How to keep a Le Mans class-winning Aston Martin DBR9 on the track

31st December 2019
Seán Ward

Many challenging endurance races are held across the globe each year. The 24 Hours of Nürburgring takes place on the Nordschleife, an infamous 12.95-mile ribbon of tarmac with 73 corners and more than 160 cars competing for space. The 24 Hours of Daytona sees a mixture of prototypes and GT cars duelling in the longest race in American motorsport. The cars of the Bathurst 12 Hours, meanwhile, fight against each other and the elements, as the cars struggle for air at 3,000ft above sea level.

There is one endurance race, however, that still stands above all others. The 24 Hours of Le Mans.


First held in 1923, some of the world’s greatest drivers and some of the fastest, most beautiful and most innovative machines have graced the Circuit de la Sarthe. And it is, of course, a race of absolute attrition. To win you can’t just have three fast drivers and one very fast car, you need fit, traffic-aware drivers who can stave off tiredness, and a car that’ll survive being driven for 3,000 miles straight and endure 25,000 gear changes.

One such car that went the distance, and took a class win, is this Aston Martin DBR9.


The Le Mans hero is now owned and driven by Kriton Lendoudis, and co-driven by former WEC GT-Am champion Rui Águas, as part of the Peter Auto Endurance Racing Legends series. At the 2019 Monza Historic, we caught up with Jason Hill, Prodrive’s head of new engine programmes and the man responsible for the DBR9’s engine development in period.

Nineteen DBR9s were built – ten factory cars and a further nine for privateers – all with a fairly loose connection to the standard DB9 road car. This car, carrying the number 009, is chassis no. 10, and was driven to GT1 victory and a staggering fifth overall by Darren Turner, David Brabham and Rickard Rydell.

“This was a new car for Le Mans in 2007, Jason explains. “It only did Le Mans, and it won. It was parked up from then-on, and the second race in its career was actually Barcelona this year with Kriton and Rui. So it’s got a very clean history – very little race history, but very good pedigree.”


As the engine wizard for Aston Martin Racing at Le Mans, it becomes apparent very quickly just what a masterpiece lurks under the carbon-fibre bodywork.

“It’s a heavily modified road engine – there isn’t much left of the original engine left… It’s a 6.0-litre V12 and, with these restrictors, it chucks about 575bhp and 750Nm of torque. It’s a reasonable piece of kit! And it’s designed to last for 30 hours.” More than enough to take a victory at Le Mans, then.

“Some of the challenges? Le Mans specifically,” Jason continues, “were balancing the requirement for power against the durability. Fuel consumption was a key thing, too – getting to 14 laps [on a tank]. Some of that is driven by the aerodynamics but a lot of effort went into the engine to make it as fuel efficient as possible.”

How does running a sprint race at Monza compare to the marathon at Le Mans? “Obviously the key thing is these races are very short, so it’s a relative doddle for the car. Although,” Jason chuckles, “we have had a bit of an issue with the steering today…

“Typically we don’t change a lot on the car. It’s more about set-up. The big challenge is you have an amateur driver, generally. This car was only ever raced by professionals in period with us, and how you set up a car for a professional driver is different to how you set it up for an amateur. Firstly, so it’s safe for them, and secondly, so that they can get the most out of the car, otherwise they wouldn’t enjoy it. It’s generally a bit softer than we’d have it for a pro.

“Monza is one of the easier circuits to run, particularly this one in this trim, because it’s in Le Mans trim. With Monza it’s all about straight line speed and managing your braking for the chicanes and Parabolica. It’s a tricky circuit from that point of view, it’s a bit like Le Mans – you have to wind the downforce off if you want a good lap time but then you have to manage the car everywhere else.”


What’s obvious is just how different the DBR9 is to the road-going DB9. All of the bodywork is made of carbon-fibre, there is nothing familiar to the interior, the suspension and brakes and totally different and, of course, the DBR9 carries a very different aerodynamic profile.

“It’s low downforce, low drag,” Jason says. “A few things you might notice, like the front fender louvres are closed. The front radiator duct has an infill panel in it to reduce the size of the duct, too, because Le Mans is a very fast, cool circuit so you don’t need the big entry duct. Similarly there’s shuttering on the exit ducts on the top of the bonnet.”

This DBR9 now runs a different ECU, data logger and larger digital dash, as at Le Mans the driver would have had shift lights, warning lights and a small screen to show simple messages. That system would be too simple for an amateur, Jason explains: “with the old systems, if you didn’t know what a light was, you probably wouldn’t stop the car.”


The final modification from the car’s original Le Mans spec is the addition of an auto-blip system. “The thing with this car is it’s completely manual – you have to do everything,” Jason says. “Not so easy for an amateur, which is why we’ve got the blipper. It’s a six-speed sequential, and you use the clutch on the way down through the gears and to pull away but it’s a flat upshift. That side of it has stayed the same.”

To the owners credit, while the auto-blip system, the modern dashboard and the slightly softer suspension set-up might make the DBR9 slightly easier to drive, getting behind the wheel of a Le Mans winning chassis and racing it at Monza, one of the fastest tracks anywhere, takes some guts. More than likely there are plenty of people out there with the funds to buy such a car, but far fewer who would actually drive it the way it was meant to be driven and give motorsport fans another opportunity to hear that glorious naturally aspirated V12.

Photography by Pete Summers.

  • Aston Martin

  • Le Mans

  • Le Mans 2007

  • DBR9

  • Monza

  • Monza Historic

  • Monza Historic 2019

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