Aston Martin is prepping two factory-backed Gulf-liveried works LMP1 to fight for overall finish at 24 Hours of Le Mans. The last time they managed this was 50 years ago. Can they do it again?
Aston Martin will arrive in France for the 86th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in June with two new factory-backed cars. The historic Gulf Oil-liveried blue and orange cars are built upon a Lola chassis and feature the same V12 engine as is used in their successful GT1 DBR9.
There's been some fierce competition brewing between the Audi R10 (replaced this year with the R15) and the Peugeot 908 HDi and Aston Martin hopes to cash in on the fight. Audi has managed a five-year winning streak with the French 908 diesel following strongly behind, so can the Aston Martin team really pull one out of the hat?
Aston Martin chairman, David Richards, looks forward to the challenge and has this to say:
“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. 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.”
We're just happy that we'll be seeing a streaking prototype body in Gulf blue and orange flying down the Mulsanne Straight again.
Gaydon, 27 January 2009. On the 50th anniversary of its outright win at Le Mans, Aston Martin will return to La Sarthe with two Works LMP1 cars bearing the iconic blue and orange livery of Gulf Oil.
In an ambitious attempt to emulate the legendary achievements of the 1959 DBR1 driven by Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori, Aston Martin will endeavour to bring the Le Mans title back to Britain.
“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 Aston Martin Chairman, David Richards. “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.”
Dr Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin Chief Executive Officer commented: “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. 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.”
The new car which is based on the 2008 Charouz Racing System Lola will be powered by the same production-based Aston Martin V12 engine which, last year, helped Aston Martin secure its second successive Le Mans GT1 title with the DBR9. It also powered the Charouz car to a new La Sarthe lap record for a petrol car.
Aston Martin Racing is developing the car in conjunction with Lola, Michelin, Koni and BBS and continues its relationship with major partner Gulf Oil and official clothing partner Hackett.
In 2009, the ACO is introducing new regulations aimed at balancing the performance of petrol and diesel engined prototypes making the LMP1 category more appealing and relevant to Aston Martin.
Signalling ongoing commitment to motorsport, in addition to the Le Mans 24 hour race, the team will also compete throughout the year in the Le Mans Series (LMS), which opens with the 1000 km de Catalunya on the 5th of April.
Aston Martin Racing Works drivers, Jan Charouz (CZ), Tomas Enge (CZ), and Stefan Mücke (DE), who raced the Charouz car last year will renew their relationship with the team along with Darren Turner (GB) who was part of the winning DBR9 GT1 crew in 2007 and 2008. Harold Primat (CH) joins the team for the first time in 2009 with the remaining driver to be announced imminently.
To focus maximum energy on the LMP1 programme, the Works team will not defend its GT1 title at Le Mans. However, Aston Martin Racing will support any of its official partner teams and customers competing at the race.
Aston Martin Racing partner, Drayson Racing, has expressed its desire to compete at Le Mans with the new Vantage GT2. This follows confirmation of the team’s LMS entry and American Le Mans Series programme with a bio-ethanol powered Vantage GT2. Further announcements are expected in the weeks ahead as other Aston Martin Racing partner teams and customers confirm their plans for racing in the GT1, GT2, GT3 and GT4 classes of national and international racing series.
The Le Mans 24 hour race will be held over the weekend of 13-14 June.
[via Aston Martin]