Lola-Aston Martin LMP1 – Click above for high-res image gallery
Since returning to the sportscar racing scene in 2005, Aston Martin Racing has expanded its scope to cover every category of GT racing from the GT4-spec Vantage to the GT1-spec DBR9. But few were prepared for the full-on assault the British outfit launched last year in the top-tier, winner-takes-all LMP1 category.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the last Aston Martin overall victory at Le Mans, the team shoehorned the V12 engine from the victorious DBR9 into an existing Lola chassis with support from veteran LMP1 campaigners Charouz Racing System. The Aston-powered Lolas emerged among the most successful gasoline-powered entries (behind the diesel-powered Audis and Peugeots). But that was only a stop-gap measure. This year's 24 Hours of Le Mans – set to kick off next weekend – is slated to be the last time Aston uses the Lola chassis before it launches its own.
Developed by Aston's racing partner Prodrive – directed by Aston chairman David Richards – the ground-up Le Mans prototype is set to take to the track next year. But Aston won't be keeping the fun all to itself. According to the latest reports, the factory works team will field two cars of its own, and sell an additional two cars to a privateer team next year and then another two in 2012. If Aston can find an edge against the longer-running diesels – this is an endurance race, after all – or if the series organizers find an effective way of equalizing the performance between the fuel types, a field of six Aston prototypes stand a good chance of topping the podium within the next couple of years.