Aston Martin and Gulf confirm Le Mans drivers The Aston Martin Racing team, which will race in the iconic blue and orange colours of Gulf, has announced its driver lineup for the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.
Following an historic GT1 class victory at the endurance classic last year, the 2008 line-up is once again an exciting blend of youth and experience, with four new drivers joining two members of the winning crew from last year. The evocative colour scheme, a departure from the traditional Aston Martin Racing Green, is also new for this year thanks to a partnership with Gulf Oil International.
Car number 007 will be crewed by Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Germany), Andrea Piccini (Italy) and Karl Wendlinger (Austria).
Car number 009 – the same number as last year’s class-winning car – will be driven by David Brabham (Australia), Antonio Garcia (Spain) and Darren Turner (Great Britain).
Brabham and Turner have been involved with the Aston Martin Racing team since its inception in 2005, and both formed part of the winning 009 crew last year. Frentzen is new to Aston Martin, while the remaining three drivers all have past experience of the DBR9 with the factory or customer teams.
“I think we’ve got another very strong line-up this year,” said Aston Martin Racing Team Principal George Howard-Chappell. “David and Darren are absolutely known quantities to us, having formed part of the crew that won GT1 last year, and it’s very good to have them on board again. Antonio and Karl have both been extremely active in our customer teams, and we have been very impressed with them throughout our testing programme.
Andrea drove for us at Le Mans in 2006 – as well as in America – so we’re delighted to welcome him back. As for Heinz-Harald, his reputation speaks for itself, so we look forward to a successful collaboration and another exciting race.”
After finishing on the podium twice at Le Mans following a return to racing in 2005, it finally came good for Aston Martin last year when the 009 DBR9 clinched GT1 class victory at the end of an action-packed race.
This year, the team is in no doubt that the challenge will be even greater in the face of formidable opposition. In total there will be 10 cars in the GT1 class, from four different manufacturers.
Car Number 007
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Germany, born 18 May 1967)
Frentzen is new to sportscar racing but has enjoyed a distinguished Formula 1 career, finishing second in the 1997 Drivers’ World Championship and third in 1999. “I’ve only driven at Le Mans once, 16 years ago, so it’s a great pleasure to come back to such a famous race – especially with a prestigious team like Aston Martin, which has formed part of the history of motorsport. The circuit is obviously very demanding, but the biggest challenge for us will be to stay fully focussed and concentrated over the course of the whole 24 hours.”
Andrea Piccini (Italy, born 12 December 1978)
Andrea formed part of the Aston Martin Racing crew that finished second at the 2006 Le Mans 24 Hours and he is also a regular in the FIA GT Championship. “I’m delighted to come back to the factory team and I feel very proud to be sharing the 007 car with two very well-known drivers of the calibre of Heinz-Harald and Karl. Anything can happen at Le Mans of course, but in 2006 we finished second and I was also second in the FIA GT Championship and Spa 24 Hours. So it would be good to go one better this time!”
Karl Wendlinger (Austria, born 20 December 1968)
Karl cut his teeth in sports cars before moving into Formula 1. He then returned to endurance racing a few years later, winning the 1999 FIA GT Championship and becoming a regular at Le Mans. “I’ve driven the DBR9 for three seasons in the FIA GT Championship and I’ve competed at Le Mans several times, but I’ve never driven the DBR9 at Le Mans before, so I’m very pleased to finally have the opportunity to do that. The team and the drivers are very experienced, so while a 24 hour race like Le Mans is always impossible to predict, I feel that we have a very good chance.”
Car Number 009
David Brabham (Australia, born 5 September 1965)
David is the most experienced of Aston Martin Racing’s drivers as this will be his fifteenth Le Mans and fourth in a DBR9. Having formed part of last year’s winning line-up, he is eager to try and repeat the experience. “I’m delighted to be asked back and have the opportunity to race at Le Mans again this year. If anything it’s going to be an even bigger challenge now as I’m sure the competition will have moved on, so we’ll need another faultless run. I feel we’re well-prepared but anything can happen at Le Mans – which is precisely what makes it such a fascinating place.”
Antonio Garcia (Spain, born 05 June 1980)
Antonio – who will be contesting his third Le Mans this year – has experience of the race and the DBR9 through Aston Martin’s customer teams, but this will be his first appearance with the works team. “It’s obviously a big privilege to drive for the works team now, and I think we have a really good chance. Le Mans is a race where you just have to do the best you can, keep working hard, and try to let the result come to you. It’s a tough challenge, but a really nice one and I think I am well-placed to benefit from my previous experience now.”
Darren Turner (Great Britain, born 13 April 1974)
Darren will be contesting his sixth Le Mans 24 Hours this year, having been a permanent fixture in the Aston Martin Racing team since the DBR9’s debut race at Sebring in 2005. “Winning the race last year has given us added confidence but it has probably also put even more pressure on, as now we’re the team to beat. The opposition has always been strong, but I’m sure that they will have been working even harder over the winter now that they know the level we’re at. I think we’ve got a very solid line-up: the key to success at Le Mans is always good preparation, which so far we’ve been able to achieve.”
The 76th Le Mans 24 Hours will get underway on Saturday 14 June this year, with the official test day taking place on 1 June. newspress.co.uk