– ORT by TF take excellent second-place finish after race-long fightback
– Heart of Racing finish in top six on 24 Hours of Le Mans debut
– Second straight FIA WEC podium for Eastwood, Al Harthy & Dinan
– World champion Marco Sørensen and GMB Motorsport make Hyperpole
Aston Martin’s multiple championship-winning Vantage recorded a fine podium finish in the centenary running of the world’s most famous motor race – the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The second-place finish in the LMGTE Am class was achieved by ORT by TF – the same team that won last year’s race – with its 2023 line-up of Omani driver Ahmad Al Harthy, Michael Dinan (USA) and Aston Martin works driver Charlie Eastwood (IRL).
Not only was it the seventh podium finish since 2020 at the historic Circuit de la Sarthe for the current Vantage GTE, but Aston Martin Racing partner team TF Sport – the reigning FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Am World Champions – has now finished no lower than second in each of the past four editions of the prestigious endurance race.
ORT by TF’s was one of five Aston Martins entered for the race, as AMR partner team Heart of Racing – GTD winners at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in January – joined 24 Hours of Fuji podium-finishers D’station Racing, an additional entry for TF Sport (Projet 24) and a car from Danish team GMB Motorsport.
The podium result had looked unlikely for the #25 car – which qualified second in Thursday’s hyperpole session – early on after it dropped outside the top 15 following its first pitstop. As rain, safety cars and caution periods made conditions challenging, the Aston Martin fought back to second place with two-and-a-half hours to go at which point Eastwood climbed aboard for his final stint. He closed a 20-second gap to the car ahead and passed it around the outside with 90 minutes left to take over second place, where he would finish.
The result moves Al Harthy, Dinan and Eastwood up to second place in the FIA WEC GTE Am points; the Le Mans race justifying its status as the series’ centrepiece race by paying double points compared to all other events.
« The result is a testament to the Aston Martin Vantage GTE. It’s the ultimate GT car for Le Mans and always seems to fly around here. There were times in the race when I didn’t think we were going to be anywhere near it because the start was messy and we dropped back. But we have enough experience of Le Mans now to know that if we just stay calm and look at the way the race is most likely to unfold, we can usually make good decisions. Charlie did an awesome job to get us up to second and from there the challenge from behind faded away. It’s a great result and very good for us in the WEC points too. »
North American partner team The Heart of Racing scored a strong sixth-place finish on its first appearance at Le Mans, fighting back from 18th place at the start and a one-lap delay in the pits (in the second hour) to repair damage caused by contact. Driver and team principal Ian James (USA) was joined by Le Mans rookies Daniel Mancinelli (ITA) and Alex Riberas (ESP); the trio combining to add to the major accolades they have achieved with Vantage outside Europe.
D’station Racing’s crew, operated by TF Sport, impressively readied the #777 Vantage for action around a replacement chassis that was brought to Le Mans on Thursday morning following a crash in practice. Satoshi Hoshino (JPN), Tomonobu Fujii (JPN) and Casper Stevenson (GBR) suffered bad luck at several points and retired in the 15th hour with an electrical issue.
A third TF Sport entry carrying an all-French crew of Arnold Robin, Maxime Robin and Aston Martin works driver Valentin Hasse Clot was also entered for the event. An excellent triple opening stint by Hasse Clot helped the blue Vantage climb as high as third in class before it dropped out of contention.
Le Mans debutants GMB Motorsport topped GTE Am in the opening practice session thanks to reigning FIA WEC GTE Am Drivers’ Champion Marco Sørensen (DEN) and impressively made it into hyperpole. Sadly the #55 Vantage, which was shared with Gustav Birch (DEN) and Jens Moller (DEN), was eliminated in the second hour following contact.
Huw Tasker, AMR Head of Partner Racing, said: « It’s great to see Vantage on the podium at Le Mans, and not just any Le Mans, but the centenary event that truly is the biggest race in the world. ORT by TF did an excellent job. Ahmad followed up his history-making pole position at Spa with a front-row hyperpole result and he, Michael and Charlie drove brilliantly to stay in contention even after dropping back early on. The Vantage GTE now has seven class podiums at Le Mans in four years, which is an excellent run of successes. Finishing sixth on their Le Mans debut was an excellent achievement for Heart of Racing, D’station Racing did a fantastic job to get to the start after their practice incident, the third TF Sport car was extremely fast in the hands of all its French drivers while GMB Motorsport made hyperpole on their Le Mans debut. All the crews look to have everything they need to score many strong results with Vantage through the rest of 2023. »
The FIA WEC continues with its final Europe-based event of the year – the 6 Hours of Monza – on July 7-9. After Monza come flyaway events at Fuji Speedway, Japan, and the Bahrai International Circuit in the Middle East.
Tina Brenner & Karolin Stiegelmayr,