Aston Martin has announced that it will return to racing by the end of 2004 when the DB9 coupé will be raced in International Grand Touring (GT) races.

Aston Martin has announced that it will return to racing by the end of 2004 when the DB9 coupé will be raced in International Grand Touring (GT) races.

The GT classification includes races like the Le Mans and American Le Mans series, and the new international series of three 1 000-kilometre races. Aston will also produce race-modified cars to be sold to private teams in addition to racing its own factory cars.

The race car will be developed in association with a team of British motor sport specialists responsible for Subaru's changing image after it prepared its highly successful rally cars.

Dr Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin's CEO, said: "Aston Martin is an exclusive brand, but we cannot be exclusive without being visible, and motor sport is a way to heighten our profile. By competing with them we can demonstrate that our cars are not only the best on the road, but also on the racing track."

With all three manufacturers (Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin) providing cars for sale to independent teams, competition in the GT class promises to be strong. The GT class could even relive its heydays of the 50s and 60s, when long distance Grand Touring races were among the best spectacles in motor racing.

The DB9 coupé and the Volante cabriolet (featured on CARtoday.com recently) will be sold next year and Aston hopes to sell more than 2 000 by the end of 2004.

The racing versions’ prices have not been released yet, but the production coupé will cost about R900 000.