The Aston Martin DBR9 GT1 racer is a car I lusted after driving throughout my sportscar racing career, but never quite managed. Don't feel too sorry for me though, I drove for the factory team in LMP1 (the gorgeous Gulf-liveried, Lola derived prototype) and for Jota Sport in a GTE spec V8 Vantage, so I understand if the violin remains a string short.
It's just that the DBR9 always seemed that little bit more special - a little more pure in it's lineage, and a little more breathtaking in its design. That something so beautiful could roll up at Sebring in 2005 and win one of the toughest endurance races on the calendar straight out of the box says everything about the calibre of this machine.
Based on the Aston Martin DB9 road car, the DBR9 retains the chassis, engine block, and cylinder heads of the road car's six litre, normally aspirated, V12 engine. The rest of the car is re-engineered for high performance competition use. The DBR9's bodywork is a blend of optimum aerodynamic performance and the styling of the DB9 road car. All the body panels are constructed from carbon fibre composite (except the roof) to minimize the weight of the car. To complete the aerodynamic body, the bottom of the car is flat all the way from the front to the rear diffuser. To optimise rear downforce a carbon fibre wing has been added. The car officially goes from 0-60 mph 3.4 seconds, but that depends on a myriad of factors.
Here courtesy of the Global Endurance Legends organisation which is building a grid of iconic racers from the 1990's and early 'noughties into a racing series, I was grateful to receive a dream invite to test the car from owner, Gregor Fisken.
With 600bhp under my right foot I was sure to be entertained, but like all of the best endurance racers, it felt eminently manageable, as though the car was quite happy to to the bulk of the work, only requiring the occasional hint from me as to where I'd like it to head.
Inputs were met with an instant and proportional response, such that I felt right at home within a lap or two. Only over bumps did I find the handling a bit nervous, the suspension just a little too stiff for the circuit and cold conditions. Really the only negative was that the brakes were slightly underwhelming, but I put that down to aging ceramics and a brutally heavy 'lump' upfront.
Best of all though, was the noise. You'll hear it for yourself in this video but what amazed the most was that the noise from within the cockpit was the same as outside. That never happens! So often the greatest noises in motorsport come courtesy of an exhaust system mated to a rear mounted engine, leaving the driver up front with little but the mechanical grind. When the engine lies ahead of your feet however, and the exhaust winds its way alongside your bum, forcing its symphonic roar into the ether just inches away from your lugholes, you get to share in the whole orchestral experience. And what an experience it is...
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