Marek Reichman on Le Mans: “We have a mid-engined car that could compete in that field…”

11th June 2019
Seán Ward

Anyone familiar with Aston Martin’s recent history will likely have heard the name Marek Reichman. We had the chance to chat with the Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Aston Martin Lagonda, to give him his full title, about historic racing and the future of Aston Martin’s road cars.


Reichman’s career began at Land Rover in the early 1990s before he moved to BMW, Ford and finally Aston Martin. His first true production Aston Martin was the V12-powered DBS in 2007 and every road-going Aston since has been penned under his watchful eye.

We found him in the paddock shelters on the Saturday of the 77th Members’ Meeting, standing next to his 1954 DB2/4 he was due to race in the Tony Gaze Trophy the following day.

“It’s had quite a glorious history in terms of its ownership,” he tells GRR. “I’m the third owner, and a friend of mine owned it for 25 years before me. It’s been road and raced all its life. As you can see it still has the tax disk in it because in the old Aston Martin owners club meetings back in the late ‘50s and ‘60s you’d turn up to an event, take everything out, go race and then drive home. In the spirit of Tony Gaze Trophy I thought that was quite appropriate, so I’m running it more or less in its ‘road spec’, it just gets a change of wheels and tyres for race.”

Pointing towards the back of the car and at a seat sitting on the floor, he adds: “the seat is in the corner ‘cause I strip it out to come racing with it, and yeah, it’s a lot of fun. It’s just so indicative of what Aston Martins are. And for me, in my role for the last 15 years, this is one of the stars of our portfolio, really.”


What’s his favourite thing about it? “I think its originality. This is the original body, it’s not had a body-off – yes, it’s been painted in the same paint, but never stripped down, so it’s been patched up whenever it’s had a little contretemps on the track.

“Driving position, feel – it’s just so forgiving but a lot of fun to drive. And there’s so much torque that as you’re coming up towards Woodcote it’s heart-in-mouth saying ‘I really need to start braking now because these brakes aren’t working, and I need to figure out where’! They’re just wonderful cars in that respect – beautifully balanced and a lot of fun. You get out smiling.”


Starting in 26th position he managed to secure 22nd place come the chequered flag. The differences between the DB2/4 and a modern Aston GT race car (a breed of car Reichman has plenty of experience with, having raced at the 24 Hours of Silverstone and the Aston Martin Festival at Le Mans) are profound.

“They are so chalk and cheese. In a modern car you drive hard, you brake hard – here, everything’s on egg shells. Selecting second gear for the chicane, if the revs aren’t right, it’s not going in to second gear, and if you don’t double declutch she’s not going into second gear.”


One of Reichman’s recent projects has been to oversee the creation of Aston Martin’s mid-engined family of cars like the Valkyrie and Vanquish Vision Concept, so we ask how mid-engined machines fit with Aston’s traditionally front-engined model line-up.

“It’s vital. We’ve said since becoming a publicly limited company, post the IPO, one of the aims is obviously to grow the portfolio, to become a true competitor to our friends in red, if you like, and the only way you can do that is to have a mid-engined portfolio.

“It started with Valkyrie – I guess the pieces slowly came together for everyone, and finally in Geneva you could see the Vanquish concept. But the whole relationship with Red Bull Advanced Technologies and the F1 team and Valkyrie is about getting to Vanquish. It’s about getting there with arguably the world’s greatest car since a McLaren, that’s a road car. The Valkyrie will reset many of the times, limits, speeds, g-forces, downforce etc. – it has 1,800kg of downforce. It’s a unique product.

“That was there so that when we get to Vanquish as a true road car, a competitor to wherever F8 goes or 720, we have the provenance of coming from the world’s greatest mid-engined car, arguably working again with one of the world’s greatest aerodynamicists and engineers ever in Adrian [Newey] – I don’t know how many times he’s won world championships, but it’s a lot more than anyone else. You know, he is a genius in that field. The reason, at the end of the day, they’re wonderful products but they’re limited series cars, and Vanquish will be a true on-road competitor.”


Aston’s first win at Le Mans came in 1959 with a DBR1 at the hands of Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby. More recently Aston has won in the GT class with the DBR9 and Vantage GTE, but the company hasn’t followed in the footsteps of Audi, Peugeot, Porsche or Toyota in the LMP1 class since the slightly disappointing Lola-Aston Martin B09/60. Will the mid-engined cars, like the Valkyrie or Vanquish, ever compete at Le Mans?

“Obviously there’s a rule change at Le Mans which suggests that we have a mid-engined car that could compete in that field…” he suggests.

“GT racing for us will always be there, it’s an important part of how we go racing. Bamford and Martin set the company up to go race on Aston hill, and we still have that ethos. Andy [Palmer, Aston’s CEO] is an amateur racer, as am I, and it’s embedded and engrained in the philosophy of the company, and mid-engined means that you can compete in a different space, in a different place. Clearly, to win Le Mans outright again that’s probably the space you need to be in.”


Finally, who’s quicker: Reichman or Palmer? “Well if Andy were here he would say, well, he always warms my tyres up. We did a 24-hour race together at Silverstone two or three years ago, and I was a second quicker… On record, he daren’t get into one of these. None of that heritage racing – no grip, no slicks, no brakes, forget it.”

So you’re quicker and slightly braver? “You can write that,” he replies with a smile.

Photography courtesy of Pete Summers, Drew Gibson and Motorsport Images. 

  • 77MM

  • Members Meeting

  • Marek Reichman

  • Aston Martin

  • Tony Gaze Trophy

  • DB2/4

  • Andy Palmer

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