Sportscar aces, F1 stars lineup for AMR title defense

Aston Martin Racing have announced their driver line up to take on the famous 13.65km Circuit de la Sarthe for the 76th 24 Heures du Mans race. The annual event held yearly in Le Mans, France is the top prize for sportscar teams, manufacturers and, of course, the drivers.

David Brabham, Darren Turner, Antonio Garcia, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Andrea Piccini and Karl Wendlinger with the Gulf Aston Martin DBR9 GT1.
Photo by Aston Martin Racing.

Last year the team took the LMGT1 class win and a remarkable fifth overall in the 6.0 litre V12 Aston Martin DBR9 beating the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C6 R for the first time out of three Le Mans attempts. AMR returned to racing in 2005 with their GT1 challenger.

Two of the 2007 class victors, David Brabham and Darren Turner, will return in the number 009 Aston in 2008, this time with Antonio Garcia replacing Rickard Rydell. The sister 007 numbered car will be crewed by Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Andrea Piccini and Karl Wendlinger.

Brabham and Turner were two of the first drivers to race the DBR9 since its birth in 2005, Brabham brings a great deal of experience to the line up having competed in no less than fourteen Le Mans 24 Hour races, three of them in a DBR9. His best overall was in 2003 with Team Bentley, taking second overall and in the LMGTP class.

"I'm delighted to be asked back and have the opportunity to race at Le Mans again this year," said Brabham. "If anything it's going to be an even bigger challenge now as I'm sure the competition will have moved on, so we'll need another faultless run. I feel we're well-prepared but anything can happen at Le Mans -- which is precisely what makes it such a fascinating place."

Turner is also no stranger to the legendary French race, he will be contesting his sixth Le Mans this year. Turner stated, "Winning the race last year has given us added confidence but it has probably also put even more pressure on, as now we're the team to beat. " He adds " I think we've got a very solid line-up: the key to success at Le Mans is always good preparation, which so far we've been able to achieve."

Garcia enters his third Le Mans this year and has gained experience of the DBR9 through Aston Martin's customer teams. He co-drove with Brabham and Nelson A. Piquet in 2006 with Russian Age Racing and was with Team Modena last year. This year he is delighted to have secured a place in the works team. "It's obviously a big privilege to drive for the works team now, and I think we have a really good chance," he said.

German driver Frentzen may not have been round the Le Mans circuit for a few years but the former Formula One regular has had a highly successful career to date, finishing second in the F1 1997 Drivers World Championship and third in 1999.

"I've only driven at Le Mans once, 16 years ago, so it's a great pleasure to come back to such a famous race - especially with a prestigious team like Aston Martin," Frentzen said. "The circuit is obviously very demanding, but the biggest challenge for us will be to stay fully focussed and concentrated over the course of the whole 24 hours."

The Gulf Aston Martin DBR9 GT1.
Photo by Aston Martin Racing.

Frentzen will be joined in the number 007 car by fellow former F1 competitor Wendlinger. The Austrian moved into sportscars winning the 1999 FIA GT Championship and becoming a regular at Le Mans. "I've driven the DBR9 for three seasons in the FIA GT Championship and I've competed at Le Mans several times," he states, "but I've never driven the DBR9 at Le Mans before, so I'm very pleased to finally have the opportunity to do that."

Piccini returns to the team having been part of the Aston Martin Racing crew that finished second in 2006. The regular in the FIA GT Championship driver commented: "I'm delighted to come back to the factory team and I feel very proud to be sharing the 007 car with two very well-known drivers of the calibre of Heinz-Harald and Karl. Anything can happen at Le Mans of course, but in 2006 we finished second and I was also second in the FIA GT Championship and Spa 24 Hours. So it would be good to go one better this time!"

The traditional Racing Green livery has also been replaced with the iconic blue and orange Gulf colours making the already striking DBR9 look stunning.

The works team is hoping to repeat the success of last year in with the exciting blend of youth and experience represented in the new driver lineup. With the two Aston Martin Racing works cars finishing 1st and 4th in class last year, in addition to the top 10 showing by their customer cars, including AMR Larbre Competition No. 008 taking third for a podium finish, this will indeed be the car to beat.