Aston aims to repeat history

Aston Martin will mark the 50th anniversary of its Le Mans 24 Hours victory with a two-car bid for outright honours in this year’s French endurance classic, running a pair of prototypes liveried in the emotive blue and orange of Gulf Oil.

The historic British marque and its motor sport partner, Prodrive, are expanding the programme that last year took the Aston name back to the prototype class for the first time since 1989. The sponsorship from Gulf that graced the two factory-run DBR9 GT1 racers, which finished first and fourth in class at Le Mans last year, is transferring to the prototypes.

At Le Mans last year, Prodrive ran an Aston-engined Lola B08/60 for Czech entrant Charouz (above). This year, it will fly the Aston Martin Racing flag with the entry of two Lola-built LMP1 coupés powered by the DBR9’s six-litre V12, but this time bearing style cues from the road-car range.

The plans had yet to be announced as Motor Sport closed for press, but an ambitious project that arguably gives Aston its best chance of a second overall Le Mans win since 1960 had become an open secret. That year the DBR1 design claimed a podium finish at La Sarthe in private hands, one year on from Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby’s victory.

Prodrive boss David Richards would only confirm that there were no plans to field a factory team of DBR9s at Le Mans in 2009. He said negotiations with Charouz were progressing.

It appeared that Prodrive was holding fire on an announcement in the wake of mass redundancies at Aston Martin before Christmas. Only when the project is officially launched will details of the full extent of the programme and the driver line-up become clear.

A privately-entered Lola-Aston, the car that finished ninth at La Sarthe last year, will race in the Le Mans Series in Europe this season. Marcel Fassler, who was tried out by Audi in 2008, will be among its drivers in the five-race European championship.