Fifty years after Aston Martin's victory in the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours, the team exceeded all expectations by finishing an excellent fourth overall in this year's race, having been quickest of the gsoline-powered runners from start to finish.
As expected, the diesel-powered cars enjoyed a margin of superiority, but Aston Martin Racing fulfilled its mission by being the first petrol-powered car home, having also been the quickest of the petrol cars during qualifying on Thursday night.
Despite the Aston Martin LMP1 being new for this year, with the Le Mans program only confirmed six months ago, the fourth-placed 007 car - crewed by Jan Charouz (CZ), Tomas Enge (CZ) and Stefan Mcke (DE) - exhibited perfect mechanical reliability, with only a puncture and a minor issue with the headlights getting in the way of its progress to the checkered flag.
Mcke qualified the 007 car in eighth place for the start of the 77th Le Mans 24 Hours. This was in spite of extremely limited dry running before qualifying, as the six-hour free practice session on Wednesday was hit by heavy rain. When it came to the race, ambient temperatures were extremely warm, taking their toll on cars and drivers.
The 007 car ran in close formation with its sister 008 car - crewed by Anthony Davidson (GB), Darren Turner (GB) and Jos Verstappen (NL) - for the first half of the race. Davidson, a former Grand Prix driver, qualified the 008 car ninth and at one point on Saturday evening climbed as high as third in the overall race standings.
Unfortunately, the 008 car lost time at around 10pm after a collision with a GT1 car during an overtaking maneuver at Tertre Rouge. The effect was to damage the suspension and floor, which necessitated several visits to the pits to repair. Furthermore, the crew was handed a 5 minute stop-and-go penalty in relation to the incident, which was taken in the early hours of Sunday morning. Afterwards, 008 was among the quickest petrol-powered cars in the race, but subsequently lost time with mechanical problems relating to the gearbox and brakes. It was eventually classified 13th, having followed the 007 car across the line on Sunday in a formation finish.
The 009 car, crewed by Stuart Hall (GB), Peter Kox (NL), and Harold Primat (CH) did not make the end of the race after Primat had an accident in the 18th hour that brought out the safety car but left him uninjured. Kox had qualified the car in 17th place on Thursday night, setting his fastest lap on his final timed run.Tomas Enge took the finish for the 007 crew after 373 laps and 5084km, watched by an estimated crowd of over 250,000 people.