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Aston Martin DBR1 to go under the hammer at Monterey auction

Published 12 July 2017

Arguably the most important Aston Martin ever produced is going under the hammer. RM Sotheby’s is to auction the 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 at its Monterey sale, held on 18-19 August during the Pebble Beach conours d’elegance.

DBR1 is Aston’s equivalent to the Ferrari 250 GTO and the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR and was driven by David Brown’s desire to win the Le Mans 24 hour race.

The first of just five examples built by the factory between 1956 and 1958, DBR1/1 was a purpose-built competition car developed by racing design chief, Ted Cutting. It boasted a lighter, faster 3.0-litre engine than its DB3S predecessor, set into a small tube spaceframe chassis with an all-new rear end. The gearbox was replaced by the new semi-dry sump, five-speed transaxle, and the new racer was equipped with cast-iron Girling disc brakes with groundbreaking light alloy calipers.

DBR1/1 debuted at the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans at the hands of Tony Brooks and Reg Parnell, retiring after more than 22 hours with engine bearing failure. The car’s impressive list of Works entries that followed reads like a who’s who of endurance racing. Greats such as Carroll Shelby, Roy Salvadori, Stirling Moss, and Jack Brabham all got behind its wheel.

DBR1 (2)

DBR1, chassis 1 on the track at the 1957 24 Hours of Le Mans with Roy Salvadori at the wheel (image: LAT Photographic)

Further entries included two more runs at Le Mans in 1957 and 1958, the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1958 and 1959, as well as three entries at the Nürburgring 1000km, in 1957, 1958 and 1959, the latter of which saw an overall victory with Sir Stirling Moss and Jack Fairman at the helm.

This marked the third consecutive win for Aston Martin and the DBR1. The win at Nürburgring also played a major role in securing Aston Martin the 1959 World Sportscar Championship victory—the first time a British manufacturer had done so.

Nürburgring would mark DBR1/1’s final appearance as a Works entrant, but it would return under privateer Essex Racing Stable in both 1961 and 1962.

The Aston was then sold to the Honourable John Dawnay, future Viscount Downe and Aston Martin Owner’s Club president, under whose ownership it saw considerable historic racing success in the early 1980s, piloted by veteran Mike Salmon.

The car passed through another major collection, during which time it was awarded the Most Elegant Sports Car Trophy at the 2001 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, before landing with its current owner.

DBR1/1 is offered with its final Works fitted engine, and is currently equipped with a bespoke, correct reproduction engine manufactured by Aston Martin specialist Richard Stewart Williams. Following recent competition at Goodwood Revival at the hands of Brian Redman, DBR1/1 comes to RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale as the first DBR1 ever offered at public auction.

With the potential to break the current record for the most valuable British car ever sold, DBR1/1 is expected to fetch more than $20,000,000 (£15.6m) when it crosses the Monterey podium this August.

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