By Tim Smith
It may be slightly odd that a company like Aston Martin should choose to go racing. The fact is, AM make large, heavy, Grand Touring cars, that, given some time on the track, may amuse, but ultimately would never quite hold together the qualities of a great ‘track car’.
Racing, though, is as varied as the manufacturers that take part. Where you have a horse, you are bound to find a course.
Looking to promote the then new DB9, AM decided they should send it racing. After all, AM had some history in distance racing, and, to a certain extent, what better grand tour to test your cars on than a race that lasts for 24 hours.
So, 2004, AM send a race homologated DB9 into the maelstrom. The DBR9 wins its first race at the Sebring 12 hours. A famously punishing track, located on an old US Army Air Force base, combining surface changes and rough, difficult corners, this was no small achievement.
The following races, were less than smooth, though. The DBR9 suffered fuelling problems that saw them consistently over come by that all American middle-class hero, the Corvette.
As with all things, though, the key to success was perseverance. In 2007, the DBR9, after grinding away, moving up the ranks and securing points, took a class win at that most important of endurance races, Le Mans.
It repeated the success the following year. More importantly, every privateer with a DBR9 managed to finish the race distance.
Looking for an outright Le Mans win, AM, in partnership with Lola, constructed an LMP1 car, the B09/60 or, as the PR people would have it, the DBR1-2.
During a year when both Peugeot and Audi were fielding mighty diesel-powered LMP1’s with greater range and better torque, the B09/60 finished highest in among the petrol driven cars.
There in, lay the problem, though. The B09/60 ran an evolution of the DBR9’s V12, itself based on the production V12’s that rumble around the moneyed streets of towns and cities around the world. It was becoming obvious that to win, you’d need either a diesel or some very expensive looking hybrid technology. AM didn’t and don’t produce a diesel engine, have no plan to, nor, for the time being at least, do they have access to a competitive hybrid program. So they pulled out.
It makes sense for AM to concentrate on production based racing. they are small. Teams like Audi and Porsche are part of enormous country class business’ but it is also important to remember that they hail from the same continent class business.
Maybe, just maybe, with the new deal that *seems* to be going through with AMG we might just see an AM prototype again, and, perhaps, the fight could be taken right to VW’s enormous door.
In the mean-time raise whatever beverage you have to hand to ten years of Aston Martin Racing, and ten more years of success for one of the hardest working teams in the world.