Aston Martin Racing clinched the GTE Am drivers’ and teams’ titles in the final round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship in Bahrain on Saturday. Capping an astonishing season that included seven pole positions and four victories for the crew of the #98 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE, Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy covered themselves in glory on the series’ final visit to the Bahrain International Circuit.
Having started from pole position, the #98 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE delivered a storming drive to take an emphatic victory of the season in the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain, securing a dream result for everyone in the team and those back at the factory in the UK.
After coming out on top in a fierce battle with the #98 car’s chief championship rival in the first stint, Lauda handed over to Dalla Lana who drove two brilliant stints to keep the car in control of its destiny. Aston Martin Racing stalwart Lamy had the honour of bringing the car home at the flag having built up an indomitable lead in his two stints.
Afterwards, an emotional Lamy said: “This is a dream come true. We’ve been trying so hard for four years now and finally we’ve won. We were so strong in the past taking so many pole positions and race wins even when we were not in the fastest car on the grid. For so many seasons we’ve missed out on that feeling of winning a championship but now we’ve got that feeling and I’m incredibly happy. I just want to say that it’s a big honour to win this championship and to do that with Aston Martin. This is the most important one for me and to take this championship alongside Mat and Paul is really special. I’ve raced with this team now for many years and I have a lot of love for this brand”.
For Dalla Lana, the first Canadian to win an FIA WEC title, this championship victory represented four years of hard grind. “To describe the feeling of winning this championship in one word… finally! I’ve seen Nicki and Marco enjoy this moment last year and Darren, Jonny and Daniel at Le Mans this year, so I can appreciate what they went through because this really is complete and total satisfaction. It’s so hard to get here, you need hundreds of people behind you but to have finally made it feels great. It’s going to have to sink in over some time but for now I just want to really enjoy this moment. Thank you so much to the team for making this championship victory a reality”.
It was also the first time that Lauda had won a world championship and Mat admitted he was ‘over the moon’ with the result. “With Paul and Pedro we’ve won 12 races in the three years that I’ve been in this car and the championship has always been our main goal and finally we’ve done it! That was a tough race,” he said. “The only way the Dempsey Porsche could win the championship was if we had a problem and they won but I took my time in my opening stint without taking any risks to make the pass. Once I got past him, the car felt great and I was really able to open the gap, drive smart and just make sure not to make any mistakes. The last hour was so tough to watch but to watch Pedro cross the line was an absolute dream come true”.
In GTE Pro, Aston Martin Racing was unable to repeat the success of 2016, where Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen clinched the world crown, as the V8 Vantage GTE bowed of the Pro category. Having shown excellent pace in qualifying, ultimately the challenge of the #97 and #95 crews faded in the race to sixth and seventh positions in class.
“It was always going to be difficult when you have to run four sets of tyres over a six-hour race,” said Darren Turner, who shares the #97 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE with Jonny Adam. “Once the first hour is done you don’t really know where you are because everyone is going to split their strategies to suit themselves and it is not so easy to understand the pace relative to the others. There were some good points during the race and I certainly enjoyed it but the highlight for everyone in the team this weekend is the performance by #98. Another textbook race by those guys and it’s just so nice that they have got the title and every member of the team will be celebrating hard with them tonight.”
Paul Howarth, Team Principal Aston Martin Racing said, “It’s brilliant to still be world champions as a team. Having conceded the FIA GTE Pro titles, we’ve won the GTE Am titles for Aston Martin Racing. Seven poles, four wins, the Am class and GTE Pro wins in Le Mans and Mexico. It’s the icing on the cake for the whole team and everyone involved in Aston Martin Racing. All the partners, Dunlop, everybody back at Gaydon, winning world championships don’t come easy. It’s an immense moment for the people who support the team including Paul Dalla Lana and it’s a big moment for Pedro and Mathias too. They have stuck with it, and come close so many times.
We decided from the outset that we were here to race. You can make so many errors driving around for position, and then you force an error and get in the wrong position on the track. So the plan was to lead from the front, and they committed to that. Once Mathias took that leap forward he got back on par with everybody else and then just carried a very strong pace which is a credit to all three of them, the car and everybody in the team. We then carried a strong pace to the end to let the opposition know there was no chance of winning.
The V8 Vantage GTE has bowed out in real style. It’s a Le Mans winner, a world championship winner for the second year in a row. It can be recognised as one of the greatest cars in GT racing and going forward the next generation of race cars have a hard act to follow.”
John Gaw, Managing Director Aston Martin Racing added: “I’m so pleased for Paul because he’s tried so hard and he’s been working for this for four years. That makes winning the championship all the more special. He’s a great team player and he made the difference again today with his strong middle stint, just as he made the difference in qualifying. Mathias drove well to put the car in the right position at the start and Pedro delivered what was needed to bring home the title. I’m very happy and proud of everyone at Aston Martin Racing tonight and the team behind the #98 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE deserve all the credit.
Now we get to celebrate tonight and then on Tuesday we launch the next chapter in Aston Martin Racing’s GT story and that’s incredibly exciting”.