As unexpected emails go, the one from Fraser Stevenson to PistonHeads was one of the better ones. "Dear PH," it said, "my friends and I have built this DB6 for La Carrera Pan Americana - would you like to know more about it?" That's paraphrasing things slightly; the point is there wasn't any further persuasion required after that. We had to know more.
So here it is, Frasers full lowdown on the DB6 rally car. What with the current situation, the iconic Mexican race hasn't happened this year, though plans are very much afoot to compete there and across Europe next year. Anyway, enough from us; over to Fraser...
"We have been friends for a long time and as we have all grown up, there have always been cars in our lives. I met Richard and Nick 30 years ago; Jim, Tony and Darrell came along a little later. We all live in different parts of the world (UK, USA, Portugal, Australia and the UAE) although the car itself resides in Britain. We are unlike most people we meet racing insofar as we try very hard not to take it all too seriously. We do it for the challenge but primarily for the opportunity to have all your friends working together and having a large amount of fun doing it.
"After messing about with some historic rallying, we came to the point in 2005 when we wanted a proper adventure; a MkII Jaguar was purchased to compete in the 2006 La Carrera Pan Americana, the ultimate road race in Mexico. After doing endurance events in an early Mini Cooper S we knew that we needed a bit of space when spending so long together in a car, hence the Jaguar. There really is nothing like the Pan Americana; seven days of driving more than 3,300 km, climbing from sea-level to more than 3,000m. There are multiple torturous special stages a day, meaning up to 14 hours driving in each one. It was easily the most challenging thing we'd all ever done: you drive all day and the car is in service all night - no one sleeps. Navigation is extremely complicated and never ending and the consequences of getting it wrong can be fatal. We did reasonably well, especially for first timers, and we finished the event, which for most people is winning in itself as the attrition rate is incredible.
"We built the Jaguar again for 2011 and finished once more with the help of a couple of new team members. What we came to realise, however was we were in the wrong car. The Jaguar was entered into 'Historic B', which is the six-cylinder class and therefore dominated by Porsche 911s; the Jaguar tried its level best but there was no catching them. So we started looking for a replacement car; what we really, really didn't want was another heavy, six-cylinder British sports car... but we bought one anyway. The DB6 came up while casually browsing, as they always do, and it was greeted with what's best described as a lukewarm reception...
"Though prepared for endurance rallying it had been sitting for a good few years and was a bit of an odd one; still, after some negotiation a price was agreed and the car was ours. After which, we immediately entered the Aston into this year's Carrera Pan Americana, which was due to take place in November. For some reason we work best when the clock is ticking. We then worked out we had quite a bit of work (far more then was reasonable) to do to make it even slightly competitive as it had all the problems the Jaguar had - and a lot more that the Jaguar didn't have.
"Undeterred, we started building a DB6 to the very specific rules of the Mexican race with the help of our old (and very long-suffering) friend William at Motorvation Classics. So, from a standing start in January and at that point knowing nothing about Aston Martins, we jumped in feet first. It hasn't been an easy build and the car has fought us at every turn; I remain at a little bit of a loss to identify the exact point it turned from basically a fast road car with a roll cage to the full-on racing car that you see here. But it did alright!
"The primary performance motivation throughout the whole project has been to lose as much weight as possible wherever we could and make the car as strong as possible. To go into detail would take pages, but basically we have shed around 300kg. The Mexican race is very heavy on brakes and so we have fitted the biggest thing we could get inside the 72 spoke competition wire wheels. BG developments were brilliant and have never fitted this much AP Racing stopping power into a wire wheel before. The gearbox choice was free, so we fitted a T5 with a Quaife close ratio gearset; as well as being an excellent gearbox it was also a great weight saver, shedding 35kg. The engine was already a Cosworth 4.2 and we didn't intend to do too much; however, as with pretty much everything to do with this car, we ended up doing a heck of a lot...
"Although a lot of money had been previously been spent, the engine had been poorly built and we were coming up against problem after problem, so in the end we decided to rebuild it from the ground up. It's got a billet steel crankshaft, four bolt main conversion, forged pistons and rods. The head had a lot of work and been re-valved and the compression is set to 9.8:1. We realised that we should be able to get away with fuel injection, so we have a set of Jenvey 50 mm heritage throttle bodies (for that classic look) on matched and flowed DCOE 45 inlets. The cams are from Piper and are currently conservative but linear in their delivery. Hayward and Scott built an exquisite stainless-steel exhaust system and the sparks are taken care of by a Bosch motorsport coil pack. The ECU is a work in progress and we are unhappy about where it is at the moment; despite that it's doing 300hp at the rear wheels and 313lb ft of torque absolutely no problem at all. We are going to settle it down, have it remapped and see where we are; it should be around 330 at the back wheels then, but with a set of race cams that could be on the horizon we could see it pushing close to 400hp at the flywheel. Now that will be fun! With the suspension we worked with Patrick Murphy at Quantum and after a dynamic chassis assessment by GSD (a story all on its own) Patrick built dampers and springs for the requirements.
"Straight out of the box, it handles superbly. With the global situation as it is, the LCPA attempt is unrealistic this year and we will roll our entry until 2021. This is a blessing in disguise, as there is much development work to do. We have an entry for Coppa Milano San Remo rally in Italy in March as a start and we will look to do a couple of others next year before Mexico. It's competition future is rather limited as it is built specifically for one purpose and to FEMADAC regulations; it's not FIA friendly, really, which is a shame, but you can't have everything. We have done a day's testing with Daniel Rowbottom and he was absolutely brilliant. He dialled in the suspension, geometry and braking as well as giving our people a passenger ride they won't forget! We had a few teething problems, but the biggest issue was that (very) lightweight high flow aluminium bonnet was struggling to stay attached to the car at over 100mph and proceeded to change shape during the day. A work in progress, that one...
"What else to tell you? We're going to fit a rather trick electric air-con system and perhaps an electric pump for the power steering as well. It's got a very cool lithium-ion battery and a six-phase alternator; we went over the top with the electrics (and just about everything else to be honest!). We are talking to GSD dynamics about an alternative track specification for the suspension which again Patrick Murphy at Quantum will build. We are trying to keep our options open as much as possible and now we have the rally specification and we are happy with the performance we will develop a brutal race specification for the track."
Quite the story, right? We'll keep you updated with progress on Fraser's Aston's. For now, here's what BTCC driver Daniel Rowbottom had to say about the DB6...
"Testing the Aston 335 DB6 was an amazing experience. It is very easy to forget sometimes how far we have come in the motor racing world, and this DB6 manages to blend old and new so well. The car was lovely and responsive to driving inputs and, in fact, when we decided to try and 'fine-tune' that little bit more, its responded perfectly, even down changing ever so slightly in single damper clicks.
"With a modern braking system and engine control systems bolted onto the classic Aston, it means you have such a fun and it becomes such a rewarding car to drive. You can brake late, power early, and listen to that mechanical symphony of a straight-six, almost a forgotten sound in 2020.
"This car rates highly on my own personal list of driving experiences and as its developed further I would absolutely love to be invited to help out again."
(Image credit | Steph Ewen)
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