Aston Martin’s Vice President David King insists that the ACO-IMSA convergence announcement at Daytona, which makes the forthcoming LMDh cars eligible to race in the FIA WEC has caused it to ‘postpone’ its Valkyrie Le Mans Hypercar programme.
King spoke to the media for the first time since its announcement earlier this week, today at CoTA to provide further clarity on the situation surrounding its change in plans.
“It’s very disappointing for us for you for everybody involved,” he explained. “But we’re not making excuses or not blaming anybody that just some facts have changed. We made a genuine commitment last year to bring Valkyrie to the FIA WEC. That’s a big thing for any company to commit to a major motorsport programme like that. It’s a big investment. There’s always an element of risk in it. And of course, we had to get a board approval for that last year.”
King dismissed the rumours and the reasoning given in the ACO/WEC’s statement in the fallout of the announcement, which amongst other things, stated that financial difficulties were to blame. King says that when Aston signed up to LMH, it did so on the condition that a customer car programme with the Valkyrie would help fund it in the long run. With LMDh cars set to become eligible for the WEC, King feels that the chances of selling customer Valkyries have been reduced.
“That board approval was based on an assumption that more sportscar brands would come into hypercar, and the class would flourish, not maybe not in year one, but in year two, and we’d see a golden era of top-end sportscar racing.
“We think that the market for customer race cars is for us is damaged by that (convergence) because every other racing Valkyrie is an expensive car because it comes from a road car which costs two and a half million pounds. Now private teams will be able to, based on what we think other competitors to do, are going to do will be able to buy premium branded LMDh cars that are much cheaper to buy and cheaper to run.”
King was also keen to address the talk about the programme being ‘over’ rather than ‘postponed’. He is adamant that the programme has been paused. Aston Martin, he says, will now have to further evaluate the situation after the technical regulations are released at Sebring. He said that Aston Martin would also likely be involved in the IMSA Steering Committee meetings too.
“We need some time to evaluate it,” he said. “(Convergence) It changes the conditions on which we got the project approved. So we have to take a pause and decide whether we should carry on with that or look at LMDh or look at staying in GTs. This is nothing to do with Lawrence Stroll coming in, nothing to do with the fact that we’ve had a tougher than expected financial year. It’s as straight as I can be.”
Aston Martin remained almost completely silent on the status of its programme from the week it was announced until it revealed that it had ‘postponed’ it. However, King revealed that plenty of progress had been made on the car before the decision was taken to step back.
“(Aston Martin is) a long way advanced with the car, it would have had to have run within the next couple of months to make the start of the season,” he said. “We were about to build a car.”
Going forward, in addition to further assessing the situation, Aston Martin is set to focus on its forthcoming F1 programme in 2021, and its GT racing commitments. King wouldn’t give any specific details regarding the future of its factory GTE programme.
“I’d rather wait and announce our longer-term GT plans when we are ready to announce,” he said.