Aston Martin will be picking a fight with Audi and Peugeot for this June with a two, possibly three, car effort to win the Le Mans 24hrs on the 50th anniversary of its one and only win in the classic.
The cars are evolutions of last year's semi-works Charouz Racing Lola, which embarrassed the mighty works Audi team by out-qualifying the slowest of the winning R10 diesels despite packing the same 6.1-litre production V12 as the class winning DBR9s.
The new car — as yet unnamed — has picked up the Gulf sponsorship from the works DBR9s and has been in the studio of Aston's design chief (and officially the busiest man in the business right now) Marek Reichman and now at least looks like an Aston Martin. Sort of.
George Howard-Chappel, team manager, explained it was a change in (Le Mans organisers) the ACO’s rules that lead to the decision to for overall victory this year.
“The ACO have restricted the power of the Peugeots and Audi diesels’s by ten per cent last year. Unfortunately they’ve also reduced the power on production-engined cars like ours by three per cent, ironically because we were so competitive last year. So the gap has narrowed. We can’t be as quick in qualifying, but it’s much less clear in the race, especially as the ACO has also massively reduced the size of the rear wing.”
Aston Martin Chairman David Richards indicated that Aston was contemplating upgrading to shoot at overall victory as long ago as last June. Financing the effort was always going to be the problem and Aston Martin’s current troubles — the company seems to have repeated the trick and besides, he insists, the company is still in profit. “But we don’t have a lot of money…” he adds. “Maybe 15 per cent of what Audi or Peugeot have. We’re doing this because we felt it right and properly British to have a go in the anniversary year of our historic win."
Five drivers have been announced; Jan Charouz, Thomas Enge and Stefan Mucke (last year’s Lola pilots) are re-united in one car; DBR9 hero Darren Turner will be joined by Harold Primat and one other in the second car.
There is no truth in the rumour that Aston Martin is trying to contact the Stig.