In this chapter, I will talk about another British brand that wore the traditional Green on their cars: Aston Martin.
The company was founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, and their very first car was produced in 1915 in the newly acquired facility in Kensington District, London. Aston Martin debuted in motorsport at the 1922 French Grand Prix.
The team raced the TT2, a car equipped with a “state of the art” 1.5 liter, twin-cam 16 valves engine.
Aston Martin was basically born in financial trouble and the company changed ownership several times. Fortunately, all the different owners always had one thing in common, they believed racing was the best advertisement to boost sales. The brand became a traditional sight on the race tracks around Europe, either as an official race team or in the hands of private drivers.
In 1947 the industrialist David Brown acquired Aston Martin and during his ownership, the company created a series of coupes that became its trademark: The “DB”.
In 1952 Aston Martin debuted in Le Mans, with a purpose-built sports car, the DB 3S. The car didn’t win but had shown very good potential in other races of the season. The was equipped with a “Lagonda” in-line 6 engine with 205 HP.
The victory at Le Mans finally came in 1959, when the seasoned Aston Martin Team outperformed its major competitors, Ferrari, Jaguar, and Porsche, finishing the race with a 1-2 win.
The winner car was the Aston Martin DBR1/300, equipped with the traditional in-line 6 engine capable to deliver 250 HP.
In the end, the number 5 Aston driven by Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori crossed the finish line in first, followed by Aston number 6 driven by Maurice Trintignant and Paul Frère, 25 laps behind the 2 Astons came the third car to finish the race, a Ferrari 250 GT from the Belgium official team. Besides all the difficulties faced by the drivers, Shelby had to deal with dysentery for the whole weekend and he had even driven with a nitroglycerine capsule under his tongue in case he had heart problems (which he omitted from telling his team). Salvadori, who was also ill with flu, drove for 14 hours but the privilege to receive the checkered flag went to Shelby.
In 1959 Aston Martin not only scored a victory at Le Mans but the team also won the World Sportscar Championship.
Fast forward to 1991, Ford Motor Comp. bought Aston Martin, and just like it did with Jaguar, the Americans reorganized the company and went full-throttle on the Racing Department.
In 2007 Aston Martin entered Le Mans with three gorgeous DB”R”-9, painted in green and with a big Union Jack on the fenders. The cars received the numbers “006”, “007” and “009”, very possibly to honor the most beloved secret agent from the silver screen, who made Aston Martin famous worldwide. No, it doesn’t get any more British than that.
In the end, the DB # 009 driven by D. Brabham, R. Rydell, and D. Turner won the GT1 class at Le Mans, 2007.
The DB”R”-9 were equipped with a 6.0 L, naturally aspirated V-12, capable to produce 625 HP.
2007 also was the last year of Ford’s ownership and to keep track of all the benefactors who took over the company over the years would be a rather tedious task. But most of them kept Aston Martin’s racing division busy.
It took another 10 years for the company to be victorious at Le Mans once again. In 2017 the team won the “GTE Pro” class in one of the most thrilling race in recent years. At 45 min to the end of the race, the Vantage number 97 driven by Jony Adam, pulled to the pit at the same time as the yellow Corvette number 63, from the official Chevrolet Team, for their final fuel stop, but he Corvette left the pits in front of the #97.
“We nearly got the jump on the Corvette at the stop, but we had to pull in behind it.” recalls Adam. “Then my engineer came on the radio and said: ‘to win Le Mans, you have to pass that Corvette.“
What followed was an epic battle for the first place, decided within the final 2 laps to the end when Jony Adam secured the victory for the British Team. The GTE Vantage was equipped with an all aluminum, 4.5 L V8 outputting 450 HP, a modified version of the 4.3 L V8 from the production car.
The racing tradition of Aston Martin is still going strong, as I am writing these last lines, the Rolex 24 at Daytona 2020 is at 41 minutes to the finish and even if the Aston Martin Team is having a less than great weekend, it is still a satisfaction to see the brand fighting among the most prestigious teams in the world.
But the cars are no longer green.
In the next chapter of this series, I will talk about Lotus Race Team during the time the cars wore green.