Beechdean AMR owner Andrew Howard said that he was “bowled over” to receive an invitation to enter the 84th Le Mans 24 Hours in his team’s first season of the European Le Mans Series.
Almost two months on from the ACO’s press conference in Paris, where the entry list was released, Howard admitted that the news still hadn’t quite sunk in, describing it as “all a bit surreal.”
The no. 99 car will run in the GTE-Am category as a full Aston Martin works effort, with Howard expected to be joined by the Silver-rated Alex MacDowall plus one other driver. AMR factory driver Jonny Adam, who has raced with Howard since 2011, will join Richie Stanaway and Fernando Rees in the 97 GTE-Pro entry.
“We’re racing with Aston Martin Racing who have done many Le Mans before, so for them it’s certainly something they’re very well-versed in setting up and sorting out, but for me it’s still all a bit surreal,” the double British GT champion told Racing.GT.
“It’s something I always said I wanted to do. After I won the championship in 2013, at one of the prize-giving events Allan McNish asked me ‘what is your goal?’ and I told him it was to drive a works Aston Martin at Le Mans. I could have gone there earlier by going into an LMP2 car, but my goal was always to race an Aston and I’m lucky to have the opportunity to race with the works team. I was bowled over when everything was announced, I genuinely didn’t think we’d get an entry.
“Even though we’re not in the same car, Jonny and I did the intensive simulator day together and drove back with big smiles on our faces. Once we get into the race season proper, it will start to hit home and then obviously with a bang on June 5th when we go down for the Test Day.”
Howard views 2016 as the beginning of a three-year plan, by which time he hopes to be a full-season competitor in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Ahead of his first visit to La Sarthe, his goal is simply to reach the finish and learn as much about the event as possible before returning for a renewed assault next year.
“My aim would hopefully be to do a good job in ELMS for two years and then go to WEC after that; this is a journey to Le Mans where you don’t want to make a fool out of yourself,” he added. “Le Mans is about finishing it the first time you do it, there’s no question about that. Our expectation is that if we finish it will be a victory.”