Aston Martin Racing secured the first win of the season in the European Le Mans Series in Barcelona, Spain, after a tense and dramatic race. The Factory AMR Lola completed the 209 laps in just over six hours clocking up some 621 miles in the first race of the season, the 1000km de Catalunya.
"This momentous victory is a fantastic reward for the many weeks and months of hard work put in by every member of the team. Endurance racing is above all a team sport, and I think that we have proved this once again today," said David Richards, Chairman of Aston Martin.
The LMP1 #007 Aston in the hands of Stefan Mucke, Jan Charouz and Tomas Enge was in second place chasing the lead #16 Pescarolo-Judd driven by Christophe Tinseau and Jean-Christophe Boullion but in the last round of pitstops the Pescarolo-Judd failed to pull away and required the engine to be restarted.
"It's been a really impressive debut, and I've had a very good feeling with the car throughout the weekend. I'd like to thank everybody for doing a fantastic job, I think this sets us up really well for a successful continuation to the season. I had no problems at all during my stints, and most importantly we have learnt a lot for the future," said Charouz.
Fellow driver Enge added, "This is the perfect way for us to start our season, and the car has been very good from the beginning. The only problem I've experienced is a lack of rearend grip sometimes, which is what caused my spin. But luckily no harm was done and we did not lose much time. During my stint I tried to keep up with the leading Pescarolo but it was very tricky. In the end though it was a great result for everyone."
The Aston in the striking orange and blue livery with Mucke at the wheel seized the opportunity and was able to close right up on Tinseau in the Pescarolo. A safety car period in the closing stages allowed Mucke to get right on to the tail pipe of the Pescarolo and he overtook just six laps later. Tinseau tried to fight back but ended up some 14 seconds adrift of the leader by the end of the race.
"I'm absolutely delighted with this result, but it was a very close call at the finish. It was so tight at the end that I really did not know which way everything would go," commented Mucke. "Eventually we were able to take advantage of the safety car to close up, and then we found a gap in the traffic to pass the leader. He went to the inside, we went to the outside and thankfully it worked. Once we were through, I think we proved that we had the pace to win."
Third place looked to be in the bag for the second AMR car until Miguel Ramos went off the track in the closing stages and was unable to get going again. The #2 AIM-powered Courage ORECA, with Bruno Senna and Stephane Ortelli came past to claim the position and the final step of the podium.
The Signature Racing Judd Courage ORECA with Pierre Ragues and Frank Mailleux picked up fourth place one minute and ten seconds behind the third position Courage ORECA.
The polesitter Strakka Racing Ginetta-Zytek, driven by the all British line up of Danny Watts, Peter Hardman and Nick Leventis lost out at the start and dropped to 4th place before the first corner, they were to eventually finish fifth. The suspicion of a jump start by some of the competitors which dropped the Strakka Racing car so far back was claimed to be for safety reasons and no drive through penalties were awarded
In LMP2 the Italian Racing Box team took the class win in a Lola-Judd coupe in the hands of Thomas Biagi, Matteo Bobbi and Andrea Piccinni. The next closest car was ASM Team Ginetta Zytek driven by Olivier Pla and Miguel Amaral some 46-second adrift.
The Reiter IPB Spartak Lamborghini Murcielago took the LMGT1 victory in a class that contained just four cars. The Luc Alphand adventures Chevrolet Corvette C6.R was looking good for the class win but spun out and lost the place.
Porsche scored victory in GT2. The factory drivers Richard Lietz and Marc Lieb took the LMGT2 class win in the Felbermayr Proton Porsche 911 GT3-RSR with Rob Bell and Gianmaria Bruni in the JMW Motorsport Ferrari second.