Aston Martin Racing has revealed the six drivers who will compete for the legendary British marque in the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours this year - with a blend of former class winners and Formula 1 experience.

In June, the Gaydon-based manufacturer will bid to defend its GT1 class victory achieved ten months ago, when after three years of playing the underdog against the all-American muscle of chief rivals Corvette, the 009 British Racing Green machine finally defeated the leading 'Vette by less than three minutes, taking the chequered flag in an eye-catching fifth position overall for good measure.

Three of the drivers announced for the 2008 edition have previously raced in the top flight, beginning more than 200 grands prix between them and winning three of them. One of the three has prevailed at La Sarthe twice - 14 years apart - and two of the six emerged victorious in GT1 last year, all-in-all constituting what team principal George Howard-Chappell terms 'another very strong driver line-up' for Aston Martin Racing, the DBR9 resplendent in its striking blue and orange Gulf livery this year - marking the 40th anniversary of the oil company's Le Mans debut.

David Brabham, Darren Turner and Antonio Garcia will share the reigning class-winning car, with Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Karl Wendlinger and Andrea Piccini joining forces behind the wheel of the sister 007 machine.

"David and Darren are absolutely known quantities to us, having formed part of the crew that won GT1 last year," Howard-Chappell stated, "so it's very good to have them on-board again. Antonio and Karl have both been extremely active in our customer teams, and we have been very impressed with them throughout our testing programme.

"Andrea drove for us at Le Mans in 2006 - as well as in America - so we're delighted to welcome him back. As for Heinz-Harald, his reputation speaks for itself, so we look forward to a successful collaboration and another exciting race."

Brabham triumphed in the GT class with Jaguar back in 1993, before adding to that success with second place overall for Bentley in 2003 and GT1 victory for the factory Aston Martin concern last year. The Australian and fellow incumbent Turner are eagerly anticipating working together again in 2008, with young team-mate Garcia similarly insisting he is ready for the stern challenge that lies ahead.

"I'm delighted to be asked back and have the opportunity to race at Le Mans again this year," enthused Brabham, ahead of his 15th appearance in the round-the-clock French classic and fourth in a DBR9. "If anything it's going to be an even bigger challenge now as I'm sure the competition will have moved on, so we'll need another faultless run. I feel we're well-prepared, but anything can happen at Le Mans - which is precisely what makes it such a fascinating place."

"Winning the race last year has given us added confidence," added Turner, like Brabham a regular Aston Martin fixture since the team's inception in 2005, "but it has probably also put even more pressure on, as now we're the team to beat.

"The opposition has always been strong, but I'm sure that they will have been working even harder over the winter now that they know the level we're at. I think we've got a very solid line-up. The key to success at Le Mans is always good preparation, which so far we've been able to achieve."

"It's obviously a big privilege to drive for the works team," smiled Garcia, who has twice competed for Aston Martin factory outfit Team Modena, "and I think we have a really good chance.

"Le Mans is a race where you just have to do the best you can, keep working hard and try to let the result come to you. It's a tough challenge, but a really nice one and I think I am well-placed to benefit from my previous experience now."

The wealth of experience in the 007 car, meanwhile - with Frentzen and Wendlinger former team-mates not only in F1, but also in the World Sportscar Championship, on both occasions with Sauber - is impressive, and FIA GT Championship front-runner Piccini is clearly keen to take advantage of that.

"I'm delighted to come back to the factory team," the Italian asserted, "and I feel very proud to be sharing the 007 car with two very well-known drivers of the calibre of Heinz-Harald and Karl. Anything can happen at Le Mans of course, but in 2006 we finished second [in class] and I was also second in the FIA GT Championship and Spa 24 Hours, so it would be good to go one better this time!"

"I've only driven at Le Mans once, 16 years ago," admitted three-time grand prix winner Frentzen. "It's a great pleasure to come back to such a famous race - especially with a prestigious team like Aston Martin, which has formed part of the history of motorsport. The circuit is obviously very demanding, but the biggest challenge for us will be to stay fully-focussed and concentrated over the course of the whole 24 hours."

"I've driven the DBR9 for three seasons in the FIA GT Championship," added the series' 1999 title-holder Wendlinger. "I've competed at Le Mans several times, but I've never driven the DBR9 at Le Mans before, so I'm very pleased to finally have the opportunity to do that. The team and the drivers are very experienced, so while a 24 hour race like Le Mans is always impossible to predict, I feel we have a very good chance."

 

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