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Aston Martin will return this year to the FIA World Endurance Championship to compete in the eight round series, kicking off with the 60th anniversary edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring, on March 17.
The company confirmed today that it will enter an updated version of the Vantage GT2, calling it the Vantage GTE. That car will be based off the Vantage road car, getting the same bonded aluminum structure with and aerospace specification steel roll cage. All but the roof will be made from carbon fiber to shed weight. A 4.5-litre V8 with an aluminum block and will keep the street-legal Vantage’s double-wishbone suspension, but with purpose-built components.
The driver line-up has also been confirmed: Darren Turner, Stefan Mücke and Adrian Fernandez will compose the team.
“I’m excited about this program as it’s our opportunity to take Aston Martin back to the top of the world of GT racing. The Vantage GTE is a great car; she’s coming along nicely now and we’re ready to take on what we expect will be tough competition,” Turner said.
“The FIA World Endurance Championship calendar looks good to me, especially as I’ve already won in an Aston Martin at half of the tracks: Sebring, Silverstone, Interlagos and of course at Le Mans. We are going to Sebring next month with a brand new car, but that’s exactly what we did with the DBR9 back in 2005 and we won that race. I’m not promising we can repeat that but we’ll certainly try.”
GALLERY: 2012 Aston Martin Vantage GTE
Just three months away from the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race, Aston Martin debuted its team of overall contenders in the LMP1 class during the first test session on Sunday.
Both cars featured the Gulf Oil blue and orange livery as they set out on the world-famous Paul Ricard Circuit. All six drivers from both cars (Jan Charouz, Tomas Enge and Stefan Mücke in the 007 car and Harold Primat, Miguel Ramos and Darren Turner in the 009 car) had a chance behind the wheel.
The tests looked positive with this being not only the first time the drivers have had a chance to pilot the cars, but also the first time the cars have seen track action. The test for the 007 team was, however, cut short when Czech driver Tomas Enge crashed the car. Enge suffered no serious injuries. The same, however, can not be said of the car.
“Unfortunately because of my error the test was compromised, but prior to the accident the car was good,” said Enge, whose co-pilots also praised the 007 car.
“The car was very stable and quick and we didn’t experience any technical difficulties which was great as it is a completely new car,” said Charouz. “I’m looking forward to the first race to see how we compare to the competition.”
As for Mucke, he had this to say: “The engine note from the V12 is fantastic, especially on the long straight here at Paul Ricard. I am looking forward to the first race; it will be interesting to see where we are against the diesel cars.”
As for the 009 team, which had a full session worth of testing, all three drivers were impressed with car and noted the vast difference in potential of an LMP1 car over some of the GT cars they have driven previously.
“The main focus right now is to put miles on the new car and to allow me and my team mates to get up to speed,” said Turner. “For me it is a big step from the DBR9 to LMP1 but I’m happy that after two days of testing I am starting to feel comfortable and I’m really looking forward to the first race in Barcelona and the rest of the year.
Ramos, who has also come from a GT car, was more than impressed with the capabilities of the new car. “The speed on corning is great,” he said but, ” I’m not yet used to it as I normally drive a GT car. The Paul Ricard circuit is really challenging for someone who is just starting out in LMP1 and the g-force is really tough physically.”
Team Principal George Howard-Chappell was pleased with the effort, stating that, “It’s a credit to the team that both of our cars have run so reliably after such an intense and tiring build period. Obviously the accident has set us back to a degree but as always we will recover and we will be in Barcelona with two race-ready cars.”
The first race of the European Le Mans Series starts in Barcelona at the Circuit de Catalunya on April 5, however, the big race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is scheduled for June 13th and 14th.
GALLERY: Aston Martin LMP1
Official release after the jump:
While every other automaker in the world seems to be pulling out of motorsports Aston Martin is getting more involved (and in a big way) announcing that it will take on none other than Audi in the LMP1 Class at the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The cars will be based on the 2008 Charouz Racing System Lola and will be powered by the same production-based Aston Martin V12 engine that has rewarded the company with two consecutive GT1 titles in the GT1 Class with the DBR9.
Aston Martin will run two cars throughout the entire European Le Mans Series and have so far chosen all but one of the drivers. The pilots will be Jan Charouz (CZ), Tomas Enge (CZ), Stefan Mücke (DE), Darren Turner (GB) and Harold Primat (CH).
“Racing has been, and still is at the heart of Aston Martin,” says Aston’s CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez . “Our cars today are subtle, elegant and handcrafted but they still have the genes for competition. I am happy that we have found partners who, with their support, will enable us to compete at the highest level of endurance racing. We will put all our heart and skill behind this project to demonstrate the essence of Aston Martin: Power Beauty and Soul.”
Aston Chairman David Richards is optimistic but also realistic, commenting that, “we do not underestimate the task. While we have won the GT1 class for the last two years, competing against the proven speed and endurance of the diesel-powered cars with all their years of winning the prototype class, will be a massive undertaking. Nonetheless, I see this as a great opportunity to showcase the ingenuity of British engineering talent.”
Be sure to watch Aston Martin take on Audi at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 13/14.
Official release after the jump: