Sebastian Vettel takes to the track in a 100-year-old racer

Aston’s got a brand new badge

Aston Martin F1 driver, Sebastian Vettel, has taken to the track at the Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France, driving a 100-year-old Aston Martin racing car to mark 100 years since Aston’s first Grand Prix entry.

Dressed in a period outfit, the four-time world champion piloted TT1, affectionately known as Green Pea, around the circuit at Le Castellet ahead of Sunday’s French Grand Prix, celebrating a century since the car took part in the 500-mile 1922 French Grand Prix around Strasbourg.

Sitting in the mechanic’s seat beside Vettel in the cramped, open cockpit was former F1 driver and now Sky Sports commentator Johnny Herbert.

“It was an incredible honour to drive this car, exactly 100 years on from it last taking to the starting line at the French Grand Prix,” said Vettel.

“Green Pea holds a very special place in Aston Martin’s heritage, and you can almost feel that century of history beneath your fingertips when at the wheel.”

Green Pea is one of two Grand Prix cars, TT1 and TT2, commissioned from the company founder, Lionel Martin, by the wealthy British gentleman racer Count Louis Zborowski. In 1920, Zborowski invested the princely sum of £10,000 in the ailing company, originally founded by Martin and business partner Robert Bamford in 1913. The money allowed Martin to construct three works team cars, including TT1 and TT2 and develop a new 1,486cc 16-valve twin overhead cam four-cylinder race engine.

TT1 and TT2 had been intended to compete in the 1922 Tourist Trophy (TT) event on the Isle of Man, but a delay meant that both cars and Aston Martin would ultimately make their Grand Prix debut in Strasbourg on July 15, with Zborowski and fellow British driver Captain Clive Gallop behind the wheels of both cars.

With the engine good for 55bhp at 4,200rpm, both cars weighing in at just 750kg (45kg lighter than Aston’s current F1 car) and a top speed of 85mph, TT1 and TT2 ought to have been competitive. However, both retired with engine trouble, suggesting that Martin’s innovative engine was still underdeveloped. The race was won by Italian driver Felice Nazzaro in a Fiat.

Zborowski, having created a series of spectacular aero-engined racing cars with Gallop, all with the informal nickname of Chitty Bang Bang, would die in a crash at Monza in 1924, aged 29.

To mark the centenary of its first Grand Prix, Aston Martin will also race this weekend with the original 1913 logo on the nose of their current cars driven by Vettel and Lance Stroll, son of the company’s current chairman, the Canadian fashion billionaire, Lawrence Stroll.

As well as the 1913 logo, Aston’s livery will feature the company’s new logo unveiled earlier this week, a very subtle reworking of the winged design, which has been featured on the firm’s cars since 1932.

The new design was tweaked by Aston in collaboration with British art director and graphic designer Peter Saville. It will be hand-crafted by specialists, Vaughton’s, in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter ahead of their appearance on the company’s next generation of sports cars in 2023.

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