JANUARY 27, 2009

David Richards's new dream

If taking over Honda Racing F1 proved to be too big a risk for David Richards in the current economic climate, the Prodrive boss nonetheless refuses to stop pushing onwards and has announced his plan to take Aston Martin to Le Mans to beat Peugeot and Audi.

Aston Martin has announced the plan to develop a V12-powered LMP1 car, which will be based on the Lola chassis that was run in 2008 by Charouz Racing, but featuring significant aerodynamic re-profiling as well as incorporating elements of Aston Martin styling. The gasoline-powered cars will run with the celebrated Gulf livery. The first public appearance of the new machines will be a test at Paul Ricard in March with the plan being to take part in the Le Mans Series race in Barcelona in April before turning the attention to Le Mans in June.

Aston Martin won Le Mans in style 50 years ago with Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori, leading home their team-mates Maurice Trintignant and Paul Frere. It had taken the company 10 years to achieve but was a significant achievement nonetheless. Six weeks before that victory was achieved Aston Martin entered F1 with Salvadori and Shelby but the timing was wrong as F1 was switching from front-engined cars to rear engines and the team made the wrong choice. Although the cars were redesigned in 1960 the performance did not improve and the team gave up at the end of that year.

There is little doubt that Richards has the dream to take Aston Martin to F1 to help sell more road cars. In the current economic climate that is an impossible challenge, but it could happen one day.

Stefan Mucke, Jan Charouz and Tomas Enge will race for Aston Martin and they will be joined at Le Mans by Darren Turner and Harold Primat with a sixth driver due to announced later. There may be three entries for Le Mans but this has yet to be sorted out.