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European Le Mans Series, Catalunya 2009 – Click above for image gallery

Ambition is good. Ambition backed by competence is better. Aston Martin Racing would appear to have both.

Since landing on the endurance racing scene in 2005 with a victory in its first race, the competition arm of the venerable British sportscar-maker has become an indomitable force, taking victory in the GT1 category at Le Mans two years in a row and expanding into every other GT class along the way. But AMR wasn't satisfied with class wins, so for this year, David Richards and company took aim at the diesel-burning big boys from Audi and Peugeot by entering the Le Mans Prototype Class with a DBR9-powered Lola chassis in partnership with Charouz Racing Systems. The Gulf-liveried Astons were unveiled less than a month ago, but made their racing debut this past weekend in Spain at the 1000 km of Catalunya, the season-opener to the European Le Mans Series. Follow the jump to read how it all unfolded.

Before we get into the race results, it's important to note that neither Peugeot nor Audi – the two dominating forces in the top-tier LMP1 class – chose to contest the full European calendar this season, opting instead to focus on key races like the headline 24 Hours of Le Mans. A fortunate decision, it turns out. The only question remains: "Who for?" as Aston Martin claimed overall victory on its race debut with the new machinery in their new class.

The victory could hardly be classified as domination, but it was a victory nonetheless. As the thousand-click race wound down to its closing laps, the number 007 Aston Martin looked poised to take second place behind the Pescarolo-Judd driven by Christophe Tinseau and Jean-Christophe Boullion, until the French team's car stalled during its final pitstop. The front-running Aston, driven by Stefan Mucke, Jan Charouz and Tomas Enge, took the lead, and with only 40 minutes of race time to go, the safety car was deployed as Tinseau closed the lead down to just 6.2 seconds. When the safety car went back into the pits with just six laps to go, the Aston's lead over the Pescarolo was only four seconds, but that would prove enough for Aston Martin to claim its first victory in LMP1 in its first attempt, even extending its lead to fourteen seconds ahead of the Pescarolo by the finish line.

The drivers of the second Aston would have joined their counterparts on the podium had it not been for an unfortunate spin that took the 009 car out of the running near the end of the race. Instead, third place went to another notable entry: LMS regular Stephane Ortelli was joined by Bruno Senna, nephew of the late great Ayrton Senna, a rated F1 hopeful in his own right and runner-up in last year's GP2 championship. Ortelli and Senna took the bottom rung on the podium behind the wheel of a Courage ORECA, the former French racing manufacturer purchased last year by the latter (whose name you might recognize for their work preparing Dodge Vipers for endurance racing) claiming a GT2-class victory at Le Mans way back in 1991 and continuing to produce the Viper Competition Coupe to GT3 regulations through last year.

Farther down the field, Italian team Racing Box took the LMP2 honors in a Judd-powered Lola chassis, Reiter Engineering took the GT1 trophy with their Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT, and Porsche regained its honor against the Ferrari F430 GTs that dominated previous seasons as the #77 911 GT3 RSR hoisted the trophy for the GT2 category.

In entering the top-tier LMP1 category, Aston Martin demonstrated it has ambition in spades. And in taking the checkered flag on its race debut, the team has certainly demonstrated that it has the competence to back it up, and then some. We'll have to wait until June, though, to find out how the team fares against the diesel-powered heavy-hitters of the Audi R15 TDI and Peugeot 908 HDi at this year's Le Mans 24, so stay tuned.

[Sources: Autosport and Le Mans Series]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      What's wrong with what he said?
      • 6 Years Ago
      did anyone else notice there is nobody in the stands?!? :(
      • 6 Years Ago
      That Aston is beautiful in the classic sense. I don't care how it stacks up to the diesels I love it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Gulf colours = automatic win.


      I wonder how they'll stack up against the diesel monsters though? Can't wait for LeMans.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Doesn't take a genius to figure that the diesels is going to walk away esp with an extra 150bhp on tap. I wish the ACO would further reduce the fuel tank capacity of the diesel burners.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Yup, and the track is called circuit de catalunya, so whats your point?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Mobius_1 I Agree Gotta Love That Color Scheme.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Belgian round is called "The 1000km of Spa Francorchamps", because it's at a circuit called Spa Francorchamps. Same goes for the German round at the Nurburgring. So why is it wrong to call the Spanish round, which takes place at the Circuit de Catalunya, "The 1000km of Catalunya"?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I watched the first hour and the mid point highlights. The full race highlights can be found on Endurance Magazine elsewhere on the net. It was available, all 5 hours online but you can't be anyplace but Europe to watch it. For the next race however there are plans to run the internet feed via proxy like Chris TV to allow others to watch it. The pictures had no commentary either, starting with the next round Radio Le Mans will be on air, so while the commentary sync won't be spot on, it will be close enough to the live pictures for you to understand what's happening.

      The Team Sebah Lola/Aston-Martin led early and pulled away from BOTH AMR Lola/Aston-Martins AND the aforementioned Audi R10's ran by Kolles. The drivers are worthy but with very little seat time and testing with the cars however, the lack of pace showed.

      By Le Mans they will be on pace however with most of the Gas LMP cars and enter Le Mans as an insurance policy to the R15. But given how the R15 went at Sebring there should be no cause for concern really... The 908 will still be the quickest car at Le Mans, but the real show down will be the Spa 1000km race where both cars will return to duke it out. With no pre-qualifying at Le Mans this year (should be every year IMHO), there will be no sand bagging in qualifying which produces a better show for the fans.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Although I commend Aston Martin for going all out this year by entering P1, in reality they have no chance against Audi and Peugeot at Le Mans. And what's with pic #13 in the gallery showing an Audi R10 off the track? Audi didn't run at this year's Catalunya season opener.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Looks sweet, need to get better pictures, but I know from experience how hard it is to capture race cars... particularly lmp1 cars
      • 6 Years Ago
      Of course it is irrelevant for the race cars, but that Aston has such a dated design, as if it jumped in time from the late 80s.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Dear Autoblog,
      Where is the high-resolution car porn I've grown to love???

      The Jettawagon
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