The Aston Martin DBR9 burst on to the racing car landscape in 2005 at the height of the GT1 class’ popularity winning its maiden race at the 12 Hours of Sebring, one of the calendar’s main events. That win cemented the car’s place in the history books and at the same time bestowed upon itself that oxymoronic title of instant classic.
Based on the jaw-droppingly gorgeous DB9 road car, the DBR9 was debuted to the Aston Martin fraternity, press and invited guests to gasps and rapturous applause; such was the stunning beauty of this now iconic car. Resplendent in a shade of the familiar Aston Martin Racing Green made famous by its namesake, the Le Mans winning DBR1, this car made the GT1 class the one to watch and crowds of fans flocked to tracks the world over just to see the car and revel in the intoxicating sound of its V12 engine. I know – I was one of them!
Such a glorious machine deserves an equally impressive book in which to be chronicled and enjoyed. What has just been written by Thomas Gruber and Christoph Mäder actually defies the title of a mere book. It is so lavishly produced, with such detail and high quality photos and text that it should rightly be displayed as a piece of art. The book came to me amid much anticipation and it does not disappoint. At all. In any way. It is so good inf act that you could be forgiven for thinking that the authors penned this review instead of an independent writer! Honestly, I’ve never held a book in my hands that is quite like this.
The first thing that you notice is the sheer weight of the thing. I couldn’t find a published figure, but it must be close to 10 pounds! As you slip the book from its silver slipcase you relish in the tactile pleasure of the embossed leather covering. Even the smell makes your senses tingle. (If, however this ‘Aficionado’s Edition’ is too common for you, then the even more exclusive ‘Driver’s Edition’ which is covered in black suede for an additional 200 Euros might be more your cup of Fortnum and Mason Earl Grey).
Once you’ve found a comfortable chair and a suitably sturdy table upon which to carefully place your objet d’art, you will find yourself washing and drying your sweaty palms before an attempt is made to actually open the book, lest you leave fingerprints on the exquisite pages. “Surely you jest?” I can see you thinking, but I’m deadly serious. My mouth actually watered as I was writing this. This is not in any way meant to be humorous, but my desire is to impart my feelings to you in the hope that you get some insight into the level of literary perfection that the authors of this work have accomplished.
Once you have managed to catch your breath, and have started to explore the contents, you will see that the book is divided into three categories: first is the detailed history of the development, engineering and technology of the car and the comparison between the road and race cars. Second are the biographies of all the teams who ran the car, along with interviews from AMR personnel, team management and drivers. Lastly all the works and customer chassis are individually detailed with cross reference of drivers, teams, races and results, utilizing several fold-out pages to help illustrate the information.
The illustrations in the book are not limited to a few well-thumbed photos that you may have seen elsewhere. Quite the contrary: the photographs are glorious and the colors explode off the page. Many of the 400 plus pictures have never been published before, so there is plenty to keep the train spotters and anoraks busy for many an hour. But it is neither the photographs nor the fold out illustrations that set this book apart from the common-or-garden variety of racing car books. Christoph Mäder had to lobby hard with the publisher to include his ground breaking X-Ray vision transparent layered films into the book as costs spiraled. These inserts give the reader the ability to peel back layers to see all the way inside the car itself, the chassis, the transmission and even the way the air flows around the car.
The book caters well to all types of reader, with plenty of behind-the-scenes and drivers’ stories to keep the casual fans happy as well as the afore-mentioned photographs for those who will enjoy it as a coffee table book. For those who enjoy the engineering side of things there are enough facts and figures in there to keep even Adrian Newey busy for a while. Graphs and tables show engine power and torque curves, aerodynamic loads, gear ratios, chassis theory and even internal bulletins and updates. All right down to the n’th degree. If you cannot find some factoid about the car in this epic work, then it likely has not been released from the Prodrive vault, such is the depth of the research.
Both of the writers worked for one of the privateer DBR9 teams, Jetalliance during the mid-2000s: Mäder at a management level and Gruber as a driver. The team achieved success with notably a podium finish at Le Mans in 2009. The book is borne out of their collective passion for the car and their knowledge is unequivocally second to none.
The GT1 class died an unfortunate slow death in 2011 and the awesome machines that defined the hugely popular class are sorely missed already. The DBR9’s homologation also expired at the same time, so the release of DBR9 – The Definitive History could not have come along at a more fitting time. As a book this work ticks all of the boxes, but it more than the sum of its parts. It is undoubtedly the most perfect racing car book that I have ever had the pleasure to read. That the chosen subject happens to be one of the most iconic cars of recent history makes it all the richer and although it will not be framed and hanging on a wall in my office, it will certainly be a cherished heirloom that one of my children might find bequeathed to them for the enjoyment of future generations