Villois Racing's Vantage GT2 triumphed in the Aston Martin Racing Festival of Le Mans today as drivers Luca Filippi and Brian Lavio passed the chequered flag more than a minute ahead of their closest rival after 10 action-packed laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe. A V12-powered DBR9 - making a return to the scene of its famous back-to-back GT1 class victories at Le Mans in 2007 and 2008 - finished in second position after a stunning recovery drive from Marco Seefried.
The Barwell DBRS9, driven by Mark Lemmer, led from the start and handed over to Whight, who continued to lead until a technical issue took him off the track and out of the lead. The DBR9 of Deboeuf Racing - which started from the back of the grid having not set a qualifying time - battled through the order, initially with Thomas Gruber at the wheel. When Gruber made way for Seefried, the German driver put in fastest lap after fastest lap on a drying track to slash chunks from the deficit to the leading Vantage GT2.
Despite Seefried's best efforts, he and Gruber eventually finished in second position, 1m 1.954s adrift of the winners. Third position went to the V12 Vantage GT3 - run by Craft Eurasia Racing - of pole sitters Frank Yu and Tomonobu Fujii, who trailed the second-placed crew by a little over six seconds, so that Aston Martin Racing's most recent GT1, GT2 and GT3 cars were all represented on the podium. Yu had started from the very front of the grid, but slipped to seventh position after two laps having made a mistake at the Ford Chicance. Fujii pushed hard and was able to recover to third position.
"It was fantastic to win! It is our first time at Le Mans and we both said to start our career here with a win would be great," said a jubilant Filippi. "We drove in the wet today and in the dry yesterday, so we have a full picture of Le Mans. The car was fantastic, we had good grip and traction coming out of the corners so it was a pleasure to drive. Thanks to Aston Martin for putting this race together!"
The 19-strong GT4 category was won by Aston Martin Racing Team Principal John Gaw, who was partnered by Phil Dryburgh. The pair started from class pole position - eighth overall - and maintained their advantage despite a strong charge from the Generation AMR Vantage GT4 of James Appleby and Rob Nimkoff to finish seventh overall. Aston Martin Chairman David Richards - sharing a GT4 racer with Andrew Howard - finished fifth in class and 14th overall while television and film star Rowan Atkinson secured seventh in class in a similar car that he drove alone under the Jota banner.
Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez and Chief Engineer Chris Porritt finished in 11th position in the V12 Zagato, which - fresh from its class podium at the ADAC Zurich Nurburgring 24 Hours in May - was competing for the first time away from the legendary German circuit. Porritt had battled up to an impressive fourth position, having started from tenth, before handing over to his team-mate.
Dr Bez started the Aston Martin Festival of Le Mans aboard the 1959 Le Mans-winning DBR1, completing the parade lap in a fitting tribute to the late Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori - who drove the DBR1 to victory 53 years ago - and to Ted Cutting - designer of the iconic racer - all of whom sadly passed away in recent weeks.