24 Heures du Mans 2005
24 Heures du Mans 2005

24 Heures du Mans 2005

73rd 24 Heures du Mans,18th/19th June 2005, A pictorial review of the 2005 Le Mans 24 hour race

The works DBR9's were the first Aston Martins since 1989 to compete at the La Sarthe circuit during the 24 hour race. The 16 year gap  between the AMR1 and the DBR9 was the longest period in the history of Aston Martin that the marque had not competed at the worlds most famous motor race. Despite being classed as a testing year for the Prodrive operated Aston Martin Racing team, the expectation placed on the team was very high indeed by enthusiastic race fans. My first opportunity to see the cars lapping in the dark was as Thursday night practice; a prelude to what things would be over the weekend.

24 Heures du Mans 2005
#58 DBR9/2 AM Racing Green with red highlights Peter Kox (NL), Pedro Lamy (P), Tomas Enge (CZ) Aston Martin Racing
#59 DBR9/1 AM Racing Green with yellow highlights David Brabham (AUS), Darren Turner (GB), Stephane Sarrazin (F) Aston Martin Racing

Friday, the eve of the race, 17/6/2005

There is no running of the cars on the Friday but plenty to see and do. The pit lane is open to all allowing a close view of the cars in their pit garages, mechanics making last minute adjustments. Later, in the town itself is the Parade des Pilots where Tomas Enge receives the prize for setting pole in the GT1 class driving car #58 with a time of 3.485, more than 6 seconds quicker than the 3.55 anticipated by the ACO for the GT1 cars.

Saturday – the cars assemble on the grid

The lead up to the race is unforgettable. The drivers pose for pictures with the glamour girls. But the closed DBR9’s begin to heat up inside even before the engines are started and the pit crew try to cool them by fanning the doors.

The grid about to start the 2005 Le Mans 24 hour race - shows the pair of DBR9's entered my Aston Martin Racing

Saturday 4pm and the 24 hour race begins

The main competition to the AMR team came from the factory Corvette team using the new for 2005 C6.R although the Ferrari 550’s could not be ignored. Car #58 started from pole position in class but sadly lost the lead after Darren Turner, who took the first stint, was given two stop-go penalties for cutting corners. By the end of the 2nd hour, the works DBR9’s were 1st and 4th in class. By the sixth hour, a Corvette and #59 were in a tight tussle for the lead. The DBR9 drivers were suffering from extreme heat build up within the cars in part but not totally due to the very warm weather. By the 7th hour, the lead Aston had pulled out the lead to 60 seconds which extended overnight to 90.

Midnight in the Pits

Sunday Morning

Everything was going well by the next morning although at midday, a Corvette was back in the lead although both Astons were still running well. They had been delayed by a puncture  (#59) and a broken splitter on #58, costing it the lead and pushing it down to 4th place. Sadly with just 90 minutes to go, both cars experienced trouble. Car #58, driven by Tomas Enge, Peter Kox and Pedro Lamy succumbed to a fuel related problem, initially thought to be low fuel although later believed to have been a faulty fuel pump.

Almost simultaneously, car #59 experienced a problem with its radiator with less than ninety minutes to go and was pulled into the pit garage. Hasty repairs were made to allow Stephane to complete the final stint up to the chequered flag and so take third in the GT1 class and ninth overall, having completed 333 laps.

Sunday 4pm and the flag falls to end the race

David Brabham, Darren Turner, Stephane Sarrazin collect their third place trophies, the first time that an Aston Martin team has had a podium at Le Mans since 1977 when RHAM/1 achieved a 3rd in class.