Dumbreck targets Aston winposted in LMANS21 | 06 | 2013

    PETER DUMBRECK'S MOST memorable moment, certainly in terms of public perception, remains the image of his Mercedes-Benz flying through the French air at 200mph. This weekend the 39-year-old Fifer (pictured) is back at Le Mans, and he's ready to re-write the record books.

    The quietly-spoken, almost shy racer from Kirkcaldy is part of Aston Martin's plans to mark its centenary with victory at the 90th anniversary of the French endurance race.

    And the Scot, resplendent in his iconic Gulf-liveried racewear, is in no doubt everything is finally in place for him to stand on the top step of the podium at the end of the world's most famous, and gruelling 24-hours race.

    After surviving his Mercedes horror in 1999 — when his car took off on the Mulsanne Straight after air got under it, carrying it deep into the trees at the side of the track — Dumbreck had two forgetful outings with Spyker in 2010/11.

    Then last year he returned in the premier LMP1 class with the privateer JRM team: they finished in the top 10, and were delighted with that.

    This year he's an integral part of Aston Martin's works-backed bid to win in its centenary, and he is very aware of the significance of his position.

    "Is it my best chance of winning?" he smiled today, as the masses peered at him relaxing with a comforting cup of tea. "Yes, there's no doubt about that.

    "Is there more stress? Yeh, but I'm trying not to think about it: I'm concentrating on staying cool.

    "It's a massive year for Aston Martin, and its a fantastic opportunity to be part of it. And it would be fantastic to win and cap the manufacturers centenary."

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    Dumbreck is piloting the all-new Aston Martin GTE for the first time at Le Mans, but he's partnered by two established drivers for the team in Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke.

    And the Scot isn't fazed by the challenge of getting on the pace of the Englishman and German.

    "They've been racing Astons for years, and know the car and the team inside-out, back-to-front," Dumbreck highlighted.

    "Sure I've had to acclimatise quickly. But the guys in charge know I'm not going to jump in the car and blow everyone else away, it just doesn't happen like that.

    "We're all world class drivers, but I'm gradually finding my feet: so yeh, it's looking good."

    That's something of an understatement. Dumbreck impressed immediately, going fastest in the GTE Pro class during the official test day.

    He admits though that moving from last year's state-of-the-art LMP1 prototype, to the GTE Aston — with less power and less ground-hugging aerodynamics — has its challenges, including being blinded.

    "If you're in an LMP1 car, you have the benefit of a good set of lights, following other people, overtaking other people, and choosing where you overtake them: you're in control," he explained, matter-of-factly.

    "Now I realise, having been in that position 12 months ago, that in a GTE you can't see anything. When they come behind you with their lights blazing, it's a wall of light: it's blinding.

    "You're so busy thinking about what's behind you, it's easy not to concentrate on what's in front of you. And that's not good, because it's pitch dark and some of the corners are not that well lit."

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    And as if that wasn't a big enough challenge, he highlights another potential danger: amateur drivers.

    "Some of the cars here have amateur drivers in them," he continued. "They're a bit nervous anyway and they tend to freeze when these faster cars come stonking up behind them. They're not aware of the speed differentials."

    But Dumbreck's quick to clarify that even the world's leading sportscar drivers aren't immune to the odd, squeaky bum-type mistake.

    "I had a moment last night in the dark," he explained, becoming more animated as he relived his 160mph scare.

    "I came down under the Dunlop Bridge, and it was beginning to get a bit cold: my tyres didn't seem to get up to temperature quickly.

    "I came down through the banked left-hander and I thought, 'I'll push on and I'll try it in a higher gear'.

    "I was in fourth, floored the pedal, and suddenly the rear of the car flicked out — he illustrates it by blurred, rapid crossing of arms — and I thought, 'whoa, whoa, settle down'.

    "That made me step back. But sometimes you just need that little warning. So I settled back into the rhythm and in the end my times weren't too far off my team-mates."

    Dumbreck has always been a class act, and his opportunity with a full works-backed drive has been long overdue.

    Unlike Dumfries racer Allan McNish, who has been an integral part of Audi's sportscar team for more than a decade, Dumbreck is still waiting for his big break. And he believes this just might be it.

    "I'm hoping last year, when I finished in the top 10 overall in a P1 car, was the start of a new positive chapter in Peter Dumbreck's Le Mans career," he laughed.

    "Certainly everything's in place this weekend to continue that, and if we can finish on the GTE podium or even win, then that would certainly signal lift-off again. And it would be the prefect way to celebrate by 40th later in the year."

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    Jim McGill


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