Yes, like its road-going sibling from which it is derived, the 2018 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE faces similar aesthetic, a-hem, issues. But this is a race car. A race car that will take part in the FIA World Endurance Championship next season. And, when it comes to racing, effectiveness counts more than aesthetics. It’s sort of like submachine guns. Sure, it might not be as appealing as a Thompson or an MP 40, but a Sten Gun can still do the business, y’know?
The Sten of choice seen here is the new Vantage GTE from Aston Martin, set for FIA’s GTE class at places like Le Mans and Spa and The ‘Ring. The main competition for the new Vantage GTE will be cars like the BMW M3, Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, Ferrari 488 GTE, and Porsche 911 variants. In other words, these are the most road-car-like competitors you’ll see at Le Mans. Also, the racing is fun to watch since the competition is so close and the racing is so tough. Still, Aston Martin has done more than okay with previous versions of this car, chalking up 37 international race victories, including two Le Mans 24 Hour class wins.
Power & Performance
The engine is a force-fed V8 that runs bespoke BorgWarner turbos with integrated electric wastegates. The exhaust system is a full inconel setup made by an outfit called Akrapovic. No, I didn’t know who they were either. Turns out they’re Slovenian, and all they do is make exhaust systems. Fun note: Inconel is a nickel/steel alloy with extremely high heat resistance and was the same stuff they made the X-15 rocket plane out of.
The mill has a dry sump lubrication system and its installation in the actual race car is further back and lower than the street version, all for better track performance. The output figures are stated as “power >400 kW* and torque >700 Nm*” which translates into 536 ponies and 516 lb-ft. o’torque in old money. Two things of note: First, those figures are “greater than” because no race team is going to give away accurate power figures, and you can also reckon that Aston Martin is sandbagging with those numbers. And two, I have no idea what those asterisks are for. Aston Martin never explains them, but I thought I’d include them. What an odd thing for them to do.
Moving on to the driveline and transmission, there’s plenty to geek out about here. Of course it’s rear-wheel drive, because handling. There’s also traction control thrown in (because today’s drivers are a bunch of prima donnas). The transmission is a six-speed sequential unit made by Xtrac, fed by an Alcon motorsport multi-plate clutch about the size of a cheeseburger. There is a mechanical limited-slip differential with externally adjustable pre-load (a nice touch), and since this is 2017, there’s a semi-automatic paddle shift gear change coupled to a direct acting electric gear shift actuator. Did you catch all that?
The carbon fiber propshaft saves weight and increases responsiveness.
Chassis & Suspension
The chassis is a lightweight aluminium deal that uses the latest Vantage production car as a starting point. It is fitted with a steel roll cage to meet FIA safety standards and also sports an on-board, high-speed pneumatic jack for quicker pit stops. The suspension is as traditional as it is adjustable, with double wishbones front and rear, adjustable anti-roll bars, and custom Öhlins five-way adjustable dampers (shock absorbers to us Americans). Like all British cars, this thing can Handle with a capital H.
The body and aero bits are all carbon fiber, of course. The underside of the car is entirely flat and tailed with a carbon fiber splitter and diffuser. That huge rear wing is also carbon fiber and adjustable.
Ride & Handling
The steering is electro-hydraulic and power-assisted, which kind of rankles purists but literally every driver out there dearly loves, since wrestling with one of these things for 24 hours, even with a power assist is a work out. The steering wheel, which is carbon fiber, is a quick release type, both to aid with driver changes and also having to bail out if things get, um, sticky. The fuel system is the FIA mandated size of 100 liters and is a full-blown fuel cell, of course.
The wheels are huge and light: forged magnesium up front (12.5” x 18”) and forged magnesium in the rear (13.0” x 18”). The boss meats are supplied by Michelin.
The stoppers are very, very impressive. Everything is made by Alcon with monobloc six-piston calipers and wide, ringed ventilated brake discs up front. Out back, the Aston GTE sports monobloc six-piston calipers with Alcon ventilated rear brake discs. At all four corners there are integrated caliper temperature and pad wear sensors, a handy thing in a 24 hour race. The pedal box is floor-mounted and adjustable (a nice touch). Of course the front and rear brake bias is driver adjustable.
The cockpit is Spartan yet extremely cool. The pilot sits in a RaceTech FIA 8862 safety seat and is held in place by a Schroth six-point safety harness. In case things get too hot, there’s a Lifeline FIA 8865 fire extinguisher. The dash is a Cosworth driver display with shift lights; there is a rearview camera and a Bosch collision avoidance radar system (which is one of those things that beeps at you milliseconds before you clout that Ford GT you thought you were clear of). Air conditioning? Surprisingly yes! The FIA/ACO mandated this a while back (you have no idea how hot it is inside one of these things). There is also an electrically-operated “driver drinks system” to help prevent fatigue.
The whole shootin’ match tips the scales with a dry weight of 1,245 kilos or around 2,800 pounds, give or take. It is worth noting this is the regulated base weight. If you were to take the ballast out, the 2018 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE would tip the scales considerably lighter than that.
Will this thing win? Maybe. A definite maybe. My money is on the Ferrari 488 (for sentimental reasons) or the C7.R Vettes (for practical reasons), but I wouldn’t count Aston Martin out.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.