The FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) fires back into action this weekend for the penultimate round of the 2023 season, as three of Aston Martin’s multiple championship-winning Vantage GTE return to Fuji Speedway; traditionally a happy hunting ground for the famous Wings in the Far-East.
Aston Martin Racing partner teams D’station Racing, Heart of Racing (competing under the NorthWest AMR entry) and reigning LMGTE Am class champions TF Sport are all entered in this weekend’s 6 Hours of Fuji, as Vantage seeks to record its first win in its final season of WEC competition.
Fuji has frequently been a scene of glory for the British ultra-luxury sportscar manufacturer since the former grand prix venue was introduced to WEC in 2012. In total, Aston Martin has recorded seven WEC class victories in Japan, including double-class wins in 2013 and 2019. It is also the venue where the current generation Vantage GTE recorded its first pole position, in 2018.
Since then, there have been two more pole positions that were converted into lights-to-flag victories – including last year, when TF Sport’s Ben Keating, Henrique Chaves and Marco Sørensen consolidated their championship lead with the Vantage GTE’s most recent WEC class win (and it’s third in Japan).
TF Sport, and its drivers Ahmad Al Harthy (OMN) and Michael Dinan (USA), supported by works driver Charlie Eastwood (IRL), heads to the 6 Hours of Fuji on Sunday having inched closer to victory through this season. The team has been a front-runner almost everywhere in 2023, and two podiums in the last three races mean its embroiled in a fierce fight for the runner-up spot in the championship, sitting just two points off second place.
D’station Racing, which enjoys technical support from TF Sport, returns to home soil determined to repeat its podium glory of 2023. The team’s headquarters is based less than 10 miles from Fuji, and Satoshi Hoshino (JPN), team manager Tomonubu Fujii and young British rising star Casper Stevenson are seeking to use the local support to boost their chances of a third WEC podium finish for the team.
The Heart of Racing [HoR] returns to WEC for the first time since Le Mans with its regular line-up of team principal Ian James (GBR), IMSA race-winner Alex Riberas (ESP) and Daniel Mancinelli (ITA), as it makes its Japanese racing debut. Having taken over the #98 NorthWest AMR entry vacated when Paul Dalla Lana retired from the sport prior to Spa, the US-based team has learned fast in WEC. It’s finished both races it has contested and recorded a strong sixth place in the eventful weather-afflicted 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
The Vantage GTE is a prototype version of the British-built race car derived from Aston Martin’s critically-acclaimed ultra-luxury sportscar and shares the same aluminium body-frame and a specially-tuned version of the four-litre V8 turbo-charged production engine. In all its variants (GTE, GT3 and GT4), Vantage is phenomenally successful, and is currently the reigning Rolex 24 at Daytona and a three-times 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner, as well as defending champion in the GT Am class of both the FIA WEC and IMSA. The Vantage GTE, introduced in 2018, has recorded 12 victories at WEC level and has won two world championship titles.
Huw Tasker, AMR Head of Partner Racing, said: “We are delighted to see three Aston Martin Vantage GTEs contesting the 6 Hours of Fuji, a venue Aston Martin has traditionally enjoyed competitive form at over the years. TF Sport has been in the mix all season, and it feels like only a matter of time before the team is rewarded with a victory. D’station Racing is always strong on home soil, and we’re excited to see what Heart of Racing can achieve on the team’s first visit to Fuji. There are only two races left for this iteration of the wonderful Vantage GTE, which has proved so successful, and yet we see no signs of it fading in competitiveness and we are hoping that it can bow out on the high its pedigree deserves.”
Official practice for the 6 Hours of Fuji begins on Friday, 8 September, at 1100 local time, with the race beginning at 1100 on Sunday. Follow details of the event via the official WEC website and App.