Reigning FIA World Endurance GT champions Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen are relishing the “magical feeling” of getting to share an Aston Martin Vantage race car again in this weekend’s TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.
The Aston Martin factory pair have not driven together since the 8 Hours of Bahrain last December when they clinched their second WEC crown at the 2019-20 season finale.
Shortly after that race, Aston Martin called time on its factory GTE-Pro race team program but retained most of its factory drivers for its global customer racing activities.
However, neither of the world champions ended up with a full-season Aston Martin drive for 2021, largely because the British manufacturer’s decision to wind down its factory squad came after many entries had already been confirmed.
Thiim is making his first Aston Martin start of the year at Spa having competed in other cars for Phoenix Racing as a side project, while Sorensen is taking part in only his second race of the year after piloting a Vantage GT3 in last month’s Silverstone 500.
The Danish duo are contesting Spa alongside IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona championship leader and fellow factory driver Ross Gunn.
Their one-off Pro-class entry is an AMR-supported customer effort from Garage 59, which also runs full-season Aston Martins in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Silver Cup and Pro-Am categories.
“After we took all the world championships, the WEC program got stopped, and then on top of that all the COVID stuff came,” Thiim told Sportscar365.
“It’s honestly an amazing, magical feeling to be together again here, going for a proper good lineup with ‘The Gunn’ as well. I’m really looking forward to this one.
“I’ve been really keen to get back in the car again: obviously I’ve done some stuff with Phoenix, but this is my family. I’m really happy and motivated to be sitting in a Pro car.
“The special guy [Sorensen] is my best friend, so we chat a lot on and off the track. We really enjoy it together but it’s been hard to meet up in private with the restrictions.
“But it’s great to be back. It’s all of the normal people, so it’s one big family. We’re getting back into the working routines really quickly.”
The one-off Garage 59 Pro entry is bringing back Prodrive/AMR staff members who guided Thiim and Sorensen’s No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE to its WEC triumph, including race engineer Evert van Doorn and head of performance Gustavo Beteli.
“In this high level of competition – you see it all the way down the pit road – you need competitive people not only on the track but also beside you,” explained Thiim.
“That just shows where this championship and race is going, with all the manufacturers pushing really hard. We’re here with the best people that Aston Martin could bring, and hopefully the best drivers as well, and we’ll see if we can get the job done.”
Sorensen added that he’s thrilled to return to a high-profile race with his long-time co-driver Thiim, and the rest of the former WEC factory crew.
The 30-year-old experienced a much longer idle period in early 2021 than Thiim, who contested part of the Asian Le Mans Series in a Phoenix Racing LMP2 Oreca before going on to represent the German team’s Audi GT3 program at the Nürburgring 24.
Sorensen spent the first six months of this year at home in Denmark, taking a break and also cycling to maintain his fitness.
“I’m super happy to be back,” he told Sportscar365. “The announcement with Aston didn’t come as a full surprise, but it came at a bad timing.
“So it’s nice that we get to do some proper racing for them again, coming here with a full Pro lineup and showing what the car can actually do.
“I know the car can be up where it needs to be. That’s what we are here to prove. The only thing we’re thinking about is making sure the car is there in the last couple of hours and fighting for the win. On the other hand, it’s also really nice to just be back in a car.
“I’ve driven so many laps in this car that after a few corners everything felt natural again.”
No Loss of Traction Despite Lengthy Break
Sorensen senses that both he and Thiim have not lost any of the momentum built during their world championship run, despite the abrupt end to that program and the break that followed.
“I don’t think there’s one day we don’t speak,” he said. “Me and Nicki have got really close through the years we’ve been racing.
“It’s been hard with all the traveling to just go and see each other because normally we would see each other every weekend. So it was hard to not see him for half a year, just by phone.
“But in the end, we’re here and everything is like we left it at Bahrain, so it’s a full push. We are fully back to normal. It’s the first time we have Ross with us, but he’s a super driver.
“We just have to finish the job: that’s the only thing in our head.
Both Thiim and Sorensen indicated that victory is within Garage 59’s range at Spa, despite it fielding the only Aston Martin in a top category that includes several multi-car and year-long efforts from the likes of Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche and Mercedes-AMG.
Thiim, Sorensen and Gunn set the second-fastest three-driver average in qualifying on Thursday evening, putting them in a strong position for Friday’s Super Pole shootout.
“I cannot see why we cannot be competitive,” suggested Thiim.
“We are up against the best in the business, manufacturer and driver-wise. We are here to win it; nothing else counts for us. We are not in a championship, so it’s all-in.”