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  Aston Martin DBR2
 

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1957
Numbers built:2
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:July 31, 2006
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Click here to download printer friendly versionA victory in the gruelling 24 Hours of Le Mans race displays both outright speed and a high level of reliability under the fiercest of conditions. Ever since his purchase of Aston Martin late in 1946, gearbox manufacturer David Brown put a victory in the most legendary of endurance races at the top his list. Soon after he bought the Lagonda rights, and with it the designs of a six cylinder engine with two overhead camshafts. This advanced engine was one the last designs of W.O. Bentley and would form the basis for all Aston Martin's motorsport successes.
In the first half of the 1950s, Aston Martin competed with their six cylinder sports cars mainly for class victories, but were still out-powered by British rivals Jaguar and the Italian Ferraris and Maseratis for overall victories. Introduced in 1953, the three-litre DB3S model proved a very capable racer, racking up many wins, including a clean sweep of the podium at the 1954 Silverstone Unlimited Sportscar race. Campaigned by both the works and many privateers, the DB3S' career highlight was a second place finish in the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Work was started on a new car early in 1956. A completely new spaceframe type chassis was designed by chief designer Ted Cutting. The new chassis proved more rigid and very importantly 50 lbs lighter than the DB3S'. Both front and rear suspensions were pretty much carried over from the latest specification DB3S, as were the Lockheed disc brakes. The first car produced, DBR1/1, was fitted with a 2.5 litre version of the twin-cam 'six' and a transversely mounted David Brown gearbox to keep most of the weight within the wheelbase.
Driven by Tony Brooks and Reg Parnell, the DBR1 made its debut in the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans. Blown away by the much more powerful competition, the new car finally retired with an engine problem. This remained the only outing of the DBR1 in 1956 and at the end of the season John Wyer was appointed as General Manager and Reg Parnell as Racing Manager of the company. Under their leadership development continued throughout the winter. With various changes carried out, the 2.5 litre DBR1/1 was campaigned in the first two races of the 1957 season, recording back to back second place finishes.

The winning formula was found when an updated version of the DB3S three litre engine was fitted. Two three-litre DBR1s were fielded in the Spa Grand Prix race in May of 1957. DBR1/2 driven by Brooks recorded the car's first victory. In his hands DBR1/2 recorded another two victories that season, in the Nürburgring 1000 km race and again at Spa in a three hour race. To compete with the more powerful cars in sprint races, the 3.7 litre DBR2 was developed. Roy Salvadori scored a victory with it in a Silverstone Over-1500cc sports car race.
Although 1957 proved quite successful for Aston Martin, a victory at Le Mans still eluded the British manufacturer. Ironically one of the weak components of the DBR1 was David Brown's own CG537 gearbox. A sudden change in the regulations at the end of the 1957 season limiting the displacement to 3-litres for sports prototypes, perfectly suited Aston Martin's DBR1. These changes left Jaguar's D-Types, Maserati's 450S and the Lister-Jaguar Special obsolete. Already stricken by financial problems, Maserati announced a complete withdrawal, leaving Ferrari as the sole works competition.

Left obsolete by the rule changes, the two DBR2s constructed were left to compete in non-Championship races. In the hands of Moss several victories were scored before both cars were loaned to American privateers to campaign in local events. The original 3.7 litre engines were increased in size to 3.9 and later even to 4.2 to keep with the big American racers. After two relatively succesful seasons both cars were returned to Aston Martin and sold to privateers.

Pictured above are both DBR2s constructed; DBR2/1 in the first shots and DBR2/2 in the second set. After being banned from racing Europe, both cars enjoyed a fairly successful racing career in North America. DBR2/1 is seen here at the 2006 Silverstone Classic where Aston Martin was the featured. It was only delivered to its new owner a few days before the event and he was only able to fit some new tires, so it was not fit for racing. Former Le Mans winner Richard Attwood and Gary Pearson took to the wheel to demonstrate the very rare machine. DBR2/2 is seen being driven a little harder at the 2005 Monterey Historics.

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