Aston Martin completes wet Le Mans test day
Aston Martin has completed the traditional pre-Le Mans test day at the La Sarthe circuit, two weeks prior to the endurance classic.
The test is an opportunity for drivers and teams to re-familiarise themselves with the eight-mile circuit in order to finalise the set-up for the round the clock race. This year, Aston Martin Racing will be defending its GT1 class win with two Gulf-sponsored DBR9s, numbered 007 and 009. Also competing in the event is an Aston Martin-powered LMP1 prototype, entered by Charouz Racing System, as well as two customer DBR9s from Team Modena and Vitaphone Racing.
Conditions for the test day were a mixture of wet and dry weather, which limited running for most of the teams. Despite the changeable conditions, the teams were still able to carry out some useful preparation.
The 007 DBR9 was crewed by Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Andrea Piccini and Karl Wendlinger, while 009 was driven by David Brabham and Antonio Garcia. The car's remaining driver, Darren Turner – who won the GT1 class along with Brabham in 009 last year – was absent due to touring car commitments in the UK, but he has plenty of previous Le Mans experience to fall back on when it comes to the race.
The test day consisted of two sessions, from 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 6pm. During the lunch break, 20 Aston Martin road cars took to the La Sarthe circuit, as part of the 2009 model year V8 Vantage press launch.
Aston Martin DBR9 007:
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (D): "Although the conditions were extremely mixed, every bit of running at Le Mans is useful, as these are all conditions that could be replicated during the race. I last competed at Le Mans 16 years ago: it was interesting to be back! I don't remember much of the circuit at all, so it was useful to get my bearings. It was hard to do any detailed set-up work, but the balance of the car feels generally good – which is a very positive sign for the race to come."
Andrea Piccini (I): "It's a pity that we didn't get more consistent weather as it was quite hard to get a good feeling. During my laps, half the circuit was dry – up to the Mulsanne straight – and the other half was wet. I was running on medium slicks, so it was tricky for me to get enough heat into the tyres and generate the grip we needed for a quick time. I last drove for Aston Martin at Le Mans in 2006, so it took me a little bit of time to get familiar with the car again but now I feel comfortable."
Karl Wendlinger (A): "This was a very useful session to refresh my memory of the Le Mans circuit, which I last competed on in 2001. There's a lot that's new since then, particularly the section around Tertre Rouge. I've got experience of the DBR9 from the FIA GT Championship already; it feels very strong under acceleration and braking here – which will definitely help us in the race. We don't know what the weather will do during the race weekend, so I'm glad we experienced the wet and tried a few different things today."
Aston Martin DBR9 009
David Brabham (AUS): "We weren't expecting any real surprises from the test day, and luckily that turned out to be the case. I drove a lot of the race last year in the wet – including the very last stint – so it all felt quite familiar today! I think everyone's test programme was compromised by the weather today, but my personal goal was just to get used to the car again after a year out of it and I succeeded in that objective. Although we waited a bit I was still one of the first drivers out, so the track was extremely green and slippery – but it was all useful running."
Antonio Garcia (E): "I was quite lucky compared to some of the other guys, as I managed to get a few laps in dry conditions. I made the most of that opportunity to push quite hard, and from that I feel confident that we will be competitive. It's difficult to draw too many detailed conclusions, but I think we're well-prepared. I drove the DBR9 last year for a customer team, so it all feels quite normal; even the weather!"
The LMP1 car entered by Charouz Racing System and driven by Jan Charouz (CZ), Tomas Enge (CZ) and Stefan Mucke (D) used the test day to get familiar with the conditions and work on the prototype's wet-weather set-up.
Team Modena's DBR9, car number 59, will be driven by Terry Borcheller (USA), Christian Fittipaldi (BR) and Jos Menten (NL). The Vitaphone Racing car, numbered 53, will be driven by Peter Hardman (GB), Nick Leventis (GB), and Xavier Negrao (BR).
Aston Martin Racing Team Principal George Howard-Chappell commented: "It was a very tricky day in terms of preparing for the race, with completely random weather. Still, it has been the same for everyone and at least all our drivers here got the chance to drive the car in a wide variety of conditions. Along with everyone else, we've got a lot of work still to do on Wednesday and Thursday of race week."
The 76th Le Mans 24 Hours will start on Saturday June 14 at 3pm.