Meet Aston's Racer For The Road
by Dan Strong
It's wild it's brutal, it's British! The country's most famous supercar builder has just unveiled this ultimate evolution of the DB9 - a car that will not only be seen on the road, but on the race track at Le Mans.
The newcomer promises to be one of the most extreme cars Aston Martin has ever built and draws heavily on the firm's history, resurrecting the DBR badge first used on the DBR1 in 1956. Conceived as a racing car, homologation requirements mean that a small number look certain to be built for Aston's best customers. As yet, there's no word on price.
Set to join rivals including the Maserati MC12 and still-secret roadgoing version of the Lamborghini Murciélago GT-R, the DBR9 is tipped to offer a 600bhp-plus evolution of the 6.0-litre V12 that powers the standard car, plus a new six-speed semi-auto gearbox.
Lightweight composite panels will be combined with the car's advanced aluminium and carbon sandwich chassis, while uprated suspension will be developed to ensure the DBR9 can handle the rigours of some of the world's toughest race tracks. Bigger carbon composite brakes will guarantee huge stopping power, while massive alloy wheels and super-sticky tyres should increase the amount of grip on offer.
However, while the technical specification of the newcomer will be massively uprated over standard, it's the wild-looking exterior which is sure to generate the most debate among fans.
Virtually every body panel has been modified to improve performance. At the front, there's an enlarged radiator grille for better engine cooling. The tarmac-scraping bumper, meanwhile, is designed to force air around the car, rather than underneath it, and sports extra brake-cooling vents to force fresh air through the front wheels. The bonnet is expected to be made of carbon fibre, while the sweeping roofline is likely to get extra cooling vents not shown in our pictures.
The doors remain near standard, however, while massive side sills widen the car's track, and have also sprouted high-performance side exit exhausts.
At the rear there's a new wing, as well as a huge under-body venturi tunnel designed to suck the car to the ground at high speed. Inside, the car is likely to sport a stripped-out interior and roll cage to help stiffen the chassis further. Bucket seats and race regulation fire extinguishers will replace the leather and aluminium trim of the standard machine.
First examples of the car are likely to hit the road in 2005, and will spearhead the marque's return to international motor racing. 'Works' cars will be built by Prodrive, the racing outfit based in Banbury, Oxfordshire, which is currently responsible for the design, development and management of the car's entire racing programme.
At present, Aston plans to field two cars at the Le Mans 24 Hours and up to six others in a variety of events across Europe and America.
"The design of the DB9 lends itself to be translated perfectly into the DBR9 race car," explained Jeremy Main, Aston Martin's Director of Product Development and Motorsport.
"While the DBR9 has been planned for outright performance, every surface sculpture and design detail has been developed to the same high standards as seen on Aston Martin's road cars."
Sporting Legacy Of A Legendary Marque
The DBR9 recalls the glories of Aston Martin's racing past, as the Newport Pagnell-based company has a long-standing association with success in endurance events.
The most renowned Aston sports car was the DBR1, introduced in 1956. Its first endurance win came in 1957 at the Spa Sportscar Race, with Tony Brooks at the wheel. Victories followed in the Goodwood Tourist Trophy in 1958 and 1959.
But the DBR1's greatest triumph came later in 1959, storming to a stunning win at Le Mans. Stirling Moss was given the task of being Aston's sacrificial lamb, driving at car-breaking pace so the two Ferraris were forced to drive hard to keep up. The move paid off - Moss had to retire, but not before both Ferraris had succumbed to engine failure. The second DBR1, driven by Roy Salvadori and Carrol Shelby, stormed home to victory. The DBR name continued through four more successive generations of cars, with varying degrees of success in both endurance and grand prix racing. With the DBR9, Aston hopes to recreate the name's remarkable success...