Forty-eight years after its famous success at Le Mans with the DBR1 of Roy Salvadori and the late Carroll Shelby, Aston Martin returned to glory in the French classic with victory in the super competitive LMGT1 class with a fleet of DBR9s packing out the top of the GT section.
The DBR9 was the car that took Aston Martin back into the very forefront of international sports car racing after a series of less successful forays over a 30-year period. The DBR9 designation for the GT car paid homage to the landmark DBR1 of 1959 and it ultimately to the Aston Martin factory team to GT class victories at Le Mans in 2007 and again in 2008.
Based on the incredibly popular and desirable DB9 road car, the DBR9 employed the chassis, engine block and cylinder heads of the road-going car’s V12 Aston Martin engine. But beyond those elements, the DBR9 was all-out purpose-built GT racer with bodywork that mated the classic styling of the DB9 with the aerodynamic performance necessary to compete at the highest level, and cope with 200mph terminal speeds that are such an important feature of the Le Mans race. Carbon fibre panels were used extensively to save weight and a flat bottom, rear diffuser and carbon fibre wing were all developed as a result of wind tunnel testing.
The DBR9 made and impressive start to its debut season, winning LMGT1 at the Sebring 12-hours to score a very significant result in the crucial US road car sales market. But Aston was beaten by the Corvettes at Le Mans after fuel problems. In 2006, Corvette claimed victories over Aston at Sebring and Le Mans, but a gaggle of victories in the American Le Mans Series ensured an automatic Le Mans entry for 2007 for the factory Aston team.
For Le Mans 2007 the factory team, operated by Prodrive, developed the cars further and installed a cockpit air conditioning system in order to reduce heat stress for the drivers in line with new event regulation. The result was everything that Aston Martin had hoped for, with three cars in the top four of LMGT1 and victory for David Brabham, Richard Rydell and Darren Turner. The victory was repeated in 2008 when Brabham and Turner were joined by Antonio Garcia.
Chassis 007 made its race debut at Silverstone in May 2006 and scored a series of top six finishes in that year’s FIA GT Championship, topped by fifth places at Brno and Dubai. Fabrizio Gollin and Miguel Ramos was the most frequent driver pairing. In 2007, its major focus was Le Mans, with the only other races being two FIA GT events. At Le Mans, raced by former Grand Prix ace Johnny Herbert, Tomas Enge and Peter Kox, 007 finished a superb 9th overall and fourth in LMGT1.
The 14th and final race for chassis 007 was in Gulf livery at Le Mans in 2008 with two former Grand Prix drivers at the wheel as Heinz-Harold Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger were joined by Andrea Piccini to score a 16th place finish.