DBR9 vanquishes GT best

Le Mans bid boosted by big win in Florida endure. Elated Aston Martin squad celebrate first international success for marque since 1963

Aston Martin made the best possible start to its Le Mans 24 Hours bid by taking GT1 class victory in the prestigious Sebring 12 Hours on the race debut for the DBR9.

David Brabham, Darren Turner and Stéphane Ortelli trounced Chevrolet, Maserati, Ferrari and Saleen opposition to win by a lap in the Prodrive-built car, finishing a remarkable fourth overall.

Chevrolet, giving its Corvette C6R its race debut, looked to have the advantage until trouble struck the two yellow cars at two-thirds distance: one was delayed by an exploding brake disc, the other punted off the road by an errant backmarker.That left the Aston in front to the finish, while the Chevys recovered to second and third.

The sister DBR9 of Peter Kox, Pedro Lamy and Stéphane Sarrazin was actually ahead of the winning machine in the opening stages, but hit backmarker trouble and ran out 35 laps down after repairs.

The result was a huge tonic for Prodrive boss David Richards and came a few hours before the BAR Formula One team, from which he was ousted during the winter, suffered a double engine failure in the Malaysian Grand Prix.