Wraps off Aston's GT racer

Iconic British marque to fight Ferrari and not just at Le Mans

Aston Martin and its motorsport partner Prodrive Engineering plan to build 32 DBR9 racers in a bid to recreate the marque’s golden era of 1950s sportscar success.

They want the V12 machine — which next year will take Aston back to the Le Mans 24 Hours — to race in all the major sportscar series around the world. As well as supplying cars to the works teams that will spearhead Aston Martin’s return to international racing, ‘customer cars’ will be offered to several privateers as well as collectors.

“When Aston went back into motorsport after WWII, there was such strong demand from the customers that the company turned its attention to building cars for gentleman racers,” explained Aston Martin boss Ulrich Bez. “We will undertake the same strategy today with the DBR9.”

The DBR9s will be numbered according to a system first used on the DB3S: the 12 works cars will carry chassis numbers 1-12, the 20 customers cars numbers 101-120.

The 12 works machines will be split between three teams still being sought for full-on campaigns in the American Le Mans Series and FIA GT Championship, as well as at Le Mans, from 2006 onwards. A works deal will involve a team committing to purchase four DBR9s over the course of three seasons.

Prodrive, which has set up the wholly-owned subsidiary Aston Martin Racing to mastermind the project, believes it will have no trouble selling the 32 cars.

“Demand for them will outstrip supply,” said Prodrive boss David Richards. “People will want to buy the works cars because history has shown with the DB3S that they retain a higher value than the customer versions.

The customer DBR9s will cost £475,000 apiece, while the works cars will be sold under different terms. A works franchise is reputed to be available for £2.75 million over its three-year duration.

Prodrive, which gained useful experience with its Ferrari 550 GT racers, will campaign the DBR9 next season to prove the car against strong opposition expected to include Maserati’s Ferrari Enzo-based MC12 and an all-new Corvette. It will give the car its world debut in the Sebring 12 Hours next March and, presuming it receives entries, will take two cars to Le Mans and selected FIA GT and ALMS events.

Teams in the running for a works deal include long-time sportscar entrant David Price, who is planning to join forces with two former Le Mans winners — Martin Brundle (Jaguar in 1990) and Mark Blundell (Peugeot in ’92) — in a new organisation. IRL team owner Bobby Rahal is also in talks with Aston, as is the double FIA GT champion team, Scuderia Italia.