Chassis numbers: 2008 Lola-Aston Martin B80/60 HU01 and HU02, 2009 Aston Martin DBR1-2/1 - DBR1-2/4
The Automobile Club De L’Ouest (ACO) which organizes the le Mans 24 hour race and associated LM series, allows four classes of race cars to compete together on the track at the same time; these are LMP1, LMP2, GT1 and GT2. GT1 and 2 are quite closely based on road cars thus the DB9 race variant is the DBR9, and for the V8 Vantage it is the V8 Vantage GT2. Since 2005, AMR has been very successful in the GT1 category of sportscar racing but due to the technical regulations imposed on the class, outright victory against the ‘Le Mans Prototypes’ at the Le Mans 24 hour and the various Le Mans Series races is extremely unlikely, perhaps even virtually impossible. The Le Mans prototypes are purpose built race cars and have very little in common with road cars. Most have open bodies although closed coupes are also allowed; all have token luggage space and at least the provision of a small passenger seat. They are at least as powerful as GT1 cars, often more powerful, have a lower minimum weight limit, larger brakes, wider wheels and more aerodynamic downforce. From 2006, diesel powered cars had begun to dominate the LMP1 class due to favourable regulations with the cars from Audi and Peugeot being the ones to beat.
In 2008, the ACO regulations for Le Mans changed to allow the use of a GT1 engine within a prototype chassis. Thus Aston Martin Racing took advantage of this and provided engines for the Charouz Racing Systems LMP1 entry at that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours and in the Le Mans Series (LMS) races. Since the V12 is based on a production car engine and is a little heavier, taller and longer than custom-built prototype racing engines, larger air restrictors were allowed which gave a useful increase in power of 50 bhp over that produced when fitted to the DBR9.
The new car had a closed cockpit, carbon fibre monocoque Lola B08/60 chassis and was fitted with the latest specification Aston Martin six litre V12 unit exactly as used in the 2007 GT1 class winning DBR9. Aston Martin Racing worked with Lola to repackage the engine and transmission for the new chassis, while engineers from Aston Martin Racing also supported the car at the event. The decision to go with a closed car has both advantages and disadvantages. Aerodynamically they are superior and provide better protection for the driver in adverse weather conditions. But the cockpits can become unbearably hot (so air-conditioning is mandatory), driver changes take a little longer and the windscreens require frequent cleaning and need wipers too.
Aston Martin Racing contracted Tomáš Enge, Stefan Mucke and Jan Charouz for the 2008 season. All three were placed with Charouz Racing Systems and raced the Michelin-shod Lola-Aston Martin at Le Mans and in the LMS. At Le Mans itself, the Lola-Aston Martins saw impressive qualifying performance from Stefan Mücke starting from sixth overall on the grid, the fastest of all the petrol engined cars. Despite an accident early in the race which meant that it lost half an hour in the pits for repairs, the car still finished ninth in the general classification and it could have been close to the top six without the accident. It did however establish a new lap record for a petrol powered car.
Flushed with the success of the B08/60 in 2008, AMR made the decision to move fully into the top flight LMP1 class and challenge for an overall win at Le Mans. The car to do this was the Lola-Aston Martin B09/60 (Aston Martin LMP1 for short), an evolution of the previous B08/60 and known internally as the DBR1-2. It was still built by Lola and co-developed by AMR/Prodrive and also involved the parts suppliers Michelin, Koni and BBS. AMR continued to receive sponsorship from Gulf Oil and the car carried the famous blue and orange livery. As in the 2008 car, the Lola-Aston Martin used the same V12 from the DBR9 GT1 car, but the standard Lola gearbox was replaced by a more compact Xtrac six-speed unit with paddle-shift. An unusual feature on the car was the rearward brake cooling, which fed air to the brakes through two fans, and eliminated brake ducts from the body. The styling of the Aston Martin LMP1 was not only the product of the wind tunnel but Director of Design, Marek Reichman gave the car the look of an Aston Martin.
Two B09/60s (007 and 009) competed in the full LMS season including the 24 hour race where they were joined by a third car, 008 entered under the AMR Eastern Europe banner for Charouz Racing Systems. The number 007 car won the Le Mans Series overall, and the number 009 finished fourth. At Le Mans, 008 of Jan Charouz, Tomáš Enge and Stefan Mücke finished fourth behind the factory entries of Peugeot and Audi and was the highest finishing petrol-fuelled car.
In 2010, AMR competed at the 2010 12 Hours of Sebring, it was the first appearance of the LMP1 car in the US and it finished the race in 3rd position, three laps behind the two winning Peugeots. Three cars were entered in the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans, 007 and 009 by AMR and 008 by the French team Signature-Plus. Both the 008 and 009 cars suffered from problems and retired, leaving only the 007 to finish 6th overall after 365 laps, fewer than it did in 2009; it was the third highest petrol engined finisher.
A note about chassis numbers
The first two cars, run by Charouz Racing Systems are not Aston Martins; in the previous Registers they would have been listed in the ‘Specials with Aston Martin engines’ section since the chassis were clearly identified as being made by Lola and only have a Lola chassis number. The DBR1-2 cars built for the 2009 and 2010 seasons are clearly similar to the previous cars using the same engine and monocoque but are Aston Martins and not ‘specials’. An Aston Martin is a car that was conceived, assembled (or built) and sold as an Aston Martin by Aston Martin and the 2009 and 2010 cars pass that test whereas the 2008 cars do not. That said, the DBR1-2 cars also have a separate Lola chassis number - oddly DBR1-2/4 appears to have re-used the 2nd Lola-AM chassis, B0860-HU02, the other three cars appear to have used two separate Lola chassis each.