Aston Martin Racing at Le Mans 2010: Not This Time

For a brief period on Sunday morning, it looked as if a shock result might, just possibly, be on the cards. The diesel Peugeots were failing fast, Audi’s metronomic three-car attack was experiencing minor problems, and the two Gulf Blue Lola-Aston Martins were still howling round the track.

Sadly, for the 1000s of supporters eager to see at least a podium finish for Aston Martin Racing, in the final hour the 009 car of Juan Barazi (DK), Sam Hancock (GB) and Darren Turner (GB) stopped near Arnage when in fourth place, smoke seen drifting from the back of it.

Such were the twists and turns of the 2010 race that a third place - or even higher - for 009 had been quite conceivable, with 007 just a few laps behind. As it was, 007, crewed by Adrian Fernandez (MEX), Stefan Mücke (D) and Harold Primat (CH) eventually finished in sixth place overall, missing out on the unofficial ‘best petrol-engined car’ award by four laps.

To be honest, it had looked tough right from qualifying as the seemingly ‘money-no-object’, factory Peugeot and Audi, diesel-powered teams blocked out the first seven places on the grid. The two Gulf Lola-Astons were split by the tiniest of margins, while the black and white, French Signature Plus car, #008, was a couple of positions back, in 11th place. The latter was driven by Franck Mailleux (F), Pierres Ragues (F) and Vanina Ickx (B).

Yes, THAT Ickx – she is the multiple-Le Mans-winner Jacky Ickx’s daughter.

Come race day, and for the early stages, all three cars held their grid positions. The rule changes which allowed petrol cars a fuel capacity advantage didn’t really do enough to equalise performance, so it was a case of just making the best of the situation and hoping for dramas to befall others ahead.

At half-distance, the three Aston Martin prototypes were running in 7th, 8th and 10th places. Things proceeded in the same manner until early Sunday morning when, at 08:00, Harold Primat experienced transmission trouble in 007 while in a useful fifth place. The hour’s delay for repairs in the pits put the car out of contention – cruelly so, as later events were to prove.

The Signature Plus 008 car retired at 10:00 after a heavy accident on its ‘out’ lap with Vanina Ickx at the wheel, luckily with no injuries to the driver.

So it was down to the 009 car to take the fight to Audi and Peugeot, with a now healthy 007 howling round to make up lost time. As we have seen, a result for 009 wasn’t to be and 007 finished in sixth place, 32 laps behind the winning Audi.

Speaking after the race, David Richards, Chairman of Aston Martin said: “All in all this weekend was a success; we set out to prove that we were the fastest petrol entry here and whilst the result wasn’t quite what we were looking for, we certainly proved the performance of the Aston Martins.

“We received such an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm and support from customers and fans alike. The team performed to their usual immaculate standards and I am especially pleased with our Official Partner Team Young Driver AMR who secured a podium. We hope and look forward to the opportunity to challenge for an outright victory in the future.”

Team Young Driver supplied the sole Aston entry in LM GT1, veteran AMR drivers Tomas Enge (CZ) and Peter Kox (NL) joined by Christopher Nygaard (DK). Having qualified on pole in LM GT1, the white/red DBR9 eventually finished 22nd overall, third in class with driveshaft problems holding the clearly fast car back.

In LM GT2, the yellow and black, Dunlop-sponsored Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT2 of Rob Bell (GB), Tim Sugden (GB) and Bryce Miller (USA) qualified 13th in class but was eliminated in an accident at 21:00 on Saturday evening.

You can read our full report on the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours HERE.

Text - Steve Wakefield
Photos - Classic Driver

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