treated to an Aston Martin versus Corvette grudge match, which was decided only on the final lap.

Darren Turner, Jonny Adam and Le Mans rookie Daniel Serra qualified on pole with a record time of 3m50.837s, but the Vantage didn’t enjoy the same dominance in the race and only emerged as a victory contender in the final hour once the fuel strategies had played out. 

Corvette’s Jordan Taylor emerged from the pits ahead for the dash to the flag, but Adam never gave up the chase and after pressuring his rival into an error, the Scot completed the job to give the team a memorable and popular victory.