Aston Martin Vantage GTE Dominates the Lone Star 6 Hours With Emphatic Double Victory in the USA


Austin, Sunday, 23 February, 2020

Aston Martin Racing recorded another famous double victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), following one of its most emphatic performances as a manufacturer over a single event. The British luxury sportscar brand dominated the Lone Star 6 Hours at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, winning both the GTE Pro and Am classes having set the standard all weekend. 

Danish duo Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen increased their WEC GTE Drivers’ Championship lead to 26 points over their nearest rival with a lights-to-flag victory from pole position in the #95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE. It was their third victory from five races in the 2019-2020 season, having also won in Fuji and Bahrain. Neither driver put a wheel wrong in an inch-perfect display of driving that kept them just out of reach of the opposition, including their team-mates Alex Lynn (GB) and Maxime Martin (BEL), who finished fourth. The result means that Aston Martin has a 32-point lead over nearest rivals Porsche in the Manufacturers’ standings.

The performance also capped a great start to the calendar year for the Vantage, on the nameplate’s 70th anniversary, and marked yet another success at COTA for Aston Martin which can now count eight class victories at the Formula 1 Grand Prix venue in six visits since 2013. 

"I can hardly believe what is happening right now," said Thiim. "The Aston Martin Vantage GTE is incredibly competitive and I knew it would be really strong at COTA. To take the win from pole is the perfect result for the car and the team and everyone did their job perfectly today. It’s a privilege to win for this brand and to help build its lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship.” 

Sørensen added: “The race was much tougher than it looked. The car was great to drive but the opposition was fast, so it was up to us to make sure we got the most from this package. Which everyone did. The pressure starts to build now with only three races left, but to be leading the championship is the best possible way to go to Sebring." 

The Vantage was equally dominant in the GTE Am class which was characterised by a race-long battle for supremacy between Aston Martin Racing partner team TF Sport and the works #98 car driven by Paul Dalla Lana (CDN), Darren Turner (GB) and Ross Gunn (GB). In the end, Salih Yoluc (TUR), Aston Martin Racing factory drivers Charlie Eastwood (GB) and Jonny Adam (GB), came out on top with their third win of the season, moving them to within two points of the championship lead. But second place for the #98 crew was no less than they deserved after a stunning double-stint by Dalla Lana who was still recovering from a recent leg injury. Finishing runner-up puts the works crew third in the championship, just 6.5 points off the lead. 

Aston Martin Racing Managing Director John Gaw added, “It’s not quite the perfect result, and for a long time it looked like it would be with both Vantage GTEs formation flying at the front of the Pro class. But for Nicki and Marco to increase their lead in the championship with an inch-perfect performance was extremely gratifying to witness. As was watching the two GTE Am Vantages fight for victory. Paul’s performance was exceptional this weekend, but TF Sport deserved their victory on a weekend where the Vantage GTE was the class of the field.”


The reigning champions Kévin Estre (France) and Michael Christensen (Denmark) concluded the six-hour race in Austin on second place in the GTE-Pro class. At the wheel of their Porsche 911 RSR, which is based on the high-performance 911 GT3 RS road-legal sports car, the pair were just 4.210 seconds off claiming victory after 173 laps without a single yellow phase. Their teammates Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) and Richard Lietz (Austria), however, were unlucky. A technical problem threw the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR three places down the field, with the pair ultimately taking the flag in seventh place in the GTE-Pro class. In the manufacturers’ classification, Porsche retains second place. In the GTE-Am class, Matteo Cairoli (Italy), Egidio Perfetti (Norway) and Germany’s Laurents Hörr clinched third place in the 2017-spec Porche 911 RSR fielded by the Project 1 squad.

Round five of the WEC in Austin was characterised by different tyre strategies and many duels. Under cloudy skies and in temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius, spectators were treated to a six-hour sprint event without a single safety car phase on the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). Taking up the race from the second grid spot, Estre and Christensen put in a spirited and flawless drive and were rewarded with second place. However, the race for the Silverstone winners Bruni and Lietz proved disappointing. While running in fourth place, Bruni suddenly found he could not change gears and rolled to the edge of the track. After resetting the electrical system, the gear shifting worked again. Still, to be on the safe side, the team replaced the battery at the next pit stop. The lost time relegated the Porsche 911 RSR back to seventh place in the GTE-Pro class.

Alexander Stehlig (Head of Operations FIA WEC)
“I have mixed feelings about this round. The number 92 car had a very good race, which resulted in a commendable second place. Unfortunately we experienced an electrical problem with our number 91 Porsche 911 RSR. The car stood at the side of the track and we had to change the battery. That cost us several positions and consequently many championship points.”

Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92)
“In terms of tyre choice, we chose a different strategy than most of our competitors today. We raced on used slicks for most of the time while our rivals ran new tyres and vice versa. That’s why we were sometimes ahead and sometimes behind. But we didn’t let that faze us and we simply focussed on the job at hand. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough to win and we were only four seconds off, but second place yields us important points for the championship.”

Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92)
“We got the best out of the car. The team did a flawless job and we drove a steady race. I hope we’ll be at the top of the podium again next time.”

Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91)
“Unfortunately, technology threw a spanner in the works today. It’s a real shame, especially so close to the end of the race. Still, the new 911 RSR is in its maiden season. We had the speed and the strategy to reach the podium today. We’ll do our utmost to be up the front again at the next race.”

Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91)
“The car ran well right from the start. Our rivals were able to pull clear a little on the straights, but we caught up on the narrow, technically demanding passages. The balance of our 911 RSR was excellent. The tyres still looked great after a double stint, and our strategy was perfect. Unfortunately we were hampered by the electrics. But Kevin and Michael’s good result demonstrate that the car has a lot of potential.”

Egidio Perfetti (Porsche 911 RSR #56)
“Basically the race went really well. We definitely could have implemented a different strategy to finish even further up the field, but third place with our new driver line-up is very good and I’m happy with it.”

Ferrari closed the Lone Star Le Mans, the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, with a podium finish in the LMGTE Pro class and fourth place in the LMGTE Am. The race proved difficult for the Prancing Horse cars even though James Calado secured an excellent third place in the Pro class.

LMGTE Pro. The six-hour race in Austin, Texas, saw AF Corse’s two 488 GTEs perform well enough despite a clear difference in performance with the race-winner, the Aston Martin of Thiim-Sørensen. An excellent Alessandro Pier Guidi and a tenacious James Calado – who triumphed here in 2017 – finished third. During his last stint, Calado engaged in a pulsating duel with Lynn’s Aston Martin which earned him the podium. The result didn’t turn out as expected, but the changing track conditions compromised the car’s balance.

Twin car no. 71 endured a challenging race with Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina at the wheel. While showing a slightly slower pace than their teammates, the Italo-Spanish crew were going well until, to avoid contact with a lapped car, the nose of the 488 GTE violently landed on a bollard on inside of a curve. Even though there was no visible damage, from then on, it was hard for the pair to keep tabs on the leading group. A fifth-place finish moves them up the rankings and provided useful data for the next race, the 1000 Miles of Sebring in mid-March.

François Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Nicklas Nielsen moved to the top of the class standings after their fourth-place in the Lone Star Le Mans behind the wheel of the 488 GTE no. 83 of AF Corse. They are two points ahead of their closest pursuers, Yoluc-Adam-Eastwood, who won the race. In the final stages, a fast Nielsen reduced the gap on Cairoli’s Porsche, then in third position, without however challenging the Italian driver for the podium. The other Ferraris finished further back, although some placings were affected by the penalties imposed during the six-hour race. Seventh place went to AF Corse no. 54, with Flohr-Castellacci-Fisichella, ahead of the Red River Sport trio, Grimes-Mowlem-Hollings, who put in a convincing performance, while Ishikawa-Cozzolino-Beretta finished tenth for MR Racing.

With three races to go, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado are still second in the standings on 83 points, 26 points behind Thiim-Sørensen, while Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina follow on 55 points. AF Corse and Collard-Perrodo-Nielsen lead the ranking in the LMGTE Am class on 85 points.

The next round of WEC takes place at Sebring, on Friday, 20 March, 2020. 

Race result
GTE-Pro class
1. Thiim/Sörensen (DK/DK), Aston Martin Vantage, 173 laps
2. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 172 laps
3. Calado/Pier Guidi (GB/I), Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, 172 laps
7. Lietz/Bruni (A/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 170 laps

GTE-Am class
1. Yoluc/Eastwood/Adam (TR/IRL/GB), Aston Martin Vantage, 170 laps
2. Turner/Dalla Lana/Gunn (GB/CDN/GB), Aston Martin Vantage, 170 laps
3. Perfetti/Hörr/Cairoli (N/D/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 170 laps
5. Campbell/Ried/Pera (AUS/D/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 169 laps
6. Wainwright/Barker/Watson (GB/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, 169 laps
9. Preining/de Leener/Curtis (A/B/USA), Porsche 911 RSR, 168 laps
11. Keating/Fraga/Bleekemolen (USA/BRA/NL), Porsche 911 RSR, laps