LMP1 Retrospective EP3 - 2011 Aston Martin AMR-One
Aston Martin has been a pretty well-known name in the history of endurance racing. They weren't as popular or successful as more well-established constructors at Le Mans such as Audi, Peugeot or Oreca, who dominated the LMP1 class of endurance racing at the time, but they do put up a fight at every race they compete in.
Most of Aston Martin's wins in endurance racing comes from the LM GTE class, the class Aston Martin mostly specializes in. However, they did compete in the LMP1 class a few times, and were actually pretty good at it.
The Lola-Aston Martin B09/60 was a pretty dominant force on the track, with its best result being 4th place at the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, as the car was beginning to unleash its full potential, it immediately became redundant after a new set of rules were enforced. As a replacement, they developed their first ever self-built LMP1 prototype, the Aston Martin AMR-One.
In 2011, the Automobile Club De L’Ouest, or the ACO, made some massive changes to the rule book of endurance racing since 2007, making it a huge hassle for many constructors. Some of their new rules were so drastic, most manufacturers couldn't run their 2010 cars for 2011, and immediately became redundant as they did not follow the new rules and regulations.
Many teams were forced to re-run their 2010 cars, as most of them couldn't afford to develop an entirely new car for the 2011 season. However, the rules were initially made to balance out the performance of petrol and diesel prototypes, potentially bridging the massive performance gap between diesel juggernauts such as Audi and Peugeot, and petrol-powered prototypes at Le Mans.
Because of the prospects that the new rules could bring to other teams, Aston Martin immediately jumped ship and started developing a whole new car from the ground up to have a go at toppling the giants at Le Mans.
The Aston Martin AMR-One
In 2011, Aston Martin unveiled their new car designed to beat Audi at Le Mans. It was called the AMR One, a nod to its spiritual successor, the Aston Martin AMR1, an unsuccessful Group C endurance racing car that participated in the 1989 24 Hours of Le Mans. The AMR-One was Aston Martin's first ever endurance racing car built from the ground up, and was the first car AMR built themselves in over 50 years.
Aston Martin opted for an open cockpit design for the AMR-One, while Audi and Peugeot went for closed-cockpit designs for the 2011 season. A problem the open-cockpit design would pose to the new car is its lack of downforce compared to a closed-cockpit car, but it provided better vision for the driver and contributed to faster pit-stop times.
The AMR-One's design had a very high belt-line, many broad shapes and only a few surface brakes. The car's front end was designed to produce as little downforce as possible, and to force as much air into the ducts to cool the engine for maximum performance. Instead of a conventional endurance racing car where the air would move over the top of the car, it was directed through the car.
The AMR-One also has numerous ducts inside its 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.
The 2.0-liter straight-six engine found in the Aston Martin AMR-One. (Source: carmrades.blog.com, Robert Nguyen)
Aston Martin decided to gamble on an entirely new engine for the AMR One instead of deriving an engine from their present-day cars. It was a daring feat, as the company decided to develop an all-new engine that could cost lots of time and money, not based on any production engine.
Just like every other manufacturer at the 2011 season of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, Aston Martin downsized their engines in accordance to new rules and regulations. Unlike their previous V12 and V8 engines they raced at Le Mans, Aston Martin decided to power the AMR-One with an all-new, built from the ground up, turbocharged 2.0-liter straight-six cylinder engine making 540 horsepower.
The AMR One's Problems
The car's radically new design posed a lot of problems to the team. The car suffered heavily in terms of aerodynamics thanks to its shape, along with the car lacking a lot of downforce to keep it glued to the ground as a result of its open-top design. Because of it, handling of the car was extremely limited.
Its engine was also less reliable than the competition racing at Le Mans, so unreliable that most of the AMR-Ones that raced either had a slower pace compared to the other racers or broke down mid-race thanks to it.
It turned out that development of the new engine was incredibly rushed. Teams such as Audi and Peugeot spent six months testing their engine, while Aston Martin only had a very small window of time, four months to be exact, to develop the all-new engine before the first race commenced. Not only that, but the team conducted no testing afterwards and were also running low on budget.
2011 World Endurance Championship
The Aston Martin AMR-One only competed in one race season throughout its history, the 2011 World Endurance Championship. They attended several races throughout the season, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Drivers Stefan Mucke, Darren Turner, Adrian Fernandez, Harold Primat, and Andy Meyrick raced for the team throughout the 2011 World Endurance Championship
During the 6 Hours of Castallet, the AMR-One was a driving force on the racetrack, qualifying 5 seconds behind the Pescarolo in front of it. However, as the race went on, many things took a downturn and the AMR-One was starting to lag behind, finishing way down the order.
In the races counting up to Le Mans, the AMR-One was plagued with even more problems. So far, the car only completed a handful of laps during the Le Mans Test Day and were far slower than the top running LMP1 cars that Aston Martin were trying to beat. As a result of the poor results from testing, the team withdrew from the next race at the 1000 kilometers of Spa to further develop the car in private.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans
At the 24 hours of Le Mans, the team's performance was abysmal. Car #007 qualified 20 seconds off the pace of the lead LMP1 car and 5 seconds off the lead LMP2 car. To add insult to injury, it was running 10 seconds slower than the B09/06 it was destined to replace. Car #009 was even slower, two seconds behind car #007.
After further inspection, it was later revealed that the car's engine was producing just shy of 300 horsepower due to an engine problem rather than the 540 horsepower it promised to make on paper, giving the team a massive disadvantage in terms of power.
During the race, the #009 car retired after just two laps. Two laps later, the #007 car broke down mid-race and had to be placed in the pit lane just four hours after the start of the race. In total, the team only completed six laps at Le Mans, the least amount of laps in the entire race...
After Le Mans
After that blunder at Le Mans, the team decided to withdraw from the following race at Imola to further develop the car in private once again, earning them no points and 3 DNS in just four races. At the 1000 kilometers of Silverstone, Aston Martin dropped both AMR-Ones and replaced them with older but much faster Lola-Aston Martin B09/60s, the cars the AMR-One was meant to replace.
In the end, the car only participated in 3 races, started twice, and earned no points for the team. It was good intentions by Aston Martin to try and topple over the running champions of Le Mans, but thanks to rushed development and poor decisions, it was horribly executed.
Two of the AMR-One chassis were later sold to other programs. The DeltaWing project utilized an AMR-One chassis for the base of its radical design due to the team not needing to re-homologate a chassis which had already passed safety tests. A second AMR-One chassis was sold to Pescarolo Team for their use in developing the Pescarolo 03 LMP1 chassis.
Withdrawal from Endurance Racing
In January 2012, Aston Martin Racing announced they were ceasing development of the AMR-One, and instead focusing once again on their GT program. Racing driver Darren Turner 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.
Today, Aston Martin still participates in endurance racing, only in the LMGTE classes instead of the LMP1 class. Aston Martin also offers customers their racing cars, such as the Vantage GTE, to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and in other endurance races.
About this series
This article is part three of six in the LMP1 Retrospective series, where six different writers pick out their favorite LMP1 cars and write an article about them over the course of six days this week, counting up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Unfortunately, 2019 will be the final year LMP1 cars will race at the 24 Hours Le Mans, so we all decided to come up with this series as a tribute to all the weird and wonderful cars that race in this class. The fourth part of this series will be published tomorrow, so stay tuned!