Interview with David Richards

In an exclusive interview with Autosport-Atlas, Aston Martin Racing team director David Richards shares his thoughts on the responsibility he feels to the legendary British marque, how he thinks main rivals Corvette will be faster on race day, and why there could be, at next year's Le Mans, up to 16 Aston Martins on the grid

Interview with David Richards

TD: When Aston Martin was launched, you said this was going to be a learning year, and you weren't ready to win the GT1 class at Le Mans at your first attempt. Has this changed following the victories at Sebring and Silverstone, and last weekend's test pace?

David Richards: "Clearly last weekend gave us confidence, although there are still some issues, particularly with the tyres, that we have to resolve. But generally, if I'm honest with you, the project has exceeded our expectations.

"It is always better to over-deliver to expectations and the team have done an extraordinary job. You are right, last year we did say this was only going to be a year of learning but we've had the Ferrari 550 project which has taught us an awful lot. And a lot of the experiences went in from that across to this car, and the test programmes have been extensive from the early part of the year. I think George and his team have done an extraordinary job."

TD: Whether or not you win at Le Mans, what happens to Aston Martin after that?

Richards: "In twelve months' time I'd like to see a private competitor win Le Mans in a customer car. I'd like to see the customer cars go around the world. Clearly we'll have a team in the FIA GT Championship and we are negotiating with teams in America and the Le Mans Endurance Series.

"I'd like to see teams operating in each of those years towards a World Championship in 2007. That is clearly the goal for us."

TD: So how many Aston Martins will there be next year? Loads of them?

Richards: "I think we are now production limited. We have got 12 cars sold today with three or four more in the pipeline to possibly get out there by next year. So I'd say 16.

TD: Could you hope to dominate GT1 at Le Mans in the way Audi has in LMP1?

Richards: "No. The GT rules are fundamentally different and are based on equivalence to not allow any one marque to dominate. Maybe not at Le Mans so much but certainly in the FIA series and the Le Mans Endurance Series

"What this does do is allow teams and manufactures who produces cars economically and competitively to supply the field and get the largest numbers of cars out there. And our car has been designed for the economics of running it for a private competitor.

"It has been designed to run for 24 hours without major issues, and has been designed to be serviced in the farthest reaches of any racing series in the world."

TD: What will be your exact role be at this year's race?

Richards: "I'm a delegater and I trust the people around me. Clearly if there are issues I will get involved but if everything goes according to plan I'll be on the barbeque at the back. I suspect I won't be sleeping during the race, and if I said I might I'd probably be lying to you."

TD: Considering when the project was launched and how far you've come since then, if you win GT1 at Le Mans will it be one of your greatest achievements in motor racing?

Richards: "Yes, it would be up amongst them. I've loved Aston Martin since I was a school boy and I've owned many of them and I still own a number so for me it is personal thing.

"I look back on Subaru and we took a brand which had no motor racing heritage to World Championship success. But with Aston Martin we have a great duty to history here, taking something with so much esteem around it is extraordinary and a great responsibility."

TD: So it is a case that you can't let the Aston Martin name down.

Richards: "Absolutely. We have a great responsibility on our shoulders."

TD: David Brabham told Autosport-Atlas that he thought Corvette were effectively sandbagging and that your practice pace was flattering to you. What do you think?

Richards: "I suspect that they were. I don't think we've seen them show their hand yet, which is an extraordinary thing to do and you have to be extremely confident to do that. We debated it but, quite honestly that is not our style. We went out there and showed our hand and that is where we are. We learnt a lot from last weekend and if we hadn't done that we wouldn't have learned the things we did."

TD: So do you think they will be ahead of you or behind you when they do show their hand?

Richards: "I think it will be a close-run thing and we will be challenged all the way to the line."

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