Aston Martin has confirmed earlier rumors and announced today that it will not compete in the new supercar category at the World Endurance Championship.
The company had hoped to add the racing version of its highly anticipated Valkyrie supercar (pictured above) to the new class, set to start at Silverstone in August before ending with Le Mans 24 Hours in June 2021.
That won’t happen anymore, however, and instead Aston Martin will remain in the lower GTE segment of the WEC series, using the racing versions of its Vantage sports car shown below.
Aston Martin today suggested that its withdrawal from the new supercar class was due to a rule change made after the partnership with the Valkyrie.
With this change, announced in January 2020, the Automobile Club de ‘Ouest (ACO), which operates 24/7 in Le Mans, and the US-based International Automobile Sports Federation (IMSA) have a plan to merge the new supercar class.
This will result in IMSA prototype contestants fighting the supercar class for an all-out victory at Le Mans and through the 2021-22 WEC Championship.
Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin, described this as “a major change of landscape that was unexpected when we pledged last year.” Palmer wrote on Twitter: “We subscribed and understood that we would be competing with similar machines and like-minded manufacturers. That has changed and it makes sense to reconsider our options.”
In response to Aston’s withdrawal, the FIA suggested that the UK automaker’s financial position and recent decision to compete as a team in Formula 1 from 2021 could have been a factor.
The FIA said: “The decision announced by Aston Martin is extremely regrettable but persistent rumors over the past six months may not be given about the fragility of the brand’s presence in the rapidly developing auto market and the decision to unexpectedly enter the formula as a factory team in 2021.”
Aston Martin’s withdrawal from the supercar category before the first season is considered a huge blow to WEC.
The new car segment has been introduced to breathe new life into WEC (and Le Mans) after the previous top level LMP1 was abandoned by manufacturers who no longer deem the competition financially viable. In recent years, Porsche, Audi and Peugeot (all younger winners) have pulled out, leaving only Toyota as the only manufacturing team alongside a handful of private drivers.
Many have turned their attention to Formula E, the all-electric racing series that manufacturers see most relevant to the development of electric street cars.
For the Valkyrie itself, the street versions will start shipping to buyers this summer, and Aston Martin says a track-only version called the Valkyrie AMP Pro will also start production as planned starting 2021.