In 1989 Group C sports car racing reached new heights popularity among manufacturers when Aston Martin joined in the fun as a manufacturer. Aston Martin Tickford had supplied motors for the Nimrod Group C cars that were run from 1982 until 1984. They also supplied the even less successful EMKA Productions and Cheetah teams which ran sporadically from 1983 to 1985.
The seeds of the 1989 program were laid after an agreement between Aston’s owners Victor Gauntlet and Peter Livanos that Aston Martin should go the whole hog and manufacture a Le Mans challenger wholly in house. A month after they announced their plans Ford took a controlling interest in Aston Martin and to the surprise of Gauntlet and Livanous agreed the racing program should continue on condition that it did not interfere with Aston’s production vehicles and that it would require no finance from Ford recommending a separate company should be set up to run the racing operation.
Aston Martin and Ray Mallock, using the Ecurie Eccose name with whom he had won the junior Group C2 championship in 1986 created a new company called Proteus Technology Ltd known as Protech. Protech was to be funded for six years to the tune of £26 million by the Livanos family. Callaway Engineering was engaged to develop the 5.3 litre Aston Martin Virage V8 motor into first a 600 hp 6 litre / 366 cui motor and later a 700 hp 6.3 litre unit.
The team hoped to have the first cars, designed by Max Bostrom, racing towards the end of 1988 and when the deadline passed they prepared themselves for a start at the first Group C race of 1989. An accident during testing meant the team were without a car to take to the first race of 1989 and so attracted a US$ 250,000 fine for missing the race.
The AMR1’s first appearance was at Dijon where AMR1/01 driven by David Leslie and Brian Redman finished a distant 17th. At Le Mans which was a non championship event two cars were entered the #18 AMR1/01 for Redman, Micheal Roe and Costas Los while the #19 AMR/03 was driven by Leslie, Ray Mallock and David Sears.
Despite circulating in a wall of noise equal to anything heard in the NASCAR Sprint Cup the AMR1’s were short on horsepower and overweight the #18 qualified 32nd while the #19 could only qualify 40th. The #19, seen at Arnage below, eventually retired with electrical issues early on the Sunday morning of the race while the #18 soldiered round to an 11th place finish.
In the next race, at Brands Hatch, Redman and Leslie scored the teams best result a 4th place finish. Aston Martin finished the season 6th behind Mercedes-Benz, two private Porsche teams, Jaguar and Nissan but ahead of the factory Toyota team.
During the course of 1989 Bernie Ecclestone convinced the FIA that the future of Sports Car racing lay with 3.5 litre engine rules as required in Formula One from 1991. Aston Martin had no choice but to withdraw at the end of 1989 as they had no suitable engine and Ford had given the nod to Jaguar to use it’s own Ford Cosowrth HB V8 Formula One engine, and running the unfinished Aston Martin AMR2 for a year made no sense.
My thanks to fausto at The Nostalgia Forum for finding the link to the AMR2 wind tunnel models.
Thanks for joining me on this “Wall Of Noise edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !