The Rolex 24 kicked off Speedweeks in Daytona a couple of weeks ago, and the race was capped by a breathy announcement that IMSA and the ACO, organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, were undertaking efforts at rules commonality and equalization formulas as the World Endurance Championship prepared to unveil its new Hypercar competition category as the 2020-2021 WEC season draws near. And then, all of a sudden, one of the two major players preparing to compete in the Hypercar class has pulled the plug on its effort.
We are talking about the insanely powerful Aston Martin Valkyrie, whose race career was abruptly short-circuited before it ever began, as the British sporting legend’s new leadership announced that the announced IMSA-ACO detente and the attendant rules changes it will necessitate have cooled its enthusiasm for the program. Aston’s exit, which will take it out of the Hypercar category at Le Mans in 2021, came just a week after Formula 1 stars Max Verstappen and Alex Albon took turns hot-lapping the race-spec Valkyrie at Silverstone. A breeze through the subsequent week’s racing media makes clear that not everyone is buying Aston Martin’s public justification for its move. Based in Gaydon, Warwickshire, Aston Martin has struggled with financial disorder at various junctures since the 1980s, interrupted only when it was a Ford Motor Company property from 1991 through 2007. As of last month, Aston Martin is under new ownership in every sense of the word. It’s now gone public, having had its IPO on the London Stock Exchange last October. Last month, the Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, who made his fortune in high fashion and owns the Racing Point F1 team, led a group of investors that took a 20 percent (about 182 million pounds Sterling) controlling stake in the automaker. Stroll is expected to rebrand Racing Point as the Aston Martin F1 team, and the firm’s executives are preparing for the crucial upcoming launch of the DBX luxury crossover. So fiscally, Aston Martin’s got a lot of considerations going. It’s easy to imagine Stroll and company balking at the sheer cost of bringing a clean-sheet race car to competitive form as the same time the small-volume builder is trying to launch a completely new vehicle and adjust to public ownership. The decision leaves Toyota as the only manufacturer now committed to fielding Hypercar team, at least for now. Right now, it appears that roadgoing versions of the Valkyrie, which were expected to retail for up to $3 million, are going to get built. As for racing, Aston Martin said it will continue fielding the Vantage GTE in the WEC’s Pro and Am GTE championship.