Successful LeMans test for Aston Martin
All six works Aston Martin DBR9s have completed a successful test day prior to this year's Le Mans 24 Hours, which gets underway in just under a fortnight's time.
As well as the Aston Martin Racing and InterContinental Hotels & Resorts factory cars, numbered 007 and 009, two DBR9s from the French-based AMR Larbre team and single-car entries from AMR BMS and Team Modena tested at the La Sarthe circuit.
The test day, held this year in front of 20,000 spectators, is an opportunity for teams to re-acquaint themselves with the 14-kilometre track and evaluate tires and set-ups that will be used in the race.
For some of the drivers – including Johnny Herbert and Rickard Rydell from the factory squad – this was their first opportunity to sample the DBR9 at Le Mans. For others, it was a chance to consolidate their pace and assess some of the development work that has taken place on the DBR9 since last year. The Aston Martin Racing engineers also used the test day to run though the latest evolution tires and to test the air conditioning system that has been fitted to the factory cars for the first time this year.
Conditions were dry and hot throughout the test day, giving the first indication of the relative pace of all the cars in normal conditions. However, with a variety of set-ups, fuel loads and tires being assessed, it is hard to draw any definitive conclusion apart from the fact that it should be a very closely-fought race.
George Howard-Chappell – Team Principal, Aston Martin Racing:
"The test day went well for us. We've looked at all the tires we'll be using this year and we're very happy with the car. It seems to be extremely well balanced, which is of the utmost importance at Le Mans. We're running air conditioning for the first time this year and we're beginning to understand a bit about how that works and its effect on the cars. We worked through the test program we had planned and we're confident we've got a good package now. Of course it's hard to tell what the actual conditions will be like at race weekend: that's always one of the many unknown factors about Le Mans."
David Richards – Chairman, Aston Martin:
"The test day has been a good experience for all of us, and I think it's clear that we have a three-way fight on our hands. There's competition from within our own ranks, and the Saleens seem strong now as well as the Corvettes. From what I can see, this race has got all the hallmarks of being a classic Le Mans."
Tomas Enge (CZ) – Driver, car 007
"The car actually feels even better than it has done in the past, although the evolutions at this level are always very small. I did about 13 laps and I got a good idea of the conditions but of course in two weeks time they might be completely different. Luckily, I'm very familiar with the DBR9 now so I feel confident with it in all conditions."
Johnny Herbert (GB) – Driver, car 007
"It was important to try out the tires and know what everything feels like rather than go all-out for times, but the time that Peter set shows we're right up there. From a team point of view, everything's really beginning to knit together. The last time I competed at Le Mans was in 2004, when I finished second for the third consecutive time. That's a habit I really want to break this year…"
Peter Kox (NL) – Driver, car 007
"I was the first driver out on the track in the morning and the surface was very slippery. It's hard for me to draw many serious conclusions but the car feels good and very similar to how it has been in previous years. I think we've got the pace, but you can never predict too much from the test day."
David Brabham (AUS) – Driver, car 009
"We're certainly in the ball park in terms of performance, although there's always more you can do to improve the car – which is what the test day was all about. We've had a very good tire evaluation and that's given us a clear direction of where we're going. I'd say we're in good shape."
Rickard Rydell (S) – Driver, car 009
"For me, it was all about getting time in the car: I've not been to Le Mans since 2004 and not driven a GT car since then. There's a lot for me to learn but I'm confident that I'll be right on the pace of the others. The DBR9 is definitely the best-balanced GT car I've ever driven; already I have a lot of confidence."
Darren Turner (GB) – Driver, car 009
"I wasn't able to make the test day because of touring car commitments in the UK, but I kept track of everything that was happening and I'm confident we are well-prepared. It's what happens over the race weekend that really counts, so I'm just keen to get started now."