Aston Martin Racing has confirmed that it is to run a third Gulf-liveried LMP1 prototype at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours, and has tabbed former grand prix drivers Anthony Davidson and Jos Verstappen to bolster its driving strength.
With under-rated British sportscar ace Stuart Hall also tabbed by the Prodrive-run squad, the exact configuration of the crews for the race - which marks the 50th anniversary of Aston Martin's first victory at La Sarthe in 1959 - will be announced at a later date, but AMR did confirm that its third entry would be numbered 008 to slot in between the now traditional 007 and 009.
Davidson, out of work following Super Aguri's exit from the F1 scene a year ago, tested with Aston Martin in Portugal, completing three one-hour stints on his return to the Prodrive fold six years on from his spell in its Ferrari GT squad at Le Mans, Sebring and Petit Le Mans. The 30-year old has embarked on a new career behind the microphone as an 'expert' in the BBC
's F1 line-up, but is looking forward to getting back into competition.
“Particularly as a British driver, racing for a team as prestigious as Aston Martin is a fantastic opportunity,” Davidson admitted, "I know the team and its capabilities extremely well from the past, and I'm convinced that there is nobody better prepared to tackle all the challenges that Le Mans will present us with.
"I felt comfortable with the car straight away, and now I'm looking forward to taking the fight to the other teams at Le Mans. I'm certainly aiming for us to be the quickest petrol car there and, hopefully, we can get in amongst the diesels as well.”
Countryman Hall only made the career switch to sportscars two years ago, but has carved a strong reputation for himself since finishing fourth overall on his Le Mans debut with Rollcentre in 2007. The 24-year old also tested the AMR prototype in Portugal and emerged impressed by the V12-engined prototype.
“This drive means everything to me,” he commented, “It's a wonderful opportunity to be part of such a prestigious and successful team. When I was growing up and first became interested in motor racing, Aston Martin was one of those legendary names. I always hoped that one day I might have the chance to drive for the team and it's almost hard to believe that it's happened now.
"I think all the petrol cars might struggle against the diesels at Le Mans but, if there's ever going to be a team to challenge them, it's Aston Martin Racing. My personal feeling is that I'm in the best seat on the grid.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise among the additions is Verstappen, the Dutchman having only made the switch to sportscar racing last year after his 100+ grand prix career fizzled out. Having also seen the van Merkesteijn Porsche LMP2 ride disappear from under him after a successful 2008 Le Mans Series and 24 Hours campaign, the 37-year old has yet to sample the AMR car, but admits that he is looking forward to joining the squad.