Visit to Prodrive

Aston LMP1 car

Not directly related to my racing (at least not yet!), today I visited the Banbury HQ of Prodrive for a tour of their facilities. Amongst other things, Prodrive run the works Aston Martins in sports cars series across the world, including the Le Mans 24 Hours, as well as similar GT3 and GT4 cars for private teams. Since 1984, they have built up a history of successes with Subaru, Ford, Porsche, Honda, BMW and Mini and are now the second biggest employer in the area, poised to move from their current 12-acre site to a new facility at double the size.

Works Aston Le Mans car

It was interesting to see that modern Astons are built essentially the same way as both Lotus and Rolls Royce, using lightweight but nonetheless strong aluminium alloy sections, welded and glued. Prodrive are able to take cars direct from the factory so don’t have to waste time stripping out fixtures and fittings as part of preparation.

Aston body/cage workshop

The workforce do an incredible amount of work on each car that amounts to a total rebuild of engine and gearbox and a completely new, hand-made wiring loom. From the tour it quickly because obvious why the cost of these cars is usually several hundred thousand UKP.

Race Aston being assembled

I was immediately drawn to a Ferrari 550 Maranello which won the Le Mans GTE category in 2003 – probably because it bore my race number, 88. Unlike any other car museum I know, visitors were actually permitted to sit in the cars – so I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to climb into this one.

Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello - with my race number!