Much like Badger, Aston Martin Racing are big on retro. The brand has been synonymous with British racing green since their inception in 1913, 98 years ago. Whilst there’s two years to wait until their big birthday, 2015 marks the anniversary of one of motorsports most iconic racers: the Aston Martin DBR9.
Ten years ago this weekend the Prodrive-ran V12, 600bhp monster made its long awaited debut at the Sebring 12 Hours in Florida, lining up against the dominant Corvette Racing outfit in the LMPGT1 category. Aston Martin won, much to the delight of ex-BAR team boss Dave Richards, and bowler hat wearing scotch swilling chaps throughout Blighty.
In truth, Sebring as is often the case was merely a warm-up for the Le Mans 24 Hours just a few months later. High on confidence after its debut race, AMR arrived in north France with strong car and equally as spiffing driver line-up. In the #59 car was David Brabham, current Venturi Formula E driver Stephane Sarrazin and Darren Turner. Elsewhere a host of failed-Formula One yet reputable sportscar guys lined up in the sister car: ex-Prost driver Tomas Enge joined by ex-Lotus and Minardi peddler Pedro Lamy, as well as not-an-F1-driver.
In truth, the race was a disaster. Both cars suffered fuel problems, and Corvette ran back to ‘Merica with the famous spoils. Down but not out, the factory-DBR9 effort returned in 2006, and ran out of petrol, again. In-fact it took all of three attempts at Le Mans for the famous green to stand on top of the podium, with the #009 car winning ahead of arch-rivals Corvette for the first time. Special mention must be made too for the sister-entry, amply named #007. Fever.
2008 saw the last AMR-squadron of DBR9’s take to the Le Sarthe circuit, with #007 and #009 diving into the box of retro and bringing out a gulf oil-liveried cloak for the car’s factory-backed swansong. Suitably, the Aston Martin won again, albeit by the smallest of margins as long-time adversaries Corvette Racing finished just seconds behind #009 on track after 24 hours of racing. The second Aston, complete with no less than Heinz-Harold Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger, finished third in class to solidify AMR’s grip on the GT1 class.
For 2009 the plucky Brits got brave and dipped their toe into the prototype classes; nonetheless the DBR9 remained the car-to-have in GT1, with 16 chassis gracing sportscar fields all over the world, from the FIA World Endurance Championship, to Japans Super GT series.
With Aston retreating bravely (cowardly) back to the GT1 class in recent years after zero luck in LMP2 and LMP1, with them came the Vantage GTE- the DBR9’s replacement. Equally as successful, the Vantage continues to head international sportscar series, with the kick-ass Gulf colours to boot.
But it was the DBR9, ten years ago last weekend that brought one of the most desirable, recognisable brands back into motorsport, and with what is without doubt a modern classic.
For that, Aston Martin, we salute you.