Aston Martin completed the traditional pre-Le Mans test day on top of the competitive GT1 class, but admits that it expects usual rivals Corvette and Saleen to be closer come the race weekend.

The test provided an opportunity for the various drivers to reacquaint themselves, not only with their teams, but also with the eight-mile La Sarthe circuit ahead of the blue riband endurance event on 14-15 June.

Conditions for the test provided a mixture of wet and dry weather, with a little hail thrown in for good measure, which limited running for most of the teams. Despite the changeable conditions, however, the Aston Martin Racing operation was still able to carry out some useful preparation.

Related Articles

"It was a very tricky day in terms of preparing for the race, with completely random weather," team principal George Howard-Chappell commented, "Still, it has been the same for everyone and at least all our drivers here got the chance to drive the car in a wide variety of conditions. Along with everyone else, we've got a lot of work still to do on Wednesday and Thursday of race week."

The #009 Gulf-coloured DBR9 set the pace in class, lapping two seconds faster than the Larbre Saleen that provided its closest competition.

"We weren't expecting any real surprises from the test day, and luckily that turned out to be the case," AMR veteran David Brabham said, "I drove a lot of the race last year in the wet - including the very last stint - so it all felt quite familiar today!

"Although we waited a bit, I was still one of the first drivers out, so the track was extremely green and slippery - but it was all useful running. I think everyone's test programme was compromised by the weather, but my personal goal was just to get used to the car again after a year out of it - and I succeeded in that objective."

The sister #007 car, crewed by Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Andrea Piccini and Karl Wendlinger, followed the two Corvettes in the order as its new-look line-up got to grips with both the DBR9 and the circuit.

"Although the conditions were extremely mixed, every bit of running at Le Mans is useful, as these are all conditions that could be replicated during the race," Frentzen commented, "I last competed at Le Mans 16 years ago, so it was interesting to be back! I don't remember much of the circuit at all, so it was useful to get my bearings. It was hard to do any detailed set-up work, but the balance of the car feels generally good - which is a very positive sign for the race to come."

Both Piccini and Wendlinger have comparative Aston Martin experience, but while the Italian was having to relearn the car on his first outing in a DBR9 since 2006, Wendlinger was able to draw on his current knowledge from his FIA GT campaign with JetAlliance.

"This was a very useful session to refresh my memory of the circuit, which I last competed on in 2001," the Austrian admitted, "There's a lot that's new since then, particularly the section around Tertre Rouge. The DBR9 feels very strong under acceleration and braking here - which will definitely help us in the race. We don't know what the weather will do during the race weekend, so I'm glad we experienced the wet and tried a few different things today."

Team Modena's DBR9 was 33rd overall and seventh in class, one ahead of the other customer entry, fielded by Vitaphone Racing.