This weekend the FIA’s World Endurance Championship and IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship make their return. For all teams this is a big deal, but for AMR especially, as four of their key partner teams are competing and they are aiming high on both sides of the Atlantic.
The reigning FIA WEC LMGTE Am class champion, TF Sport and fellow AMR partner teams NorthWest AMR and D’station Racing will be contesting the 6 Hours of Portimão on Sunday with a trio of Aston Martin Vantage GTEs. The Vantage GTE is the prototype version of Aston’s critically acclaimed ultra luxury sportscar and shares the same aluminum body-frame and a specially tuned version of the four liter V8 turbo charged production engine. The triple 24 Hours of Le mans class winning race car is aiming for its first podium at Portimão during what will be the final visit to the Portuguese track before the class switches to GT3’s in 2024.
Vantage is beginning the extended 2023 FIA WEC season with two GT world titles from the last three campaigns, but is now facing a stacked 14 car field with incredibly tough competition as the LMGTE Am class now constitutes the only GT competition within the WEC. The season has been extended with the Portimão race, but the breaks between races hasn’t been with the next event being the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on April 29th. That will be followed by the centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 10th – 11th, the 6 Hours of Monza on July 9th, the 6 Hours of Fuji on September 10th and the traditional 8 hour finale taking place in Bahrain on November 4th.
All three of the AMR teams were in good form at the season opening 1000 Miles of Sebring last month. The #23 ORT by TF Vantage driven by Ahmad Al Harthy, Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood qualified a highly competitive third in class. Paul Dalla Lana, Nicki Thiim and Axcil Jefferies showed great race pace in the NorthWest AMR car while D’station Racing owner Satoshi Hoshino and regular co-driver Tomonobu Fujii quickly gelled with rookie Casper Stevenson. Unfortunately all three teams suffered mishaps/general misfortune and were unable to capitalize on their full potential. They are very keen to kickstart their seasons with the WEC’s return to Europe.
In all of the variations (GTE, GT3 and GT4), the Vantage has been incredibly successful and is the current reigning Rolex 24 at Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner as well as defending champion in the GT Am class in both the FIA WEC and IMSA.
And speaking of IMSA, the Heart of Racing team is heading into the third round of the IMSA championship, the world famous California street circuit, the 100 minute Grand Prix of Long Beach in spectacular form. The team followed up their GTD class victory and strong GTD Pro class showing at the Rolex 24 with two fantastic, although unrewarded, performances at the Sebring 12.
Reigning LMGTE Am world champion Marco Sorensen will be making his first IMSA Sprint race start alongside reigning champion Roman De Angelis, both have full confidence in the #27 and are determined to retain the season’s positive early momentum. Meanwhile, the #23 with driver Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas are looking to return to the kind of performance that gave them their first win in the GTD Pro class at the same event last season.
AMR Head of Partner Racing, Huw Tasker, had this to say about Vantage and the upcoming weekend, “While Sebring was tough on all of our teams, the pace of Vantage – particularly in the IMSA race – was reassuring. Portimão is a more conventional venue and perhaps offers of WEC teams a more solid foundation with which to build a strong weekend upon. One the other side of the Atlantic, Vantage has a proven pedigree around the streets of Long Beach. Everywhere we have been this season, the Heart of Racing team has shown why it is the reigning IMSA GTD Champion and there is no reason to expect anything but more of the same from the first Sprint race of the season.”
Official practice for the 6 Hours of Portimão begins of Friday, April 14th at 10:30 CET with the race beginning at noon on Sunday. For more details and how to follow the race, you can check the official WEC website and app.
The Grand Prix of Long Beach begins with a free practice at 9:00 PDT on Friday with the race starting at 2:05 on Saturday. For more details and how to follow the race, you can check the IMSA website.