Aston Martin is making an audacious bid for Le Mans victory this June with a pair of Gulf-liveried works LMP1 cars, the company has confirmed.
The move comes 50 years after Aston Martin’s outright one-two victory at the 24-hour Le Mans race in 1959 with two DBR1s.
David Richards, chairman of Aston Martin, said he understood "the challenge of taking on benchmark teams and the diesel-engined cars", but the company didn’t want to miss the opportunity to recognise the 50th anniversary of its Le Mans victory.
"This entry is very much in the British spirit of 'let’s have a go'," said Richards.
One source claimed that that Aston’s race budget was "probably just 15 per cent" of that enjoyed by Audi’s Le Mans entry.
The cars are based on the 2008 Aston V12-engined Charouz Racing System Lola, which ran in last year’s Le Mans with support from Aston Martin and Prodrive.
However, the car has been completely restyled by the Aston Martin design team, led by Marek Reichmann. "The car will be the most beautiful at Le Mans," said Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez.
The exterior work on the car by Aston’s stylists and the aerodynamics team has been taking place for just five weeks, necessitating overnight working at some stages of the project.
Team principal George Howard-Chappell said that new regulations have restricted the power of the diesel-engined entrants, which should help petrol-powered cars such as the Aston be more competitive this year.
One of the reasons for their recent dominance at Le Mans is the ability of the diesel cars to run further between refuelling stops.
Howard-Chappell told Autocar that at last year’s Le Mans the diesel Audi R10 could complete 12 laps on a 90-litre tank of fuel, whereas the petrol-engined competitors could only manage 11 laps.
Under the new regulations the Aston could now complete 12 laps, said Howard-Chappell, but "there was no way of knowing ahead of the actual race" whether Audi’s entry will make the leap to 13 laps on each tank.
The Aston team driver line-up includes Czechs Jan Charouz and Tomas Enge, along with Brit Darren Turner, German Stefan Mücke and Harold Primat from Switzerland. A sixth driver will be appointed shortly.
The Aston makes its first appearance on 8-9 March at the Le Mans series test days at Paul Ricard circuit.