Corvette partnership opens new doors for TF Sport

A new chapter in TF Sport’s story is getting underway, with the team currently at Circuit of The Americas for its first test with a Corvette Z06 GT3.R.

For Tom Ferrier’s team, which has roots dating back to the late ’00s in the Renault Clio Cup single-make championship that supported the British Touring Car Championship, the excitement is palpable. Even during the briefest of trips to its garage at the European Le Mans Series meeting at Aragon last week in Spain, it was clear from the atmosphere in the garage that this is a team on the up and on the cusp of a new era.

TF Sport is a long-standing Aston Martin customer team, with multiple British GT, GTWC and FIA World Endurance Championship titles, and Le Mans wins with the British marque under its belt. Yet on the eve of the introduction of LMGT3 to the WEC and ELMS, it has decided to join Corvette for its first customer program of the GT3 era, which is set to feature a full global support network.


It was a bold move, prompting the immediate questions: “Why Corvette, and why now?”

“It was not a quick decision,” Ferrier told RACER during a lengthy sit-down when asked about the decision to switch brands.

“There were numerous aspects that led to it, car performance and business strategy. The Aston GTE car is a fantastic product and we can fill them up (with customer drivers) every year, but it’s no secret the GT3 car has always struggled a little bit, with BoP and the Pirelli tire. It’s never been a hugely strong car, and we can see that because we don’t sell all our seats so fast.

“So when the decision was made to adopt GT3 in the WEC, we started looking at all the options available. We know AMR is doing an evo kit, but at the time we did not know what this looked like or if it will be strong enough. From what I hear it’s heading in the right direction. But that was part of it, the performance of the car.

“A lot of it too was strategically thinking about how it’s working with entries. As soon as they said there would be priority if you’re with a manufacturer in the top class, that was a big swinging point for me.

“Prodrive (which operates Aston Martin Racing) is a business like us. We are a race team, but we know they are keen to run two cars and we would be keen to run two cars. And then you get into who will get those entries. Will it be us? I believed it probably would have been but the biggest thing was having an allegiance with a manufacturer fully embedded in Hypercar.”

Next year TF will compete with a pair of Z06 GT3.Rs, which it expects to be delivered in January before embarking on a pre-season test program ahead of the WEC Prologue in Qatar. Later in the year, TF will take delivery of a third car, which it currently has no concrete plans for. The only place Ferrier has ruled out competing is IMSA, at least in 2024.

“We are the exclusive Corvette WEC team for two years but it doesn’t mean we can’t do Asian Le Mans, for instance,” Ferrier said. “The trouble is the freight — you don’t have a lot of options to do a lot else. Maybe we try and do something like the Spa 24.”

Ferrier also feels his team could get involved in an Intercontinental GT Challenge Pro effort from Corvette, too. “I’d like to think we are in a good position to support that and help grow the customer side,” he said.

At first glance, GT3 racing is saturated, with the number of current manufacturers in double figures and countless places to compete. But, as many prospective teams looking to step into the marketplace are increasingly finding, selecting the right partner and sourcing cars (particularly brand-new or future models) is proving to be a significant challenge for 2024 and beyond.

For a team like TF Sport, which is currently in the FIA WEC’s GTE Am class and is looking to return in 2024 as a GT3 team, there are very few options. The majority of manufacturers currently in Hypercar that expect to have a presence in the WEC have already selected partner teams. Those on the fringes are all deep in discussions too, despite having no reassurances that they will be granted entries.

That’s where Corvette comes in. Its GT3 program manager Christie Bagne previously told RACER that she developed a ranking system to help decide which customer teams to speak with for its first batch of cars. TF’s track record, on track and off, put it at the top of that list, at a time when Ferrier was having to consider his team’s future in the championship.

Ben Keating’s departure from TF Sport to Corvette for this year’s FIA WEC turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Tom Ferrier’s team. Motorsport Images

Corvette is looking for teams that can win races and titles and attract fan attention through engagement and marketability. When Ben Keating moved from TF Sport to Corvette for the 2023 season and sang its praises, the GM brand came knocking.

“When Ben told me he was going to Corvette for this year, he’d said to them he was sad to leave because we did a good job. He told them if they were looking for a team then they should be looking at us,” said Ferrier.

After initial discussions, Ferrier became convinced that it would be the right fit and thus decided to seriously consider the move. But, he revealed to RACER, it didn’t truly sink in that he would be competing with Corvette until he made the call to AMR to deliver the news.

“It was not an easy phone call at all,” he said. “I was more stressed over it than I thought I would be. We went to Detroit straight after Le Mans, which was great for jet lag I tell you! When they met everyone it became real.

“It was as well received as it could be. Adam Carter at AML, who looks over the GT programs, understood the decision. At the end of the day, it’s a business and it’s not emotional, really. But we’ve had endless success with them.”

This shift doesn’t necessarily spell the end of the TF Sport/Aston relationship, though. Ferrier said his team can continue to compete with Aston Martin in GT3 racing going forward as long as it isn’t in direct competition with GM, because Corvette can’t initially commit to supplying the team with four cars. This is a similar situation to Action Express driver Jack Aitken, who now has a full-season Cadillac factory drive in IMSA GTP for 2024 but is free to continue racing with other manufacturers in GT3 competition as long as Corvette isn’t on the grid.

While its new partnership with GM makes a possible move up to Hypercar with Cadillac a possible future option, TF Sport’s association with Aston Martin could also continue in some form. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Looking further afield from GT racing, TF Sport’s relationship with GM has the potential to unlock an even more ambitious program in the future. In addition to its newfound relationship with Corvette, TF is expanding its prototype racing effort in the background. Currently, it runs the Racing Team Turkey entry in ELMS LMP2 Pro/Am and has recently acquired a second ORECA 07 chassis for use in the ELMS next year. It plans to double up its effort in the ACO’s European series, which is set to see a significant increase in LMP2 numbers for 2024.

Beyond that, TF Sport has eyes on a future move to the FIA WEC’s Hypercar class down the line. Clearly, its new relationship with GM could provide a pathway to competing in the top class via Cadillac, especially as the V-Series.R Hypercar program now has a permanent base in Europe. The Ganassi WEC team is housed in a workshop formerly used by DTM outfit HWA in Stuttgart, Germany, which has ample space available to prep additional cars.

“Definitely,” Ferrier said when asked if TF Sport’s LMP2 expansion is a step towards a top-class bid in the future. “Part of the scaling up is to replace anything we lose Aston-wise. But clearly, LMDh and Hypercar are booming at the moment. If we do a good enough job in LMP2 and win championships, why are we any different from WRT and PREMA who have got those Hypercar gigs by doing a great job?

“It’s something we are keen for in the future for sure. It’s another string to our bow. If we can win LMP2 in ELMS and WEC in Corvette, then you’re in a prime seat. Who knows? There’s nothing wrong with putting your team in the best possible situation to make the most of an opportunity if it does arrive.”

Although TF Sport’s relationship with Corvette is still in its early stages, it is clear that Bagne and GM Motorsport boss Laura Wontrop Klauser have great expectations for their new partner, particularly at Le Mans where the Corvette brand has a long history of success.

“To take the baton is amazing,” Ferrier said. “They want us to build on that success — they even want us to take the air horn to Le Mans and carry on that tradition. That’s our responsibility now! They are really keen on fan interaction continuing too.

“This move is exciting because nobody knows where it could lead. Somewhere special, we hope. Getting a Cadillac one day would be nice but it’s not in discussion quite yet….”

“Sometimes I still feel we are the little team from Surrey (England). I appreciate we do a very good job and have had great success but I think in the WEC paddock it’s a massively high level and we have to continue to work hard to stay at that level. I still feel like TF is a small team when perhaps I shouldn’t.

“I fully respect guys like WRT, PREMA and the guys who have perhaps a different environment. But I believe we can do as good of a job as them given the right support and programs and that’s our aim.”

Story originally appeared on Racer