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The stalwart Aston that nearly cooked its drivers

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Tomas Enge’s lengthy stint as a part of Prodrive’s sportscar operation yielded nice success. He received the GTS class on the Le Mans 24 Hours with the Ferrari 550 Maranello in 2003 and claimed the Le Mans Sequence LMP1 crown in 2009 aboard the Lola-Aston Martin. However regardless of not managing so as to add to his Le Mans win tally with it, he holds the Aston Martin DBR9 GT1 in even larger esteem and selects it as his favorite automobile.

The primary Czech to race in System 1 when he joined Prost for the ultimate three grands prix of 2001, Enge describes the Aston as “a step larger than the Ferrari” when it comes to refinement. That’s unsurprising given the DBR9 made its debut 4 years later than the equally V12-motivated Ferrari, which Enge took to class pole place at Le Mans yearly from 2002 to 2004.

PLUS: Was this the most remarkable Le Mans qualifying lap?

“The 550 was quick, clearly, however the Aston was a lot simpler to drive – the centre of gravity, the stiffness of the chassis was higher,” he says of the automobile with which he scooped the GT1 class at Petit Le Mans in 2006 and twice completed fourth within the FIA GT1 world championship.

“Clearly, the automobile wasn’t sooner than the Ferrari as a result of yearly we bought a smaller and smaller air restrictor. Yearly we bought an increasing number of downforce that [meant] we couldn’t go sooner on the straight in Le Mans.

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“However the dealing with of the automobile, the seat place, the consolation round [was better], besides we didn’t have any airflow in 2005!”

Situations for the DBR9 GT1’s Le Mans bow have been “massively sizzling”, Enge recollects, which is an understatement. The drivers virtually cooked contained in the cockpit, and the parts couldn’t take the warmth both.

“After the primary stint our automobile didn’t have a radio as a result of it was so sizzling that the radio failed,” says Enge, who spent 2005 racing full-time in Indycar on the Indy Racing League aspect of the break up. Afterwards, Prodrive technical director George Howard-Chappell was pressured to rethink its ergonomics.

Driver ergonomics was by no means a precedence for Howard-Chappell, however the excessive cockpit temps at Le Mans in 2005 pressured a rethink

Picture by: Peter Spinney / Motorsport Images

“Driver consolation was the final level of the listing, first is the automobile efficiency and the drivers must get alongside,” says Enge. “However after what occurred in Le Mans that yr he realised, ‘Okay, we have to get a bit extra cooling within the automobile and we have to make it extra snug for the drivers in any other case they’ll die’.”

The race led to disappointment, the automobile he shared with Peter Kox and Pedro Lamy sidelined by gas system issues whereas in competition to beat Corvette’s new C6.R. However Enge had continued his qualifying streak – Corvette opting to not put up an actual problem. And in 2006 he made it a outstanding 5 in a row. However harm to an oil sump when Darren Turner bought a late name to pit set their #007 automobile again, though Enge, Turner and Andrea Piccini have been boosted to second late on by a clutch failure for the sister automobile.

Along with Le Mans, Enge contested the total 2006 American Le Mans Sequence within the works-run DBR9 alongside Turner. Operating on Pirellis towards the Michelins of the Corvette, they received on the new Miller Motorsports Park circuit in Utah and once more at Petit Le Mans – taking advantage of a late puncture for team-mates Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin, in addition to each Chevys needing to vary their entrance brakes.

Whereas the ALMS programme was discontinued, Enge continued to race works DBR9 at Le Mans in 2007. It was the one event that he missed out on pole in his 4 Le Mans outings with the automobile, as rain on Thursday helped Christophe Bouchut snare qualifying honours in Larbre’s Aston.

A gas pickup downside that pressured their retirement from Barcelona, mixed with an ideal ending report for Luc Alphand Corvette rivals Guillaume Moreau and Patrice Goueslard, meant they got here up six factors in need of the crown in 2008

“We all the time targeting Wednesday on our lengthy runs and tried qualifying on Thursday,” he explains. “Sadly it was raining on Thursday and we didn’t have a great lap time on Wednesday.”

And whereas Aston lastly took glory on the third try, it was with the sister #009 automobile of Turner, David Brabham and Rickard Rydell. Enge’s mount shared with Kox and Johnny Herbert misplaced eight minutes within the pits after a Sunday morning off from Herbert prompted splitter harm earlier than a mistake from Enge resulted in a litany of points that restricted them to fourth.

Enge continued to drive the DBR9 GT1 in personal fingers in 2008, successful three LMS races with Antonio Garcia for the Workforce Modena operation. Success at Monza, Nurburgring and Silverstone ought to have been sufficient for the title towards slim opposition however a gas pickup downside that pressured their retirement from Barcelona, mixed with an ideal ending report for Luc Alphand Corvette rivals Guillaume Moreau and Patrice Goueslard, meant they got here up six factors brief.

After two years at Le Mans within the Lola-Aston in 2008, when the DBR9 once more received the GT1 class with Turner, Brabham and Garcia, and 2009, Enge bought again into the DBR9 for the GT1 class’s Le Mans swansong in 2010 and took a outstanding sixth pole with the Fischer-run Younger Driver AMR crew. He says his appreciation for the DBR9 was heightened by his time within the Lola-Aston.

Enge and Garcia enjoyed success with Team Modena DBR9 GT1 in 2008, but missed out on Le Mans Series crown

Enge and Garcia loved success with Workforce Modena DBR9 GT1 in 2008, however missed out on Le Mans Sequence crown

Picture by: Sutton Photographs

“The LMP1 automobile, I didn’t actually like,” he says. “We had the heavy engine on the rear and we have been sitting on the entrance axle. For some purpose I didn’t prefer to be on the entrance axle and having such an extended, heavy rear, it was not likely appropriate for me.”

The race was as soon as once more a disappointment, as two driveshaft failures meant Enge, Kox and Christoffer Nygaard have been a distant 20 laps down because the final categorised GT1 runner – albeit nonetheless third.

However there was solace to be discovered within the GT1 world championship, the place Enge and Turner received each the qualifying and fundamental race on the Nurburgring after shedding 20kg of ballast. However one other win in Silverstone’s prized Vacationer Trophy spherical was denied within the stewards’ room by an overly-worn skid plank. A non-scoring remaining spherical in San Luis dropped them from second to fourth within the factors.

Seven years on from its introduction, Enge bowed out the DBR9 with two qualification race wins in 2011, though needed to accept runner-up within the Vacationer Trophy after successful the dash. A possible triumph with Alex Muller slipped away as a security automobile shortly earlier than the pit window closed up their lead margin, however he once more secured fourth within the standings.

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Now an everyday in rallying, Enge says “each automobile I used to be profitable in was my favorite automobile”, however he has a particular place in his coronary heart for the Prost AP04. He was reunited with the ultimate automobile produced by Alain Prost’s doomed squad in 2021 when he carried out an illustration run on the Most circuit within the very chassis, AP04 (02), wherein he made his F1 debut in Monza, sourced from ex-Indycar racer Laurent Redon’s LRS System firm in France.

“We did a small celebration,” he says of the occasion that marked 20 years since his F1 debut. “I had good recollections after I sit within the automobile, I used to be almost crying. It was lovely, even for a couple of laps.

“There have been {old} tyres from System 2 or no matter, the steering wheel was fully totally different, however nonetheless once you sit in it and you are feeling that it’s your automobile, nonetheless you have got tears in your eyes.”

Enge was delighted to be reacquainted with the Prost AP04 in a commemorative event at Most in 2021

Enge was delighted to be reacquainted with the Prost AP04 in a commemorative occasion at Most in 2021

Picture by: Motorsport Images

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