Special to Highlands Today
Aston Martin Racing prepares for its most ambitious assault on the 24 Hour of Le Mans as it takes five Vantage GTEs-the team's largest entry to date-to the world-famous endurance race this weekend. The 2013 event is set to live long in the memories of racing fans as Aston Martin celebrates its centenary and the 24-hour event marks its 90th anniversary.
The team returns to the Circuit de le Sarthe in a strong position as it leads the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in both the GTE Pro and GTE Am classes following the first two rounds. Furthermore, at the official Le Mans test day on June 9 it topped the time sheets with the No. 97 Pro car and the No. 96 Am car both showing class-leading pace.
"Yes, we were the fastest in the test session, but winning a race like the 24 Hours of Le Mans takes more than speed," said Aston Martin Racing Team Principal, John Gaw. "Saying that, we've also shown great reliability-throughout both the Six Hours of Silverstone, at which we won in both classes, and the Six Hours of Spa where we had no significant issues with any of our Vantage GTEs.
"Running five cars smoothly for 24 hours, however, is going to be a huge challenge. We are very well prepared, thanks to our hard-working team, and we are incredibly focused but we know that there is fierce competition in both GTE classes. Our ambition is to be on that podium in both classes; our desire is to be on the top step-that would be the most fitting way to celebrate Aston Martin's centenary year."
Alongside the prestigious endurance race, Aston Martin will continue its centenary celebrations with a host of activities on and off the track.
Aston Martin Racing's partner Gulf unveiled the winning design for its livery competition. To mark Aston Martin's centenary, the global oil brand invited fans to design the Le Mans livery for the No. 97 Vantage GTE. Drivers Darren Turner (GB), Stefan Mücke (D) and Peter Dumbreck (GB) chose their favorite design, which was unveiled at scrutineering on Monday and will adorn the No. 97 car throughout race week.
"The 24 Hours of Le Mans is, without doubt, the greatest sports car race in the world and this will be the ninth consecutive year that we've taken part," said David Richards Aston Martin chairman. "However, our centenary year is rather special and if we were to win on this occasion it would be the perfect way to cap a year of celebrations."
Aston Martin Racing's five-car campaign comprises three entries in the GTE Pro class and two in the GTE Am class. Each car has a three-strong driver line-up, with notables such as BMW's Bill Auberlen, Paul Dalla Lana and Rob Bell joining Aston Martin for the race. Jonny Adam and Richie Stanaway will act as reserve drivers for the team for the 24-hour race, ready to step into any car should they be required.