This week Aston Martin is putting the final touches to its race preparations in readiness for the toughest 24 hour race of them all – the annual ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hours on 25 and 26 June where a brace of new Aston Martin V12 Zagatos will compete.
This weekend marks the next step of an ambitious project which began when the V12 Zagato was unveiled at the Concorso D’Eleganza at Villa D’Este in May this year, winning the Design award for Concepts and Prototypes. The show car was then transformed into the number 3 race car, nicknamed ‘Zag’ (red) and will be piloted in the 24 hour race by Aston Martin CEO, Dr. Ulrich Bez, the company’s Nürburgring Test Centre Director, Wolfgang Schuhbauer and automotive journalists Horst von Saurma and Matthew Marsh.
In addition, a green V12 Zagato (nicknamed ‘Zig’) – car number 5 for the race – was prepared by the small team based at Aston Martin’s global headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire. Zig will be driven by One-77 Chief Engineer Chris Porritt, experienced sports car driver Oliver Mathai, ex-Drivers Republic journalist Richard Meaden and experienced amateur racer Peter Cate.
Joining the Zagatos will be a V8 Vantage GT4 affectionately nicknamed ‘Smurf’ (now orange but formally blue) which will be driven by Aston Martin Racing works driver, Darren Turner, journalist and experienced 24 hour driver, Shinichi Katsura, Australian racer Rob Thomson and seasoned Nürburgring pilot Jurgen Stumpf.
Three further customer team V8 Vantages will be competing over the weekend bringing the Aston Martin presence in the race up to six cars with Mathol Racing (#62), Bratke Motorsport Team – AVIA (#85) and Team Pflanz (#75) driving Vantage GT4s in the SP10 class.
Aston Martin’s Head of Motorsport, David King said: “Our entries this year extend our Nürburgring racing philosophy. For five years now we have signed-off our new products by entering a car which is as close to the road car as possible and subjecting it to the toughest 24 hour test on what best simulates the extremities of public roads. This year we go a step further by testing a car at prototype stage.”
“As ever, the race will present an enormous challenge in a vast and increasingly competitive field which will be fraught with all the unpredictable elements associated with racing at the Nürburgring. However, we are excited by the potential we have seen from the V12 Zagato in the testing we’ve completed and that gives us great hope for the task ahead. We look forward to a safe, successful and enjoyable race for our teams and customers.”
Aston Martin’s presence at the Nürburgring marks the sixth successive time factory engineers complete a product sign-off test in what has been dubbed ‘the toughest 24 hour race’ under public scrutiny. Since 2006, the marque has used the race to prove the reliability and durability of its new models – first for V8 Vantage itself, then the new SportshiftTM transmission in 2007, the 4.7 litre engine V8 Vantage in 2008, the V12 Vantage in 2009, the four-door Rapide in 2010, and now, rather more ambitiously, for the first major test of a new concept car – the Aston Martin V12 Zagato.
In addition to this year’s race, Aston Martin’s American team has joined forces with Road & Track magazine to run a standard road specification Rapide at Spring Mountain Motor Sports Ranch in the USA for the same 24 hours as the European team at the Nürburgring. The endurance test echoes last year’s Nordschleife attempt where a near standard four-door Rapide with a production six-speed automatic transmission successfully completed the 24 hour race, finishing third in class.
At the Nürburgring the roofs of both V12 Zagatos will be sporting a ‘Heart for Japan’ dedication as part of Aston Martin’s support for the Tsunami victims of Japan. In May, Dr. Bez auctioned his company Rapide raising £100,000. During the build up to this year’s 24 hours Dr. Bez will hand the cheque to Toyota CEO, Akio Toyoda and their Donation Fund for Employees in the Affected Disaster Area charity.
The 39th ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hour race starts at 4pm CET on Saturday 25 June – live updates are available by following @astonmartin on Twitter and live commentary will be broadcast via Radio Le Mans (www.radiolemans.com)