2011 Aston Martin V12 Zagato Race Preparations

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(from Aston Martin Press Release)  ASTON MARTIN V12 ZAGATO READY FOR ULTIMATE NÜRBURGRING TEST

• Two new Aston Martin V12 Zagatos entered in 24 hour race, just weeks after being first unveiled
• Experienced driver line-up, led by Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez
• The V12 Zagatos are joined by an Aston Martin-entered V8 Vantage GT4 featuring Aston Martin Racing works driver Darren Turner

Nürburgring 22 June 2011. This week Aston Martin is putting the final touches to its race preparations in readiness for the toughest 24 hour race of them all – the annual ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hours on 25 and 26 June where a brace of new Aston Martin V12 Zagatos will compete.

This weekend marks the next step of an ambitious project which began when the V12 Zagato was unveiled at the Concorso D’Eleganza at Villa D’Este in May this year, winning the Design award for Concepts and Prototypes. The show car was then transformed into the number 3 race car, nicknamed ‘Zag’ (red) and will be piloted in the 24 hour race by Aston Martin CEO, Dr. Ulrich Bez, the company’s Nürburgring Test Centre Director, Wolfgang Schuhbauer and automotive journalists Horst von Saurma and Matthew Marsh.

In addition, a green V12 Zagato (nicknamed ‘Zig’) - car number 5 for the race - was prepared by the small team based at Aston Martin’s global headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire. Zig will be driven by One-77 Chief Engineer Chris Porritt, experienced sports car driver Oliver Mathai, automotive journalist Richard Meaden and experienced amateur racer Peter Cate.

Joining the Zagatos will be a V8 Vantage GT4 affectionately nicknamed ‘Smurf’ (now orange but formally blue) which will be driven by Aston Martin Racing works driver, Darren Turner, journalist and experienced 24 hour driver, Shinichi Katsura, Australian racer Rob Thomson and seasoned Nürburgring pilot Jurgen Stumpf.

Three further customer team V8 Vantages will be competing over the weekend bringing the Aston Martin presence in the race up to six cars with Mathol Racing (#62), Bratke Motorsport Team – AVIA (#85) and Team Pflanz (#75) driving Vantage GT4s in the SP10 class.

Aston Martin’s Head of Motorsport, David King said: “Our entries this year extend our Nürburgring racing philosophy. For five years now we have signed-off our new products by entering a car which is as close to the road car as possible and subjecting it to the toughest 24 hour test on what best simulates the extremities of public roads. This year we go a step further by testing a car at prototype stage.”

“As ever, the race will present an enormous challenge in a vast and increasingly competitive field which will be fraught with all the unpredictable elements associated with racing at the Nürburgring. However, we are excited by the potential we have seen from the V12 Zagato in the testing we’ve completed and that gives us great hope for the task ahead. We look forward to a safe, successful and enjoyable race for our teams and customers.”

Aston Martin’s presence at the Nürburgring marks the sixth successive time factory engineers complete a product sign-off test in what has been dubbed ‘the toughest 24 hour race’ under public scrutiny. Since 2006, the marque has used the race to prove the reliability and durability of its new models – first for V8 Vantage itself, then the new SportshiftTM transmission in 2007, the 4.7 litre engine V8 Vantage in 2008, the V12 Vantage in 2009, the four-door Rapide in 2010, and now, rather more ambitiously, for the first major test of a new concept car – the Aston Martin V12 Zagato.

In addition to this year’s race, Aston Martin’s American team has joined forces with Road & Track magazine to run a standard road specification Rapide at Spring Mountain Motor Sports Ranch in the USA for the same 24 hours as the European team at the Nürburgring. The endurance test echoes last year’s Nordschleife attempt where a near standard four-door Rapide with a production six-speed automatic transmission successfully completed the 24 hour race, finishing third in class.

At the Nürburgring the roofs of both V12 Zagatos will be sporting a ‘Heart for Japan’ dedication as part of Aston Martin’s support for the Tsunami victims of Japan. In May, Dr. Bez auctioned his company Rapide raising £100,000. During the build up to this year's 24 hours Dr. Bez will hand the cheque to Toyota CEO, Akio Toyoda and their Donation Fund for Employees in the Affected Disaster Area charity.

The 39th ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hour race starts at 4pm CET on Saturday 25 June – live updates are available by following @astonmartin on Twitter and live commentary will be broadcast via Radio Le Mans (www.radiolemans.com)

ASTON MARTINS PASS ULTIMATE NÜRBURGRING DURABILITY TEST

Aston Martin’s three factory-backed entries in the 39th ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hour race – including two new V12 Zagato concept cars – have overcome a series of challenges to all successfully complete the ultimate endurance test in Germany, observed by some 200,000 spectators.

As the chequered flag fell at 16.00 CET this afternoon, Aston Martin’s number 5 V12 Zagato took 5th place in the SP8 class with sister car, the number 3 V12 Zagato finishing 6th. In the SP10 class, a factory-backed V8 Vantage N24 raced to 5th place, but the final positions do not tell the full story of the typically incident-packed Nürburgring 24 Hour.

Aston Martin’s twin V12 Zagato entry marked the next step of an ambitious project which began when the car was premiered at the Concorso D’Eleganza at Villa D’Este in May this year, winning the Design award for Concepts and Prototypes. The show car was then transformed into the number 3 race car, nicknamed ‘Zag’ (red livery) while in parallel, a sister car – number 5, nicknamed ‘Zig’ (green livery) was built.

The intention to enter the new V12 Zagatos in this year’s race offered an extension of the company’s philosophy of signing-off new products by entering a car which is as close to the road car as possible and publically subjecting it to the toughest 24 hour test, by entering a car in prototype form.

Speaking after crossing the finish line in the red V12 Zagato, Aston Martin CEO, Dr. Ulrich Bez said: “All our cars finished today, and two out of the three customer teams also crossed the line. This includes two brand new cars which we launched only four weeks ago.

“With a little more luck we could have finished higher up the order, but finishing first wasn’t the goal, we aimed to have the cars running at the end – I am really pleased with the team who did such a great job keeping the cars running throughout.”

Of Aston Martin’s customer team entries, Team Pflanz managed a 7th place finish in SP10 GT4 while Bratke Motorsport finished 7th in SP8. Special thought is reserved for Mathol Racing who endured an agonising finish to the 24 hours having dominated SP10 GT4 remaining in first place for the vast majority of the race only to be forced to retire with little over one hour remaining.

Aston Martin’s Head of Motorsport, David King said: “We came here with two concept cars and the aim of finishing the 24 hours as the ultimate test for the V12 Zagato and we’ve achieved that.

“I’m immensely proud of the team – as ever they have represented Aston Martin in the right way; staying calm under pressure, acting professionally and quickly solving problems when they arose.”

In parallel with events in Germany, Aston Martin’s Americas team joined forces with Road & Track magazine to run a standard road specification Rapide at Spring Mountain Motor Sports Ranch in Nevada.

Despite extreme temperatures in the Nevada desert, the four-door Rapide has covered over 1,300 miles in the 24 hours endurance run, demonstrating the durability of the standard production sports car while raising money for charity. The drive, held concurrently with Aston Martin’s participation at the Nürburgring, saw a total of nine drivers from Aston Martin and Road & Track magazine complete nearly 500 laps.

Two 24 hour challenges on either side of The Atlantic were not the only Aston Martins in racing action this weekend as the 4th round of the Vantage GT4 Challenge took place at Donington.

In a closely fought race which was only decided in the final closing laps, Stuart Hall in the number 91 Vantage GT4 crossed the line in 1st place after a thrilling battle. The Stratton Motor Company team with drivers Hall, Tiffany Chittenden and Chris Kemp qualified in 2nd on the grid in yesterday's session. Second to pass the chequered flag was Generation AMR with drivers Richard Abra and Mark Poole. Also clinching a podium was Vantage Racing with drivers Tom Black and Alan Bonner.

A full Donington race report will be published shortly. The fifth round of the GT4 Challenge will take place in two weeks at Spa Francorchamps on 8th and 9th July 2011.