Chatting with the President over a coffee!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Another surprising (albeit brief) attendee at last week’s briefing from Aston Martin Racing at the Prodrive factory was David King, the recently appointed President of Aston Martin Racing.

Never having previously had too long for a chat with such an influential figure at Aston Martin (mainly because we only seemed to meet in the busy and noisy pit lane of Le Mans), our 20-minute or so semi-exclusive but very informal chat over a buffet lunch and a coffee in one of the meeting rooms at Prodrive produced an invaluable insight into where AMR  may be going over the next year or so.

Firstly, King paid a whole-hearted tribute to all those at Prodrive (past and present) for what had been achieved together over their fourteen year relationship – good times and bad – and just how their new collective racing programme and development was directly influencing Aston Martin Lagonda’s own road car building programme back at Gaydon.

Bouncing between bites of his sandwich, slurps of drink and a whole plethora of questions from every angle about each and every series or potential series possible, he calmly reiterated that the World Endurance Championship (including Le Mans) remained the primary focus for all of AMR’s racing activity as a factory supported entity.

He went on to described how winning the Pro Class at Le Mans last year in the outgoing iteration of Vantage GTE was something of a personal high for himself and how it was a wonderful way of wrapping up the racing history for that car and how he looked forward to watching the new GTE race for the first time in what will be an ultra competitive class.

The topic of the American markets was soon raised, and King confirmed that he wanted to see at least one car (no specification of class being made) being entered into the 2019 IMSA Championship as either a true factory effort or as part of a factory supported customer programme should the right programme and/or funds be available to make that happen.

With Sebring having just taken place, the importance of the American markets to Aston Martin was clear – not just from a race programme point of view but also for their road car endeavours and he wanted to rekindle that connection between AMR and the American GT racing circuit for sure.

These comments were strong personal desires rather than definitive team plans.

He also described how the team had actively decided not to participate in any early IMSA endurance races this year (to which he was directly referring to the Daytona 24 and Sebring 12Hr races) with their new GTE platform (despite what BMW are doing with their own new GTE platform) as it was decided that testing in Europe would be far more beneficial to them without any early, undue risk over there.

How wise that decision turns out to be - only time will tell he admitted!

Moving back to the European markets he went on to say that it was likely that AMR would enter just a single factory supported Vantage GT3 into the 2018 N24 race from the Nordschleife just so that the team retains its presence at the event ahead of the new Vantage GT3 coming on line at the end of 2018.

Whilst he conceded that any possibility of an overall win for the aging GT3 was 'slim', the appeal of snatching that title away from the dominate German OEM’s remained ‘more than appealing!’

The VLN series at the Nordschleife (which starts this weekend) would also only be supported through customer programmes and mostly via their recently renamed AMR Performance Centre which is based at the circuit. His Special Operations department's Vantage GT8 creation was apparently in high demand with customers who wanted more than what a GT4 could offer but didn’t necessarily want to go as fast as a GT3.

He also didn’t necessarily discount us from seeing any more of his department's ‘specials’ compete in that series at some point this year!

Last year we also saw certain familiar AMR drivers qualify for their Nordschleife licence via the VLN series but have yet to see any announcement for them actually need one, so we shall wait and see what happens with them over the first couple of races.

Finally, responding to other peoples questions about the Valkyrie, he again shot down any suggestion that we would see the recently unveiled Valkyrie AMR Pro as part of any race series anywhere in the world any time soon but he did concede that he was keeping a mindful eye upon any possible ACO/FIA regulation changes that would make this kind of car eligible again.

Our question of whether or not we would see such a beast lead the field away at the start of this years Aston Martin Racing Festival at Le Mans was answered - but in a yes and no kind of way!!

Photo credits - Aston Martin / Nick Dungan/Aston Martin Racing / VLN

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