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The Sporting Manner of David Richards C.B.E.

The first time I spoke with David Richards was when I was a young man back in the 1980ís. DR had successfully been running the Porsche 911 SCRS in rallying and put them up for sale as he had other plans. I considered the asking price, we had a nice conversation and I passed on the purchase. The one thing I did come away with was the knowledge that DR was destined for a heightened and magnified role in not just motorsport but also in the world of commerce. Donít let his major in accountancy fool you, the dude is street smart. Why Guy Ritchie didnít cast DR in one of his films shows that the ex Mr. Madonna needs to get   out more. So here we are, two new cars for Le Mans fresh off a big win in Spain and showing promise.

KM:  Given the state of the world economy, this is a brave move for a small firm. So I have to ask, how much of this is emotion driven given the significance of Aston Martinís win at Le Mans fifty years ago?
DR: There is no question that the 50th anniversary of Aston Martin's win at Le Mans was an influencing factor in us going ahead with an LMP1 entry this year.  However, our plans for racing have always had to be carefully balanced against the funds available as the program is financed by Aston Martin Racing.

KM:  When did you first consider to take AM in to LMP1. Were there any plans on running the American Le Mans Series or shaking the car down at the 12 Hours of Sebring?
DR:  Last year's entry of an LMP1 car by Charouz Racing was a precursor to our plans for this year.  We had always considered that if last year's program ran smoothly then we would try and raise the funds to participate with a full Aston Martin team this year.  It was originally hoped that the program would be signed off in good time so as to enter the 12 hours of Sebring but unfortunately this was not possible.  There is, however, a hope that we will race in America later in the year.
 
KM:  Given the disparity of the ACO rules since the diesel brigade debuted versus the gas boys, how has the lobbying been going to make a more even playing field for Le Mans?
DR: There is, in our view, still a significant performance advantage for the diesel engine cars.  However, the ACO have been slowly adjusting the regulations so as to reduce this advantage and the hope is that we will arrive at an even playing field in the near future.

KM:  Was the choice of using an existing platform for the LMP1 simply one of financial constraints? Itís not like you donít have the talent at Prodrive, were there mock-ups and if you are successful this year, could there be a full in house car in the near future?
DR: The decision to use the Lola chassis was based upon our experience of last year coupled with both financial and time constraints to manufacture a completely new car.  We have, however, carried out substantial modifications to the Lola chassis so as to accommodate the new technical regulations and a body shape that reflects Aston Martin styling.


KM:  No doubt you hear this a lot, the Gulf colors are well known, especially through the John Wyer years with Ford and Porsche, so there is a tradition with British motorsport, but an Aston Martin effort that isnít in the traditional green?
DR: There are a few iconic color schemes one associates with motorsport but few will disagree that the Gulf colors, and especially their association with Le Mans, are one of the ones that come to mind.  I am sure people will look back on the association of Aston Martin and Gulf as being one of the iconic images of 2009.


KM:  GT1 is virtually non existent except for Corvette, and fans all over the world miss the past battles between AM and GM. By running in the smaller categories such as GT2, GT3, etc, doesnít this give a perception of not being able to run up front?
DR: It's easy to forget that Aston Martin is represented in all GT classes - GT1, 2, 3 and 4 - unlike any other car manufacturer.  We have, however, chosen this year to focus our attention on the LMP1 program and leave the GT2 participation to our customers.  We have also been concentrating a lot of our development time to the new GT2 category, which is likely to be the dominant GT formula of the future.


KM:  I want to mention Formula One. Aston Martin, unlike Jaguar, actually had an F1 car. From a branding point, many felt that Ford should have gone with AM instead of Jaguar, would you consider a possible AM-badged Prodrive effort?

DR: Our immediate priority for Aston Martin is, of course, the 24 hours of Le Mans but there is no getting away from the fact that Formula 1 does dominate the world's stage as far as motor racing is concerned.  If the cost of participation were to reduce to an affordable level then it is clearly something that neither Aston Martin nor Prodrive could ignore.

                                                                    Kerry Morse
                                                                     April 2009





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Features and pieces by Kerry Morse