1977 Le Mans 24 hour: Robin Hamilton's Aston Martin V8 Vantage
This Aston Martin RHAM/1 was a highly modified Aston Martin DBS V8 racing car, developed by Robin Hamilton, built with the intention of racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After development by Hamilton, RHAM/1 competed in the 1977 and 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing 17th overall and 3rd in the GTP class in the 1977 race.
The V8 engine of the car, had now been fitted with Nimonic steel valves, special forged Cosworth pistons and a redesigned sump. The engine would now produce 520 bhp (390 kW) at 6,750 rpm and 381 bhp at the wheels. Plus over 400 ft·lbf of torque at 5,250 rpm with Weber 50 IDA downdraught carburettors. The car by this stage was now a Group 5 car rather than a Group 4, which would mean it would have to race against the turbochargedPorsches. Another wind tunnel test showed that the car would have dangerous amounts of lift on the Mulsanne Straight, so another change had to be made, and a rear tail spoiler needed to be fitted. The wind tunnel test also showed that the radiator, (now moved to the back to change the weight bias), would gain then 10 mph more in top speed, but it would cause the engine to run too hot, so it had to be moved back to its original location. Four oil coolers also ensured that the engine temperature never exceeded 110 °C.
The car also had other modifications made to it, with a redesign of the front bulkhead and mostly drilled box section included in the chassis modifications. RHAM/1 also had roller bearing drive shafts and peg-drive centre lock hubs for the one piece custom made BBSmagnesium wheels. The wheels measured 19" in diameter, 15" wide at the rear, and 13" wide at the front and had special, custom made Dunlop tyres for them. The wheels themselves needed to be bigger than 16" to go over the twin caliper, 12½" Lockheed, ventilated disc brakes, with no servo assistance. All of which was needed to stop the 30 cwtAston Martin. The alternator was switched to run off the gearbox (which itself had a closer ratio 5th gear) instead of the engine crankshaft. The clutch was now uprated to a triple plate. The suspension was almost standard, with standard rubber bushes but with slight geometry changes. Nylon mountings were also used for a reduced width Dion tube. The roll cage was a NASCAR (instead of FIA) specification cage, which was bolted to the chassis. This alone weighed 50 kg.
The car by then became known as RHAM/1 (its chassis number, Robin Hamilton Aston Martin #1) as it was unrecognisable from the original car.
With drivers David Preece, Mike Salmon (a Le Mans veteran, Salmon had driven the last Aston to race at the Sarthe, Peter Sutcliffe's Aston Martin DP214, in 1964.) and Robin Hamilton himself. A request was made to move to the GTP category (from the competitive Group 5, where opposition was deemed less strong. This request was granted by the organisers.
Running steadily to the flag, the Aston Martin crossed the finish line after 2,210.78 miles (261 laps) of racing with Robin Hamilton, who had driven longest of the three drivers, at the wheel. RHAM/1 finished in 17th place overall (from 55 starters) and 3rd in class (GTP category). Ironically, if it had stayed in Group 5 it would have finished 2nd in class.
Here is the Spark model of this Aston Martin race car.