The emotions of a major win can be hard to put into words. Harder still when that victory comes in the very last lap of one of motorsports most famous races — the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Since two Aston Martin 1½-Litre Internationals were the marque’s very first cars to enter the race in 1928, motor-racing has evolved almost beyond all recognition. Yet today’s GTE cars continue the spirit of those early years, matching mechanical endurance with physical stamina and — of course — a huge dose of the unknown.
In the #97 V8 Vantage GTE, Aston Martin Racing drivers Jonny Adam (GB), Darren Turner (GB) and Daniel Serra (BR) achieved victory in the final two laps. With Adam at the wheel, the closing battle was between the Vantage and the #63 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Antonio García, Jan Magnussen and Jordan Taylor. Both cars were left jostling for the lead, which was remarkable given the twists and turns of the preceding 339 laps.
Today's GTE cars continue in the spirit of Le Man's early years, matching technical endurance with physical stamina
Aston Martin Racing’s 2017 Le Mans attempt had begun auspiciously, with Darren Turner breaking the circuit’s GTE lap record during qualifying with a time of 3:50.837, one of a host of GTE records the team smashed during race week. Starting out in pole position, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE delivered a faultless performance throughout, reinforcing the strength of this iconic design.
Throughout the race, Adam, Serra and Turner kept ahead of the competition with the #63 Corvette as their strongest competitor. Adam came into the pits for fuel after 23 hours alongside the #63. The Corvette Racing entrant departed first, setting the stage for the tense final set of laps. The Aston and Chevy traded places again and again before the breakthrough came just after the Mulsanne Corner — the Corvette ran wide, opening up a slow puncture and allowed Adam an inside line that sealed victory.
The V8 Vantage has been a mainstay of Aston Martin’s modern racing programme. Following the creation of Aston Martin Racing in 2005, the N24 variant of the V8 Vantage made its debut at the Nürburgring, while the DB9-derived DBR9 achieved a GT1 Class Victory at Le Mans in 2007. The new V8 Vantage GTE and GT3 cars made their debut in 2012. With the same aluminium chassis as the road car, and sharing the core powertrain components of engine, cylinder block and heads and crankshaft, these cars brought Aston Martin to the highest levels of GT racing, alongside historic rivals such as Ferrari and Porsche. Now Aston Martin Racing can claim more Le Mans glory.
Le Mans 2017 was a decisive demonstration of the power, integrity and competitiveness of this legendary racing car, praised and celebrated by its trio of drivers. “The Corvette looked weak in a few corners and I knew I had to capitalise on them,” Adam recalls. “When I got on to his bumper, I knew it was now or never if I wanted to win Le Mans.”
The race was Daniel Serra’s Le Mans debut, yet the Brazilian managed to set the fastest ever GTE racing lap for a debut driver. “To start on pole was already amazing, then setting the race lap record and finally winning on the last lap was incredible,” he says. ‘I am so grateful to Aston Martin Racing for putting their trust in me, a rookie, for my first time at Le Mans.”
For Turner, this was his 15th Le Mans appearance. “The team did an exceptional job throughout the night... it was one of the best podiums I have ever been on,” he says. “And for me this was my hardest Le Mans and my sweetest victory.”
Le Mans 2017 was a decisive demonstration of the power, integrity and competitiveness of the V8 Vantage GTE
There continues to be a rich seam of innovation and inspiration serving both Aston Martin’s road and race cars. With the recent launch of AMR — and the Vantage AMR special editions in particular — it’s clear that sporting prowess and success on the track will always be a core component of Aston Martin’s appeal on the road.