Can Aston Martin's gorgeous Le Mans prototype beat the diesels?

Aston Martin Racing's spent late 2010 and early 2011 developing a turbocharged, direct-injection inline six to power its new, open-cockpit Le Mans prototype race car. It's here. But does it stand a chance against the diesels?

Aston revealed its AMR-One, an entirely new car for the LMP1 class in 2011. Unlike last year's Lola-based car — and Audi's new closed-cockpit R18 — the new Gulf-liveried Aston gets an open cockpit, along with the significantly downsized 2.0 liter six.

A six-speed transverse, semi-automatic Xtrac pneumatic racing gearbox will put the power down. Underneath is a new carbon-fiber chassis designed in-house and manufactured by the Prodrive-managed Aston Martin Racing.

Can Aston Martin's gorgeous Le Mans prototype beat the diesels?

Aston's debuting the new car at the first round of the 2011 Le Mans Series at Circuit Paul Ricard in France next month, before scheduled races in the United States (Petit Le Mans), Belgium (Spa), France (Le Mans), Italy (Imola), England (Silverstone) and China (TBC). The team canceled plans to bring it to the US for 12 Hours of Sebring later this month. Testing is set to begin "in early March."

The team is building six AMR-One models, one for the the factory team to run in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) series, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and two cars at selected events.

But what of that new engine? Le Mans organizers say rules changes will place gasoline-powered cars in parity with the diesels of Audi and Peugeot, which have held an advantage in LMP1. Indeed, such parity remains to be seen.