by Russell Atkins

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David Brabham is confident Aston Martin Racing are in good shape to defend their GT1 class success in the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, but the Aussie warned that in order to do so everything must run like clockwork in a race that has become in recent years more of a round-the-clock sprint than a test of endurance.

In company with team-mates Darren Turner and Rickard Rydell, 'Brabs' triumphed in GT1 at La Sarthe last year, seeing off the threat of arch-rivals Corvette by a scant three minutes at the end of 24 hours of relentless, flat-out competition. It was the first time the legendary British manufacturer had got the better of its American opponent since its return to Le Mans in 2005, and as he gets set to team up with Turner once more - as well as newly-promoted factory ace Antonio Garcia - the 42-year-old is clearly up for the fight.

"Last year was particularly special and emotional for everyone involved," he reminisced, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio. "I've been there a lot of times - that was my 14th year - so to not just win, but to win there in an Aston Martin, was pretty special.

"Our job is probably a little bit harder I think coming into this year's event. We were very well-prepared last year; I think we were better prepared than most. I think the other teams will be better prepared this time - I'm not saying they're going to be better prepared than us, but they're going to be better than they were - and I think the competition will be challenging, but I've got every bit of confidence that we can repeat it.

"We've just got to make sure that we push in every area and like last year have no mistakes - just service in the pit-stops, fast pit-stops, having good 'out' and 'in' laps and so forth. Everything has to be perfect to be able to win this race.

"Last year Corvette had exactly the same type of race as we did - an absolutely perfect race - but we just had more speed. I anticipate them being closer this year, so I'm really looking forward to it. I think it's going to be an even tougher fight than last year.

"The Saleens were fast last year too, but they weren't quite ready. They've obviously had another year to prepare now, though, and there are some private-tier teams out there that are going to be strong too. Certainly we don't have it all our own way, nor Corvette - I think last year's qualifying showed that, and when the race got going we were still fairly closely-bunched after a few hours before it kind of stretched out and we were the ones out front. I really do feel it's going to be a tough competition, but I think all of us are looking forward to the challenge."

Indeed, the former Formula 1 star has an impressive record in sportscars, with innumerable trophies to his name, class glory at Le Mans in both 1993 and 2007 and second place outright for another iconic British marque - Bentley - in 2003. What's more, the DBR9 he will be competing in again this year is no longer bedecked out in its traditional British Racing Green colours, but rather the celebrated Gulf livery, with the famous oil company set to mark the 40th anniversary of its debut in the race in 2008.

"In some ways Gulf is like a legendary trademark name at Le Mans," Brabs acknowledged. "It goes back many years and covers some fantastic times there. To combine the two - Aston Martin and Gulf - is pretty special, so just to be a part of that is great.

"All these things are pretty cool, but at the end of the day we're there to do a job, and we've just got to get on with it and win the race. What happens outside of that is outside our control. The most important thing is that we go there and do our job, and the nice thing is we've got a fantastic brand in Aston Martin and a great brand in the sponsor in Gulf as well. That will create a lot of interest for the race, which is also good for the team.

"I think it's a given that we're [Brabham, Turner and Garcia] going to work well together. We know each other very well, we know the car very well, we're very similar-sized and I'm really looking forward to it. I think we're all very pleased with the decision to put us together, and I was pleased when I was told who I was going to be driving with, although I would have been fine with the other guys as well - both are very strong driver line-ups."

The Wimbledon-born ace also insisted that he felt no additional pressure returning to La Sarthe as the defending class winner as opposed to the underdog - the role AMR has assumed for the previous three years. He added that he would continue to go back to Le Mans for as long as the race welcomes him, admitting that it is 'very much a big part' of his life.

"I think pressure really depends on the way you look at it," he underlined. "Every race you go to at Le Mans you go there to win, obviously. There's always a certain amount of pressure, but I don't think it adds any extra pressure to what I have to do and hopefully not the team either.

"You have a particular mindset when you go into a race like that. You've got to make sure that your preparation is good, and I think the better your preparation the more comfortable you feel when you get to the race. Yesterday was history; we've got a new race again, so we've got to treat it like that and make sure that every individual in the team does their best on the day.

"Every time I think about it, every time I go there to compete, leave the place, go back again - to me it's addictive, and very much a big part of my life in terms of my racing world. It comes round only once a year, but it's such a huge event and I just love competing in it; I have never once lost interest in it, and I'm very much looking forward to going back again."

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