<
>

Aston Martin puts planned WEC, Le Mans entry on hold

Aston Martin released a track-only version of the Valkyrie hypercar in March 2018. Red Bull Racing

Aston Martin is putting on hold a planned entry into the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and Le Mans 24 Hours with its Valkyrie hypercar.

The British sportscar maker said on Wednesday that this was due to proposed rule changes, although Le Mans organisers suggested the company's business situation had played a part.

"This decision means that the Aston Martin Valkyrie Hypercar will not make its WEC debut at Silverstone in August 2020 or compete in the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans," the company said in a statement.

"Aston Martin will now pause as it considers whether to continue in any future prototype class."

The Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) -- which runs Le Mans -- and the U.S.-based International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) announced last month they were harmonising the proposed Hypercar class. This will allow IMSA prototypes to compete for outright victory at Le Mans and the WEC in 2021-22.

Aston Martin Racing will continue to compete in a lower tier of sportscar racing with its Vantage GTE.

Reacting to the company's announcement, the ACO said it was "perhaps not unexpected in light of the persistent rumours over the last six months concerning the fragility of the brand's exposure in the rapidly evolving automotive market."

It said it is still confident the Hypercar platform remained the right long-term solution for the WEC.

Sales of Aston Martin's luxury sports cars have declined since the company floated on the London Stock Exchange in October 2018, putting the company's shares and finances under sustained pressure.

Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll bought a stake at the end of January, with that F1 team set to change its name to Aston Martin next season.

"Aston Martin's ambition to compete for the overall victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans remains undiminished, but it is only right that we reassess our position in light of a significant change in the landscape that was not anticipated when we committed last year," chief executive Andy Palmer said in the statement.

"We entered Aston Martin Valkyrie in WEC and at Le Mans with the understanding that we would be competing with similar machinery and like-minded manufacturers."

The Valkyrie was created as part of a technology partnership between Aston Martin and Red Bull Advanced Technologies. The sportscar maker are title sponsors of the Red Bull F1 team until the end of this year. Following Lawrence Stroll's purchase of a 20 percent stake in the company, the Racing Point team -- owned by Stroll -- will become Aston Martin for the 2021 F1 season.