A Day With Aston Martin Racing
The Editor had a marvellous day away from his desk today (November 23), thanks to the kindness of James Turner, Sarah Durose, Sadie Wigglesworth, Shanna Wells and everyone else at Aston Martin Racing.

Was the highlight a trip round the Club Circuit at Silverstone - or driving a DBR9 on the road, complete with the Sportspack?

The weather forecast predicted terrible weather, but it didn’t turn out like that at all. Approximately 25 guests assembled at Prodrive’s base beside the M40 at 10.15, for a quick introduction from Commercial Director James Turner and Pedro Lamy – and then a quick tour of some of the Prodrive workshops.

In one ‘shop were a pair of DBR9s (one of them, above) under construction – next to three V8 Vantage Rally GTs (this is the first, right) that will be performing in the Race of Champions very soon, at the Stade de France in Paris.

Next door were a couple of DBRS9s being built (below) – which was the cue to hurry away from Banbury and head south and east to a blowy Silverstone. The track was still wet in places after overnight rain, and Pedro Lamy headed out to warm up the car and its wet tyres.

MC was the first man into the passenger seat – and enjoyed every single moment of three laps of the Club Circuit. This wasn’t the raw aggression of one or two of the vehicles I’ve been lucky enough to have been chauffeured round race tracks in – but the DBRS9 was hardly docile either.

Pedro got the tail sliding out nicely, out of Luffield in particular. As with any race car, the brakes were superb: steel ones of course on the GT3. The highest speed I saw on the digital dash was 214 kph just before the braking point into Copse.

It was immense fun. Every one else who climbed out of the right hand side of the black beast was also beaming from ear to ear. It really was the sort of car that even the utterly incompetent, like myself, felt as though they really could have lapped competently in, with some suitable instruction.

Incidentally, this chassis was the first of the DBRS9s, the one unveiled at Le Mans in 2005 – when everyone was puzzled by the fact that the likes of Dave Richards and Graham Humphrys couldn’t tell us what class it was being built for.

“Basically it’s been designed to fill a hole that we think is there,” explained Humphrys - here.

That hole was neatly filled by the FIA GT3 regulations.

Lunch in the BRDC Clubhouse was excellent – and Pedro Lamy seemed to have got down to 61 second laps as the track dried.

Then it was a chance to drive two cars from the Aston Martin road car range: the V12 DB9 and the V8 Vantage.

A pleasant surprise was to find that my passenger in the DB9 was former British GT racer Chris Ward – who has been racing the Bicknell in Britsports this year, with considerable success, but will have a 2007 version of this unique car to play with soon, and the VdeV is the chosen series for that one. Chris would of course like to race this car (right).

Chris Ward’s job wasn’t too instruct me – more to persuade me to go faster. Part of the route took us to a swooping, deserted country road, and that was a chance to give it plenty of right foot. The V12 is extraordinary in the way it will pull away from as slow as 13 mph (I made that 600 or so revs from a quick glance at the dials) in fifth gear. It was almost like driving an automatic, if that’s what you wanted.

The big DB9 was extraordinarily easy to place on the road, despite its size. Buckingham town centre is very tight, with a couple of awkward little roundabouts, with narrow pavements next to the narrow tarmac – but placing the car never required a second thought. I’ve never found that in large cars before.

VW racer Andy Burgess (that's him on the left, with Chris Ward, in front of the DB9) accompanied me on the way back to Silverstone, in a V8 Vantage. Now this was quick enough, for me. Past 4,000 revs and the exhaust growled impressively. It wasn’t massively fast, and I liked that. The DB9 was really too fast for me: I felt as though I was just nibbling at the surface of it. Was it saying “Where’s Lamy?” to me? Or “Put your foot down you pansy!”

British roads – speed cameras, lots of traffic, and a low sun in your eyes today – may not be the ideal location for either of these cars, but as Sarah Durose pointed out, “they’re Aston Martins, you don’t need to rush – they’ve got a presence anyway”.

And “a presence” is something that all three cars had in abundance. Here's the complete line-up of road cars at the circuit today. Which one would you like?

 

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