Customer racing has become a vital part of the fiscal puzzle for many manufacturers around the world, creating products which give a motorsport-fuelled income stream has been integral to the success of a number of formulae and Series too, with the GT3 and GT4 classes proof positive that there is a truly global market for GT and endurance racing.
Now over a decade into the GT3 and GT4 eras we’re well into the next cycle of models getting the GT racing treatment, Audi, Porsche and Lamborghini amongst the next batch to commit to evolutionary versions of their current racing platform.
For Aston Martin though the transition is rather more distinct, and is perhaps the biggest change for the recently listed company in its modern era GT racing history.
Transitioning from their hugely successful series of cars in GT2, GT2, and latterly GTE, GT3, and GT4, all of which utilised the company’s VH platform (DB9 and Vantage), the new order is represented by a shift to the new Vantage, not only with a new chassis but also with a radically different family of engines, the heavily Aston Martin modified but AMG-built twin-turbo V8s.
First out of the stocks was the GTE version of the car, campaigned from the start of the 2018/19 FIA WEC by the factory team, and now, after developmental and BoP-inflicted challenges, beginning to show its abilities.
And now the GT3 version is close to launch for customer racing, this coming after its competitive debut, first with a surprise appearance at the Aston Martin Festival races at the Le Mans 24 Hours (though DSC believes that this car was run in a partial ‘hybrid’ GT3/GTE spec (pictured top).
There was then a successful outing at VLN8, this time in full GT3 spec. running in SPX, the car ultimately competitive, again in the hands of the factory team.
The competitive debut of the car, or more precisely cars plural, has yet to be officially confirmed by Aston Martin but suffice it to say at the moment that it will happen before the main European season next year.
In the background commercial interest in the new car is running very positively, new GT3s are understood to be all but confirmed for British GT (TF Sport’s initial plans are already in the public domain, but there will be more!), but also Blancpain Endurance , and likely Sprint too, International GT Open, ADAC GT Masters and Super GT!
There are GT4 orders in the books too, more in due course about that.
Aston Martin though has another arrow in their quiver, one that is currently only matched in the marketplace by Ferrari with their 488. Their new car can, relatively simply, be converted between GT3, and GTE spec, and that opens up a range of potential programmes for prospective customers.
How simple is the transition?
Well, rather happily, that question has already been answered via the efforts of the Works team. The testing programme for the GT3 prototype was interrupted last month by the need for tyre testing for the GTE programme, but with the factory cars containerised and en route for their Asian WEC outings, the only available option was to convert the test car to GTE spec.
That process – involving disconnection of the ABS system, an engine change, fuel tank change and switch of bodywork, took five Aston Martin mechanics and engineers, just five hours.
The car then tested as a GTE, and was then converted back to GT3 spec in time to be trucked to the Nürburgring for its VLN outing. Again the same team achieved the reverse-engineered task in five hours.
So now an Aston Martin customer has the possible opportunity to contest races in GT3 spec, and GTE/ GTLM spec, with precisely the same car.
And that has the potential for significant savings IF the calendar allows the possible dual programmes!
DSC understands that the base cost of a new GT3 Aston Martin Vantage is c.£425k GBP, that translates to c.£550k GBP for a car fully equipped for competition.
Whilst the cost of the GTE spec car is firmly “price on application”, the reality is that the cost is likely to be around 50% more – say £750k GBP.
The conversion kit is, equally likely, to be the difference between the two specs – some £200k GBP.
Leaving aside the racing reality of spares packages etc the potential savings for a single car team, therefore, are something over £500k GBP over the cost of having to purchase both a GT3 AND a GTE spec car, with additional savings across a two-car team.
It’s worth saying at this point that Aston Martin was amongst the strongest exponents of the drive, some years now past, to allow an easier transition between the two basic specifications.
Their current programme shows clearly that the benefits they felt were there to be drawn were not forgotten.
There will likely now be keen interest both inside Aston Martin and far beyond, whether new opportunities translate into new business, for Aston Martin Racing!