It's early Friday morning on the Le Mans weekend, and I'm on the start line, about to take Audi's finest for a spin. That the start line belongs to Brands Hatch rather than Circuit de la Sarthe and the Audi in question is an R8 rather and the R18 LMP1 racer is hardly a disappointment - I'm about to fire up and head under the sea towards my first experience of the 24 Heures du Mans.

After a short stint on the M20, the automotive delights begin at Folkestone's Eurotunnel terminal, where a large congregation of British petrolheads is assembling for a French pilgrimage. Among the minibuses and overloaded family cars there are McLaren MP4-12Cs and Ferrari 458s, and our party includes an Aston Martin DB9, its owner relishing the rare chance to exercise his car's GT credentials.

But it's another Aston that's weakening knees in the car park - an impossibly perfect light-blue DB5, all handsome curves, wire wheels, flawless chrome and creamy leather. It's an understated class act among the steroidal modern sports cars, built six years after Aston's sole outright win at La Sarthe when Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori took the DBR1 to victory. Aston is again a favourite in this year's GTE class for production-homologated cars (split into Pro and Am divisions) with the Vantage GTE V8.