Fifty years ago this coming June, Aston Martin took the overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Today, David Richards, Chairman of the British-based marque, announced that they will return to La Sarthe Circuit with two LMP1s, in a big step up from...
Fifty years ago this coming June, Aston Martin took the overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Today, David Richards, Chairman of the British-based marque, announced that they will return to La Sarthe Circuit with two LMP1s, in a big step up from their recent class-winning effort in LMGT1.
"2009 is a hugely significant year for Aston Martin at Le Mans and the challenge of reclaiming victory in this famous race for Aston Martin and Great Britain was simply too great to ignore," said Richards.
In 1928, Aston Martin was on the grid with two cars powered by their L4 Aston Martin 1495 cm3 engine. They ended the classic June race in Le Mans, France with a retirement but that did not stop them from returning to take on the 24 endurance event. In 1959, they reached their goal, with not only the overall win, but a one-two finish.
Working with David Brown Racing, the two Aston Martin DBR 1s were using the L6 Aston Martin 2993 cm3 powerplants with the winning No. 5 covering 4348km. Piloting the winning machine was American legend Caroll Shelby and British racer Roy Salvadori. Handling the driving duties for the second place No. 6 was the one and only Belgium racer/journalist Paul Fr?re and Frenchman Maurice Trintigant.
This time, too, Aston Martin will be building on the efforts of a privateer team: Charouz Racing System. The Antoin Charouz-led effort put in a strong performance in an Aston Martin-powered Lola B08/60 coupe, leading the petrol-powered cars in qualifying at the 24H, and taking second place in the Le Mans Series season finale at Silverstone last year.
While the Charouz Aston Martin entry was well down in power on the Audi and Peugeot turbodiesels, the new 2009 ACO regulations drop the diesel engines' power by some 10%, while the petrol units are penalized by only 3%, narrowing the performance gap to the front.
Richards is well aware of the challenge at hand as he stated in the Aston Martin press release: "However, we do not underestimate the task. While we have won the GT1 class for the last two years, competing against the proven speed and endurance of the diesel-powered cars with all their years of winning the prototype class, will be a massive undertaking. Nonetheless, I see this as a great opportunity to showcase the ingenuity of British engineering talent."
Working with Lola, the 2009 Aston Martin prototypes will add to their return with the Gulf Oil colors. The works team will keep several of the drivers who have placed the Aston Martin name on podiums, including the 2008 LMGT1 Le Mans victory.
"Racing has been, and still is at the heart of Aston Martin. Our cars today are subtle, elegant and handcrafted but they still have the genes for competition," said Aston Martin CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez. "I am happy that we have found partners who, with their support, will enable us to compete at the highest level of endurance racing. We will put all our heart and skill behind this project to demonstrate the essence of Aston Martin: Power Beauty and Soul."
Jan Charouz will move over to drive for the Aston Martin works effort, along with his 2008 teammates Stefan Mucke and Tomas Enge. Staying with the manufacturer as one of their top drivers will be Darren Turner, the Brit was one of the winning GT1 driver. Harold Primat has joined the effort and the sixth driver will be announced later. They will be piloting an evolution of the Lola B08/60, with entries in not only the 24 hour classic at Le Sarthe, but also in the Le Mans Series.
Due to their time limits, Richards noted that they will not be ready to compete at the American Le Mans Series 12 Hours of Sebring; an event used by many teams in preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The first race of the season in the LMS will be April 5 on the Circuit Catalunya.
The works team will have a tall mountain to climb, but the team's goal is simple: overall victory -- and a victory in the team's first attempt yet. The Audi and Peugeot works teams are sure not to roll over, but the British team could well be setting the stage for a battle for the ages.