Thousands Greet Aston Martin's Le Mans Return

Brilliant blue skies and massive crowds greeted Aston Martin's return to the world-famous Le Mans 24-hour race today.

Tens of thousands of British supporters made their annual pilgrimage to the French circuit, their anticipation heightened by the sight of the two green Aston Martin DBR9s which in qualifying took class pole and second by a wide margin, beating cars in an even more powerful class.

DBR9 number 58 will be driven by Tomas Enge (Czech Republic), Peter Kox (Netherlands) and Pedro Lamy (Portugal), with DBR9 number 59 having David Brabham (Australia), Stephane Sarrazin (France) and Darren Turner (UK).

It was a notable qualifying effort by Aston Martin Racing, and came 49 years after the marque's epic Le Mans 1-2 when the team powered its way to the 1959 World Sports Car Championship title.

But as the mechanics today readied the two cars for the gruelling race, Team Director David Richards introduced a note of caution. "Obviously we are pleased with what happened in qualifying, but a 24-hour race is full of surprises.

"This is our first season back in racing, and expectations are high after are two victories at Sebring and Silverstone, but we are realists and know we face strong opposition."

The race starts at 4pm today.

-amr-