It’s finally happening. In a couple of years’ time, the Circuit de la Sarthe will be alive with the sound of twelve cylinders for the first time in nearly 15 years. Aston Martin has confirmed that Valkyrie is going to Le Mans - for real this time - with its sights firmly set on beating Ferrari and Toyota to outright victory at the world-famous 24-hour race.
We thought it was all over when Aston pulled the plug on the Valkyrie Le Mans project in 2020, a year before the introduction of the new Hypercar ruleset. The premier sports car class, which replaced LMP1 as the top grade in the World Endurance Championship, initially required manufacturers to release road-going versions of their challengers for homologation – a bit like the glory days of GT1 racing. Aston Martin was an early adopter of the new class, admitting that the AMR Pro “was originally designed and developed to meet the LMH Hypercar regulations.” However, it put the programme on ice when rule markers allowed cheaper, prototype-only LMDh cars to compete with costly LMH machines and scrapped the mandate for road-going models. Thankfully, after one of the most action-packed Le Mans 24s of all time, Aston has decided to revive the project.
Although the Hypercar class has undergone a few changes in recent years, the Valkyrie’s racing counterpart will be every bit as breathtaking as originally planned. The company has swerved the forced induction V6 or V8 route that most of its rivals have gone down, instead opting for a ‘modified’ version of the 6.5-litre naturally aspirated Cosworth V12 that powers the AMR Pro track car. This differs from the road model by ditching the battery electric component, and although hybrids are very much welcome in the WEC, the racer will do without.
What we don’t know is how much power that glorious V12 will be pumping out in race trim. In the unrestricted AMR Pro track car, it’s 1,000hp and a rev limit all the way up at 11,000rpm. However, the race car has to deal with pesky Balance of Performance rules, which typically alter power outputs and adjust the weight of cars that are either walking all over the field or struggling to keep up with the LMP2s to keep the pack bunched up.
The latter probably won’t be an issue for the Valkyrie though. We’re talking about a car designed by Adrian Newey, the bloke with countless Formula 1 championships to his name and the lead designer of this year’s dominant RB19. However, in the endurance world, Hypercars are limited in the amount of downforce they can produce in the name of parity. The only changes seen on the renderings versus the AMR Pro is a slightly more conventional rear wing and a less complex front wing. That could change ahead of the racer’s debut in 2025, but it’ll likely be the most radical car on the Le Mans grid – and certainly the best-sounding.
Like Ferrari, the Valkyrie racing project will be run by one of Aston Martin’s affiliated motorsport outfits. Nope, not long-time partner Prodrive, but new-ish kids on the block Heart of Racing. The American GT team has competed with Vantage GTE and GT3s across the globe, and will run ‘at least’ a single car in both the WEC and IMSA series in the US. With any luck, that’ll mean a two-pronged attack for Le Mans in 2025 for extra V12 glory.
Lawrence Stroll, Aston Martin’s head honcho, said: “The complex knowledge base we are building through our F1 team is data that Aston Martin Performance Technologies can harness to further enhance the capabilities of the Valkyrie racecar at Le Mans, in WEC and IMSA. Just as the learnings we gain through endurance competition will feed directly into our road car programmes, further improving the ultimate performance of our products.” Here's to more Valkyrie-like projects in the future, then.
Alongside the new Valkyrie motorsport programme, Aston has announced that there’ll be ‘all-new’ GT3 and GT4 racers based on the next-generation Vantage. No specifics have revealed yet, because anything Aston gives away now will point to the new road cars – and it doesn’t want to do that until early next year. The new GT cars will be ready in time for the 2024 season – and for the switch from GTE machinery to the new LMGT3 class – with the Valkyrie debuting the 24 Hours of Daytona a year later. Endurance racing’s golden era is about to go platinum.
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