ASTON MARTIN HOPING FOR SEBRING, SILVERSTONE SEQUELS AT LE MANS Le Mans, France - Just as he did in 2003, David Brabham hopes to play a significant role as one of the UK's most renowned car manufacturers returns to the Sarthe region of France...
ASTON MARTIN HOPING FOR SEBRING, SILVERSTONE SEQUELS AT LE MANS
Le Mans, France - Just as he did in 2003, David Brabham hopes to play a significant role as one of the UK's most renowned car manufacturers returns to the Sarthe region of France for the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans. Brabham is one of the lead drivers for Aston Martin Racing, which has two of its DBR9s entered in LM GT1 for the 73rd running of the world's most famous sports car race.
With two victories in as many races this year, Aston Martin Racing hopes to continue writing a remarkable new page in its history. The team won in class at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March and took an overall victory at Silverstone in the FIA GT Championship in May.
Even Brabham, one of the most accomplished sports car drivers in the world, didn't envision that kind of success. "I didn't," admitted Brabham, who finished second in the much-heralded Bentley prototype in 2003. "Each race we go to I am surprised at how well it has gone. This is due to the fact it is a new program.
"Bentley's return was as significant," he added. "I believe that the difference between Aston Martin and Bentley will be (slight)."
Next up for Aston Martin is a shot at the biggest prize of all: its first victory of any kind at Le Mans since 1959, when Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby won overall in a DBR1. Aston Martin hasn't fielded an entry at Le Mans in 15 years and hasn't finished on a class podium since 1977.
Aston Martin's cars are two of 14 American Le Mans Series entries set to compete at Le Mans. ALMS teams have won three of the race's four classes each of the past four years and have a shot at sweeping all four titles for the first time.
The Astons already have impressed at Le Mans, posting the two fastest LM GT1 times during Sunday's test session. The No. 58 of Tomas Enge, Peter Kox and Pedro Lamy posted a lap of 3:50.033, not quite a half-second quicker than the No. 57 entry of Brabham, Darren Turner and Stephane Sarrazin.
"We (had) a clear plan of what we want to achieve from this test and we've stuck to it. Things have run to schedule, and we've made progress," said Dave Wilcock, race engineer for the No. 59 DRR9.
Both cars were four seconds quicker than their chief rivals, Corvette Racing's C6-Rs. The two teams battled it out for 12 hours at Sebring, and the sports car world has been eagerly awaiting a rematch.
"There is no doubt that the 'Vettes are going to be the biggest challenger," Enge said.
"I think that their biggest strength is in their experience with the car. It is the evolution from previous one while we have a brand new car. They are very competitive and I do not see any weaknesses."
But what about any chinks in the armor of the DBR9? There may not be many, as Brabham said the car has run for 25 hours without a hiccup.
"Well, we have proved that our car is quick and reliable . knock on wood," Enge said. The track should suit us. I do not think that we have any weakness, but you always need a bit of luck."
Qualifying at Le Mans is scheduled for June 15-16. The 24 Hours of Le Mans will be broadcast on SPEED Channel starting at 10 a.m. EDT June 18. The next race for the American Le Mans Series is the New England Grand Prix, set for 3 p.m. July 4 at Lime Rock Park. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED (3 to 6 p.m. EDT) and on MotorsTV in Europe, reaching 40 million viewers in 21 countries as well as at www.americanlemans.com.