Aston Martin is increasing its efforts as it aims to join the top classes of sportscar racing in less than a year. Here’s where the reborn Valkyrie LMH project stands.

It was in the summer of 2019 when Aston Martin first announced its plan to build a Hypercar to the World Endurance Championship’s LMH rules.

The intention was to enter the championship from 2021, but it won’t be until next year before the Valkyrie lines up on the grid at the Circuit de la Sarthe for the Le Mans 24 Hours.

A lot has happened since Aston first laid out its ambition of returning to the top echelon of sportscar racing after a gap of more than a decade.

Firstly, the formation of the LMDh formula undermined Aston’s plans to base its LMH model on the road-going Valkyrie. Then, the LMH regulations were changed as part of the convergence process for WEC and the IMSA Sportscar Championship - something that also forced both Toyota and Peugeot to alter their cars after their respective entries into Hypercar in 2021 and mid of 2022 season respectively.

Then there was the small matter of Aston Martin Lagonda being taken over by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll, marking the start of a new chapter in the British brand’s history.

Under its new ownership, Aston started putting more focus on its newly-branded Formula 1 team, a separate entity owned by Stroll, leaving the Hypercar programme on the backburner.

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That meant the Valkyrie project was initially postponed in 2020 before being put on hold indefinitely.

While Aston never officially confirmed that the programme has been shelved, it was widely known that the marque had internally decided to scupper its plans to return to Le Mans.

For a long time it appeared Aston Martin would end up missing the new golden era of sportscar racing, along with its former LMP1 rival Audi.

That was until the end of last year, when the programme was revived by Aston Martin and its partner GT team Heart of Racing, with the aim of entering both WEC and IMSA in 2025.

One significant change from the original 2019 plan was a shift away from running road-based machinery, with Aston now building a bespoke hypercar to current LMH rules.

That means the new Valkyrie LMH that will contest both Le Mans and Daytona 24 Hours next year won’t be developed around the production model of the same name. Instead, it will be based on the Valkyrie AMR Pro, a track-only supercar that carries technology from the stillborn LMH racer.

It’s an interesting choice from Aston Martin, and one that allows it to fast-track the development of the car and catch up to the competition, who will have a head start of several years by the time the car makes its debut in IMSA and the WEC in 2025.

A number of entities are involved in designing, developing and testing the Valkyrie LMH. This includes the Prodrive/Aston Martin Racing team, the new Aston Martin Performance Technologies division as well as the US-based Heart of Racing team, which has already found a lot of success with the Vantage GT3 in the IMSA series.

It has also partnered with the European arm of Multimatic, giving it access to several engineers from the Ford GT programme from 2016-19.

Multimatic is also heavily involved in developing and running Porsche’s 963 LMDh car, which can only benefit Aston as it prepares for one of its most ambitious sportcar racing projects in history.

Aston has begun working from a new workshop in Brackley, which puts it right next door to Multimatic’s offices as well a short drive away from its F1/Performance Technologies divisions at Silverstone.

With a number of recruitments planned until the end of the year, Aston expects to have the required workforce to pull off an LMH programme.

Asked for the latest update on the hypercar project, Heart of Racing team boss Ian James told Autosport: “We have had a mule car that has been out testing a little bit. We are starting to build the team up. We recently leased some premises in Brackley in the UK for the WEC programme, next to Multimatic Europe.

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“We are going to work in collaboration with Multimatic Europe and a couple of key people from that programme from the old Ford GT days are going to be involved.

“You will see [renowned engineer] George-Howard Chappel in some Heart of Racing colours here soon, and then we will grow that group from five or six core people now to probably 35-40 people in the coming nine months.”

Aston began its test programme earlier in January by putting the Valkyrie AMR Pro on track at Silverstone. The British marque will continue to test more developments on the mule car in the coming months, before a more definitive version of the LMH contender that will race in Hypercar and GTP is ready for testing.

Aston plans to complete as much as 15,000km of testing before the Daytona enduro next January, but is aware that it faces a tough job to make up the deficit it faces to the incumbent manufacturers.

“We are going to do as much testing as we can,” said James. “Everything is on schedule right now. Hopefully in the middle of the year we will have a car on track that will be very close to what the final car will be.

“We will try and do between 10 and 15 thousand kilometres in the lead up to next season. Obviously we are never going to be able to catch up for the lost time against the other manufacturers, but again it will come off the drawing board fast.”

Heart of Racing will also play a crucial role in the project, not least through a state-of-the-art simulator that can help speed up the development of the car.

Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR PRO at Goodwood FoS 2023

“We have a close relationship with Aston Martin Lagonda,” James explained. “Obviously being the factory team is a great honour, but even at this stage we are already involved in it.

“We are very fortunate to have an-up-to-date driver-in-loop system in Phoenix in our workshop.

“We are already getting the car modelled into that and we will start testing in the virtual world. So we are walking hand in hand the whole way.”

Long-time Aston Martin driver Darren Turner has been in charge of putting the first miles on the car and laying the foundation of the LMH programme.

No development drivers have been assigned for the project so far, but Aston’s roster already includes some top names that are also likely to be a part of the race line-up.

Danish duo Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim are seen as obvious candidates, while Ross Gunn and Jonny Adam could also be in the running.

“Darren Turner has done a little bit of the initial running in the mule car,” revealed James. “He won't be one of the race drivers but he is a Heart of Racing guy as well as an Aston Martin Racing guy.

“He has been doing some of the mundane work of calibration and stuff like that and then we will definitely see some Heart of Racing and factory guys rotate through in the development stages.”