Villois Racing’s Vantage GT2 triumphed in the Aston Martin Racing Festival of Le Mans as drivers Luca Filippi and Brian Lavio passed the checkered flag more than a minute ahead of their closest rival after 10 action-packed laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe. A V12-powered DBR9 – making a return to the scene its famous back-to-back GT1 class victories at Le Mans in 2007 and 2008 – finished in second position after a stunning recovery drive from Marco Seefried.
2011 GP2 series runner-up Luca Filippi started in the V8-powered Vantage GT2 from second on the grid in wet conditions. Filippi pitted from the lead of the 31-strong field at the mid-way point of the race to hand over to team-mate Lavio, who continued the circulate the slippery 8.5-mile circuit without incident. The DBR9 of Deboeuf Racing – which started from the back of the grid having not set a qualifying time – battled through the order, initially with Thomas Gruber at the wheel. When Gruber made way for Seefried, the German driver put in fastest lap after fastest lap on a drying track to slash chunks from the deficit to the leading Vantage GT2.
Despite Seefried’s best efforts, he and Gruber eventually finished in second position, 1m 1.954s adrift of the winners. Third position went to the V12 Vantage GT3 – run by Craft Eurasia Racing – of pole sitters Frank Yu and Tomonobu Fujii, who trailed the second-placed crew by a little over six seconds, so that Aston Martin Racing’s most recent GT1, GT2 and GT3 cars were all represented on the podium. Yu had started from the very front of the grid, but slipped to seventh position after two laps having made a mistake at the Ford Chicance. Fujii pushed hard and was able to recover to third position.
"It was fantastic to win! It is our first time at Le Mans and we both said to start our career here with a win would be great,”said a jubilant Filippi. “We drove in the wet today and in the dry yesterday, so we have a full picture of Le Mans. The car was fantastic, we had good grip and traction coming out of the corners so it was a pleasure to drive. Thanks to Aston Martin for putting this race together!”
The 19-strong GT4 category was won by Aston Martin Racing Team Principal John Gaw, who was partnered by Phil Dryburgh. The pair started from class pole position – eighth overall – and maintained their advantage despite a strong charge from the Generation AMR Vantage GT4 of James Appleby and Rob Nimkoff to finish seventh overall. Aston Martin Chairman David Richards – sharing a GT4 racer with Andrew Howard – finished fifth in class and 14th overall while television and film star Rowan Atkinson secured seventh in class in a similar car that he drove alone under the Jota banner.
Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez and Chief Engineer Chris Porritt finished in 11th position in the V12 Zagato, which – fresh from its class podium at the ADAC Zurich Nurburgring 24 Hours in May – was competing for the first time away from the legendary German circuit. Porritt had battled up to an impressive fourth position, having started from tenth, before handing over to his team-mate.
Dr Bez started the Aston Martin Festival of Le Mans aboard the 1959 Le Mans-winning DBR1, completing the parade lap in a fitting tribute to the late Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori – who drove the DBR1 to victory 53 years ago – and to Ted Cutting – designer of the iconic racer – all of whom sadly passed away in recent weeks.
“To drive the 1959-winning DBR1 at Le Mans in memory of Carroll, Roy and Ted was a great honour for me,”said Dr Bez. “To have 31 Aston Martin competition cars, representing several classes, racing here was wonderful for our friends and fans and I felt very proud to be a part of it. The wet weather was a great leveller and enabled all of the cars to compete with one another.
“I want to thank all the drivers and teams who participated in the Festival, and particular thanks go to the owner of the DBR1 for enabling us to pay tribute to our late friends in such a fitting manner.”
The Aston Martin Festival of Le Mans was an exclusive single-marquee race, running in support of the 24-hour endurance epic and lasting for 45 minutes. Aston Martin Racing will contest the headliner with a pair of V8-powered Vantage GTEs, the lead car starting from second position on the grid in the GTE Pro category and the second car starting from third in the GTE Am class.