Prodrive to get Aston Martin deal

Aston Martin is planning to be back at Le Mans in 2005 with a racer based on the new Aston Martin's DB9. The word in sports car circles is that the deal to build the cars has gone to Prodrive - the sister company of BAR - which has been campaigning Ferrari 550 Maranellos in recent years with the goal of landing a manufacturer deal in GT racing. The Astons are expected to be raced in the GTS class, taking on the Ferrari, Corvette and Maserati entries.

Aston Martin owes much of its cachet to motorsport, dating back to 1913 when Lionel Martin built the first cars to compete in the famous hillclimb near the village of Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire. The company later passed into the hands of Count Louis Zborowski, a wealthy British-based racing driver, who took Aston Martin into Grand Prix racing in the 1920s. After his death in 1924 Aston Martin disappeared from racing until after World War II when the company became a leading entrant in sports car racing. Throughout the 1950s Aston Martin battled for victory at Le Mans but it was not until 1959 that Aston scored an historic 1-2 finish with Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby leading home Maurice Trintignant and Paul Frere. In the 1970s and 1980s there were various attempts to return to Le Mans but since 1987 Aston Martin has been owned by Ford.

Plans for a Ford Le Mans program have been in the pipeline for the last four or five years.

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