Aston's twin 24Hr charge

An Aston Martin-engined prototype will bid for overall honours in the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours in what could be a precursor to a full factory return to the classic event at La Sarthe.

Prodrive, which runs Aston’s motor sport programmes, will field one of Lola’s new LMP1 B08/60 coupés powered by the same six-litre V12 as in the DBR9 GT1 contender. It will run under the banner of Czech entrant Charouz Racing System. That could be a step towards an Aston Martin built to the proposed 2009 evolution prototype rules, a category the company publicly supported on its announcement last June.

Prodrive boss David Richards, a key player in the Aston buyout last year, was cryptic when asked about the possibility of an Aston Martin prototype.

“You can read into this what you like,” he said. “Let’s wait and see until we know the details of the new rules.”

Aston and Prodrive are in favour of the evo class for closed-top prototypes because it would force manufacturers to style Le Mans challengers after their road-going machinery. The first step in this direction was giving road-based powerplants such as the Aston V12 a performance break for them to be competitive with pure-bred racing engines.

The future of the evo class is unclear, however. Publication of the rules has been subject to a series of delays.

The Charouz Lola-Aston Martin will be driven by Tomas Enge, Stefan Mucke and Jan Charouz and will race in the first round of the Le Mans Series at Barcelona in April.

The 2008 project revives memories of the Lola-Aston Martin T70s which went out early at Le Mans in 1967. More significantly it is the first time the marque has competed for outright victory since the Aston AMR1s of 1989.

Aston will also defend its GT1 crown in the 24 Hours in the colours of Gulf Oil. The famous blue and orange colours of the oil company will grace a pair of DBR9s on what will be the 40th anniversary of the first of Gulf’s three Le Mans victories.