Aston Martin will contest the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours with a new open-cockpit LMP1 prototype, the company confirmed at the the Silverstone 1000km Le Mans Series race.
The car will be a monocoque chassis and run with a purpose-built racing engine. Aston Martin Racing returned to the top class of sportscar racing with a modified Lola LMP1 coupe in 2008, but its '11 contender will be a completely new design.
Aston Martin chairman David Richards said the company had taken the decision to green-light a full-blown factory attack on Le Mans because it believes the ACO's new regulations designed to equalise the performance balance between the dominant turbo-diesel technology and traditional gasoline-engined cars has given it a fair chance of outright victory in the French classic.
"This has been in planning for some time, we have been waiting for the ACO regulations to be confirmed," said Richards. "We are very pleased to see that within the regulations, Article 19 shows a clear commitment to balance the performance, which we believe will give us the opportunity to compete on equal terms with the diesels that have been so dominant in recent years. That is something that the ACO has been very keen to achieve."
Construction of the new Aston is already underway. Six cars will be built initially, with the first example commencing testing in early 2011.
"It's something we have been working on for a long time," said AMR's George Howard-Chappell. "It's not something that you can do in five minutes. We have been working really since last year.
"We have been evaluating various designs, we have been working long hours on both the chassis and the engine design. Just recently we managed to commit 100 percent to doing it so now it is full steam ahead. We've elected to go for a different route with an open car this time, and an all-new gasoline engine."
AMR won the Le Mans Series title in its first LMP1 season last year, but has taken a lower-key approach to 2010 and not fielded its works cars in every event as it built up to the launch of its all-new contender. The team finished fourth in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2009 and sixth this year, but will hope that its new machine can finally deliver a second outright victory for the marque after its 1959 triumph.
"We won the GT class twice and we went there with a prototype a few years ago," said Richards. "I personally believe Le Mans is the greatest motor race in the world, and it's not just been a personal ambition of mine, but one of Aston Martin to come back and try and win it outright. To do that, of course, we need a specially-built car, we need a special chassis and our own engine – and that is what we are announcing today."