THRILLING LE MANS 24 HOURS HAS STING IN THE TAIL FOR ASTON MARTIN RACING
The 2006 Le Mans 24 Hours ended in heartbreak for the Aston Martin Racing team. After leading the GT1 class for most of the race, the team couldn't deliver the victory that looked to be on the cards and had to settle for second place.
The lead DBR9 driven by Pedro Lamy, Stephane Ortelli and Stephane Sarrazin suffered a clutch problem in the 21st hour, forcing it to pit for lengthy repairs. The pitstop lasted 45 minutes and resulted in car 009 dropping down to fifth in class, much to the disappointment of the thousands of Aston Martin Racing fans in the record 230,000 crowd.
The team's other DBR9, which started on pole position, was another favourite for honours, but its chances of victory diminished when it suffered a cracked oil pipe on lap four. Tomas Enge, Darren Turner and Andrea Piccini staged a fabulous fight back to move from 48th to 10th overall, and second in GT1.
There was also a strong performance by the Team Modena DBR9. The David Brabham, Nelson Piquet and Antonio Garcia car finished ninth overall and fourth in GT1.
George Howard-Chappell, Team Principal, Aston Martin Racing: "It's very disappointing to be leading at the 21-hour mark, only to have victory snatched away from us. This is the second successive year that this has happened and, to be honest, I'm fed up with it.
"Without the massive resources normally associated with being a full Works team, we constantly have to punch above our weight. We put in a fantastic team performance this weekend and we had a great battle with the Corvettes. But, whichever way you dress it up, we're not happy to finish second."
David Richards, Chairman of Aston Martin Racing: "We have a sense of dejà vu about this result. For the second year in a row we've had the speed to win the race, but not for 24 hours. We're disappointed, but it will be only few days before we start looking ahead to next year's race."
2nd in GT1 (+ 5 laps), 6th overall, 350 laps
After a frenetic start to the race, which saw the Safety Car deployed on only lap four, car 007 sustained a damaged oil pipe as Darren Turner brought it into the pitlane. The resultant repair work cost the car six laps, a deficit that it could not recover. The car ran faultlessly for the remainder of the race, except for a puncture in the middle of the night, and second in class/sixth overall was an impressive recovery.
Tomas Enge: "We could have won this race, so I don't get any satisfaction from finishing second. I'm proud of my qualifying record here, but it's only the race that counts. We came here to win."
Darren Turner: "It's good to have got the car to the end of the race and to be on the podium. But what happened at the start was a big disappointment and we were always playing catch-up from there."
Andrea Piccini: "It feels good to finish my first Le Mans 24 Hours on the podium. Le Mans is Le Mans, and it was already great to be here with Aston Martin Racing. To be on the podium feels great."
DBR9 009: 5th in GT1 (+14 laps), 10th overall, 341 laps
The car ran faultlessly until the final three hours. Early on, the car ran second in class, before taking the lead at midnight. The first sign of trouble was when Stephane Ortelli had gear selection problems with three hours of the race remaining. The clutch needed replacing a lap later, which dropped it back to fifth and the drivers then nursed the car home.
Pedro Lamy: "We were leading for a long time and it was a real shame that we had the problem with the clutch. We knew then that we could not win, which was very frustrating. In a 24-hour race, sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you are not. We were unlucky."
Stephane Sarrazin: "Until the problem with the clutch, the car was really good to drive. It was fast on old and new tyres, and we could push hard. I'm very sad not to win because we had the speed to do so."
Stephane Ortelli: "I am in love with Le Mans, and when you are in love you get sometimes get upset. In my opinion we were the strongest team and had the strongest car in the GT1 race, so it's a really frustrating situation not to win. But we have nothing to regret: we did a great job as a team and just stopped too early. We shouldn't forget the positives."