FLASHBACK FRIDAY - BROKEN WINGS: 2011 ASTON MARTIN AMR-ONE
In 2011, the ACO marked the biggest revisions in Le Mans regulations since 2007. This means problems for teams running with 2010 cars. They would end up running smaller air restrictors, less boost pressure (turbo and turbo diesel), and a smaller fuel cell.
While private teams are forced to run with 2010 cars, factory teams had taken these advantages by running brand new machinery, big boys such as Audi, Peugeot and Aston Martin.
Aston Martin named their challenger the AMR-One, which was a nod to a not very successful Group C AMR1 which only completed 7 races. They are hoping to capture their first ever win since Carroll Shelby and Roy Savadori did it in 1959 in the famous DBR1.
The No. 5 David Brown Racing Dept. DBR1 crossing the finish line to win the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans
The AMR-One was the first ever purpose built LMP1 for Prodrive from the ground up and was the team first ever car to be built by AMR themselves in more than 50 years. The AMR-One served as the replacement of the Lola-Aston Martin B09/60, or also known as the Aston Martin DBR1-2.
The B09/60 was a pretty successful car, winning 9 of its 27 races and winning the 2009 Le Mans Series while achieving the its best result of 4th in the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Taking advantages of the rule changes, the team aim to directly compete with the lights of Audi new R18 and Peugeot 908 for the overall victory around the Circuit de la Sarthe. Aston Martin went a complete 180 and opted for an open cockpit car, unlike Audi who have switched to closed cockpit with the R18. Although this would prove a huge downsize in downforce, but would benefits the team in pitstops and have better vision than its closed cockpit competitors.
While both Peugeot and Audi opted for the new 3.7L turbocharged diesel engine, AMR decided to use the 2.0L straight six, turbocharged, mid-engined, and longitudinally mounted and producing 540 HP. Sounds good on paper but would prove to be a fatal mistake for AMR in the future. Work on the new chassis and engine began in early 2010 at the AMR headquarters in Banbury, UK with the team planning to run six cars in early 2011.
Due to not opting for a closed cockpit design, the car suffered heavily in terms of aerodynamics.
The Aston Martin has a very high belt-line, broad shapes and few surface breaks. The front of the car is designed to develop minimal downforce and to force as much air into the ducts. The air then moves through the car instead of over the top.
There are numerous ducts inside the high bodywork, one for brake cooling, two through the side vents and one for rear gearbox cooling. One air scoop is in place to feed the turbocharger. Two side ducts on the rear of the car are for rear-brake cooling. The exhaust exits at the bottom of the vertical fin (sharkfins which was also introduced in 2011).
The team decided to field the No. 009 car to participate in the 2011 Le Mans Series with Stefan Mucke, Darren Turner and Harold Primat. The first race of the season was the 6 Hours of Castellet at Paul Ricard with no factory teams taking part in other than Aston Martin. Soon during qualifying, problems began to emerge. The AMR-One was 6 seconds slower than the 2010 Rebellion B10/60 and 4 seconds behind the highest qualified LMP2.
Although the car survived the initial first lap carnage when a communication error resulted in a controversial start that wrecked half of the fields, the AMR-One could survive for 92 laps before retiring because of a technical problem.
The car was soon pulled out of the second race, the 1000 km of Spa after a disaster public testing in Le Mans; which it was running way slower than the top LMP1 teams and also slower than some LMP2 cars and continue to develop the new car. It was revealed that the engine aluminum alternator pulleys were cracked.
The team also told the press while teams like Audi and Peugeot have been testing the engines for six months, the team only had from January to early February to finish the engine (which is an incredibly short amount of time), and still in the early face of the development with AMR also running low on budget.
After testing the team then headed to the Mecca of Endurance racing, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Also partnering the No. 009 car was the No. 007 car. While Stefan Mucke and Darren Turner moved to the No. 007 car to partnered former F1 driver Christian Klein. Harold Primat stayed with the No. 009 car which was joined by Adrian Fernandez and Andy Meyrick.
But the trouble didn’t stop for AMR with both car had an absolutely dismal qualifying. Car No. 007 qualified 20 seconds off the pace of the lead LMP1, 5 seconds off the lead LMP2; and to add to the pain it was running 10 seconds slower than the B09/06 it was destined to replace. Car No. 009 was a further two seconds back.
It was later revealed that the engine was producing only 300 HP due to an engine problem rather than the 540 HP on paper.
While the qualifying didn’t done the team any favors. The race was a complete disaster which the whole team could even do SIX LAPS. The No. 009 was the first to be retired with only two laps, while the No. 007 could only do a further two and retired when the car was in the garage at the fourth hour of the race. The two cars also completed the least amount of laps of the entire fields.
After the complete meltdown at Le Mans, the team pulled out from Imola and was forced to dust off the old B09/60 for the 1000km of Silverstone before AMR decided the closure of the program in January 2012 to focus on the GT program.
No. 007 driver Darren Turner later blamed the public development of the AMR-One as its undoing citing that most teams develop their new cars completely behind closed doors for at least a year before attempting to race with them.
The car ended participating in 3 races, 2 starts and no points. While it was a good intentions by Aston Martin to run with the big boys, but the development of the car was poorly executed which later doomed the entire project.