It's pretty incredible to think that three years ago there were no Aston Martin race cars. Now we can watch them in the European Le Mans Series, American Le Mans Series, FIA GT racing, as well as endurance races like the 24 Hours of Nurburgring and the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans. To celebrate both the factory-backed and privately-owned teams, Aston Martin hosted all of its racing cars at the Paul Ricard circuit in France for a little preseason test. The product of that event, aside from many famous drivers taking their turn behind the wheel of each and every car, was this family portrait of Aston Martin Racing. Front and center is the Gulf livery DBR9 flanked by the new Vantage GT2 on its left (our right) and one of many V8 Vantage N24 cars on its right. See that white car being left in the dust way in the back? That's the V12 Vantage RS concept that just got off a plane returning from the Geneva Motor Show. Since we know you want to make this pic your desktop wallpaper, we've included an extra special 1,980-pixel-wide version for you to download, and there are more Aston Martin Racing galleries after the jump.
[Source: Aston Martin]
Aston Martin Racing Completes Pre-Season Test
Aston Martin Racing has hosted a pre-season test for both the factory team and private outfits at the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France, following in the footsteps of the first such event that took place last year.
As well as the two-car Gulf factory team of DBR9s that will compete at Le Mans, there were several customer DBR9s on track. The brand new Charouz Racing Systems LMP1 car powered by Aston Martin – which will be driven at Le Mans by Jan Charouz, Tomas Enge and Stefan Mucke – also took to the circuit for the two-day test.
Aston Martin's other racing cars at Paul Ricard included the new Vantage GT2, along with the DBRS9 GT3 car and several examples of the V8 Vantage N24, which will be competing in the FIA GT4 Championship this year.
Fresh from the Geneva Motorshow, the V12 Vantage RS concept road car took to the circuit as well to join its racing stablemates.
The Paul Ricard circuit near Toulon is a former French Grand Prix venue that has been turned into the world's most advanced test track. It is famous amongst other things for the Mistral straight, which at 1.8 kilometres is the longest permanent straight in Europe, giving the Aston Martins scheduled to compete at Le Mans a flavour of the legendary Mulsanne that they will face in June.
Aston Martin Racing fielded two DBR9s in Gulf livery – traditionally numbered 007 and 009 – in order to test the cars for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Amongst the drivers at Paul Ricard with previous DBR9 experience were Antonio Garcia, Andrea Piccini, Darren Turner and Karl Wendlinger. The newcomers to the DBR9 in France were Ryan Dalziel, Robbie Kerr, and former Grand Prix star Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
The German driver, the winner of three Grands Prix, commented: "I've not driven any sort of racing car for one and a half years, so this was a great opportunity for me to get back into action. I really enjoyed the experience of driving the DBR9, and I actually found it very easy to drive. It was really good fun to get behind the wheel of a proper GT car, and I've definitely got a taste for it now."
The Gigawave Motorsport, Jetalliance and Strakka Racing teams also tested their DBR9s at Paul Ricard while Hexis Racing tested its DBRS9s in preparation for the forthcoming season.
Aston Martin Chairman David Richards commented: "Just three years ago we didn't have a single Aston Martin racing car, so if you look at how far we have come in that short space of time it's quite incredible. Now we have cars in every category, from GT1 to GT4. To see all those cars out here together makes me very proud, and it's a valuable opportunity for the whole Aston Martin family to share the circuit and their experiences with the factory Gulf team."
Dr Ulrich Bez, Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin, said: "It is very satisfying to see the progress we have made at all levels of GT racing. The DBR9s in Gulf colours look stunning and the new GT2 car is showing great potential, but I am also delighted to see so many of our Vantage N24 customers here testing alongside the professionals. I was thrilled to drive the V12 Vantage RS concept car for the first time."