As has been rumoured in recent weeks, Aston Martin will ditch its bid for dominance in the GT1 class at Le Mans in favour of an assault on overall success in the blue riband 24-hour event.

On the 50th anniversary of its last outright win at La Sarthe - when Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori won the 1959 event in a DBR1 - the iconic brand will return with two Prodrive-run 'works' LMP1 cars. The flashback will be completed by the addition of the familiar blue-and-orange livery of Gulf Oil, which found fame at Le Mans with Ford in the 1960s.

"2009 is a hugely significant year for Aston Martin at Le Mans and the challenge of reclaiming victory in this famous race for Aston Martin and Great Britain was simply too great to ignore," Aston Martin chairman David Richards admitted.

"However, we do not underestimate the task. While we have won the GT1 class for the last two years, competing against the proven speed and endurance of the diesel-powered cars with all their years of winning the prototype class, will be a massive undertaking.

"Nonetheless, I see this as a great opportunity to showcase the ingenuity of British engineering talent."

The cars will be based on the 2008 Charouz Racing System Lola, and will be powered by the same production-based Aston Martin V12 engine which, last year, helped the brand secure its second successive GT1 title with the DBR9. The unit also powered the Charouz car to a new lap record for a petrol car at La Sarthe.

Prodrive-run Aston Martin Racing is developing the car in conjunction with Lola, Michelin, Koni and BBS and continues its relationship with major partner Gulf Oil and official clothing partner Hackett.

Aston Martin Racing 'works' drivers Jan Charouz, Tomas Enge and Stefan M?cke, who raced the Charouz car last year, will renew their relationship with the team, along with Darren Turner, who was part of the winning GT1 crew in 2007 and 2008. Harold Primat joins the team for the first time in 2009, with the remaining driver to be announced imminently.

"Racing has been, and still is at the heart of Aston Martin," CEO Dr Ulrich Bez commented, "Our cars today are subtle, elegant and hand-crafted, but they still have the genes for competition. I am happy that we have found partners who, with their support, will enable us to compete at the highest level of endurance racing. We will put all our heart and skill behind this project to demonstrate the essence of Aston Martin - power, beauty and soul."

Organising body the ACO is introducing new regulations aimed at balancing the performance of petrol and diesel engined prototypes in 2009, making the LMP1 category more appealing and relevant to Aston Martin.

In addition to the 24 Hours, the team will also compete throughout the year in the Le Mans Series, which opens with the 1000 km de Catalunya on the 5 April.

To focus maximum energy on the LMP1 programme, however, the team will not defend its GT1 title at Le Mans. Despite that, Aston Martin Racing has confirmed that it will support any of its official partner teams and customers competing at the race.

Official partner, Drayson Racing, has expressed its desire to compete at Le Mans with the new Vantage GT2, an announcement that follows confirmation of the team's LMS entry and American Le Mans Series programme with a bio-ethanol powered Vantage GT2.

Further announcements are expected in the weeks ahead as other Aston Martin Racing partner teams and customers confirm their plans for racing in the GT1, GT2, GT3 and GT4 classes of national and international racing series.



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