As­ton’s crazy 10,000rpm V12 hy­per­car doesn’t so much re­write the rule book as turn it in­side out


TWENTY-FIVE years af­ter the McLaren F1 rein­vented the su­per­car, so an­other Bri­tish sports car maker is set to do it again. As with the McLaren, the new Valkyrie uses cut­tingedge For­mula One tech­nol­ogy to el­e­vate speed and driver ap­peal. This time, though, it’s an As­ton Martin that’s tear­ing up the tem­plate.

As­ton Martin has never had a rep­u­ta­tion for tech­ni­cal in­ge­nu­ity. In fact, for a big chunk of its his­tory, it’s been some­thing of a lag­gard. Those meaty V8 Van­tages of the ’90s, for in­stance, had the en­gi­neer­ing so­phis­ti­ca­tion of an old-school Amer­i­can mus­cle car, whose lantern-jawed styling they also mir­rored. They also rev­elled in their olde-worlde her­itage, from hand-wrought con­struc­tion to Bent­ley Blower-style tally-ho su­per­charg­ing.

How­ever, the time warp maker has gone high-tech, and the new Valkyrie is be­ing built to show­case the seis­mic shift. Plus, CEO Andy Palmer wants to ex­pand As­ton Martin’s range of su­per-sports cars, and a mid-engine Fer­rari 488 ri­val forms part of the plan. As Palmer told MO­TOR re­cently in an in­ter­view, the Valkyrie helps to ‘le­git­imise’ As­ton Martin as a se­ri­ous maker of mid-engine sports cars. “It is an im­por­tant area of the lux­ury-car mar­ket where we have no track record,” he says.

Yet the most im­por­tant fac­tor in the Valkyrie’s ges­ta­tion was Palmer’s close re­la­tion­ship with Red Bull Rac­ing and with its chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer, Adrian Newey. Newey had long wanted to de­sign a road car.

“I’ve been want­ing to do some­thing like this for years,” Newey tells me. “Some­times when I had a few idle mo­ments I would doo­dle some ideas and throw them in a box where they have slowly gath­ered dust over the years. In 2015 I thought it was time to do some­thing with them so I agreed with Chris­tian Horner [Red Bull Rac­ing team prin­ci­pal] that I would start work part time on such a pro­ject.”

“We as­sem­bled a very small team, a chief de­signer, an aero­dy­nam­i­cist and a sur­face de­signer to start work on it from a me­chan­i­cal pack­age and aero shape point of view. We worked through the au­tumn of 2015 and then started dis­cus­sions into what we do next. Do we find a pri­vate in­vestor to part­ner with or do we ap­proach a car com­pany? In the end both Chris­tian and I thought it best to part­ner a car­maker. They know all about things like dis­tri­bu­tion, sales, ser­vic­ing, emis­sions reg­u­la­tions and door seals – all the ar­eas in which we have no ex­pe­ri­ence.”

“As­ton Martin was clearly the favourite, only half an hour or so drive away and clearly a very ap­pro­pri­ate com­pany. That was an easy choice and we al­ready knew Andy Palmer, As­ton Martin’s CEO, which made it a very sim­ple deal.”

Red Bull and As­ton Martin got talk­ing, as did Newey and As­ton de­sign boss Marek Re­ich­man. The up­shot is the Valkyrie, which will be the fastest and most ad­vanced su­per­car – or hy­per­car – in his­tory. The high-speed tech is mostly Red Bull’s and Newey’s, the top-hat de­sign is by As­ton Martin.

The dif­fi­cult jobs of de­vel­op­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing, styling and ser­vic­ing the car were As­ton’s re­spon­si­bil­ity. It would wear an As­ton Martin badge, af­ter all.

There are nu­mer­ous par­al­lels with the McLaren F1, and the sin­gle big­gest ad­vance in high-speed sports cars to date. Just as the Valkyrie is the brain­child of Newey, the most suc­cess­ful F1 de­signer in his­tory, so the McLaren was the cre­ation of Gor­don Mur­ray, the most suc­cess­ful F1 tech­ni­cal brain of his time. In 1988, Mur­ray’s MP4/4 had just fin­ished win­ning 15 of the 16 Grand Prix in the hands of Ayr­ton Senna and Alain Prost. Like Newey, Mur­ray wanted an­other chal­lenge.

Mur­ray was dis­mis­sive of con­tem­po­rary su­per­cars. Newey to­day is sim­i­larly un­com­pli­men­tary. He de­scribes the cur­rent ‘state of the art’ hy­per­cars – the McLaren P1, LaFer­rari and Porsche 918 Spyder – as ‘big, clumsy and heavy’. And it’s not just su­per­cars. It’s the way the car in­dus­try has gone, from old Mini to new Mini, from old Ford GT40 to the newer Ford GT. “I wanted to avoid this and keep the car com­pact. I wanted, in ef­fect, a two-seat F1 car in its un­der­ly­ing ar­chi­tec­ture.”

“As with Mur­ray and his McLaren, he told me he also wanted a car of ‘two char­ac­ters’. It will have a new level of per­for­mance on road or track com­pared with any other road car. At the same time, it’s com­fort­able if you’re stuck in traf­fic or cruis­ing the mo­tor­way.”

The ob­jec­tives were bold, to say the least. The most am­bi­tious was a de­sire to pro­duce a car with one horse­power for ev­ery kilo of weight – for some years now a hy­per­car Holy Grail.

The McLaren F1 was just over 55 per cent as ef­fi­cient, 627hp (468kW) and 1140kg. The 25-year newer LaFer­rari, is no bet­ter.

The Valkyrie, if you be­lieve As­ton Martin, will be the fastest road car ever. In track guise (on slicks) it aims to match the lap times of an F1 car.

Fi­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the car are still be­ing fi­nalised – first de­liv­er­ies are still a year away – but the power out­put is likely to be be­tween 1050 and 1100hp (780-820kW), and weight be­tween 1050 and 1100kg. Newey says they were hop­ing for 1000kg, but won’t quite achieve it. (So was Mur­ray with the F1: he said it was the only met­ric he failed to de­liver.)

Nat­u­rally the car has a car­bon-fi­bre mono­coque, body­work and sus­pen­sion, made us­ing F1-stan­dard ma­te­ri­als and con­struc­tion. The all-new engine is a be­spoke nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 6.5-litre V12 from Cos­worth. There is yet to be con­fir­ma­tion of the engine’s red­line, but it will be way north of 10,000rpm.

“The engine had to be be­spoke,” Newey says. “We spent a lot of time look­ing at the ob­vi­ous al­ter­na­tives to a nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V12 or a turbo V6 or V8. We came to the con­clu­sion that from a tech­ni­cal stand­point a V12 was the best so­lu­tion be­cause although the engine it­self is heav­ier, it is ac­tu­ally a much eas­ier pack­age to in­stall. You haven’t got the tur­bos and the charge cool­ers to clut­ter up the back end of the car. It’s a nat­u­rally very well bal­anced engine that means it can be­come a fully stressed mem­ber with­out putting ex­ces­sive vi­bra­tion into the chas­sis struc­ture.”

“I was con­cerned that if we mounted a V6 or V8 the vi­bra­tion would be ex­ces­sive and make it un­pleas­ant from both a comfort and noise point of view in the cabin. When it comes to the acous­tics, which is im­por­tant, a V12 with a 12-into-1 ex­haust sys­tem – which this car has – is a much more ex­cit­ing sound than a tur­bocharged V6 or V8 will ever make.”

“To get that much power, the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated engine needs to rev very high”, notes As­ton Martin en­gi­neer­ing chief David King.

“To com­pen­sate, we’re also us­ing elec­tric hy­brid power for ex­tra low-speed torque.” This also hap­pily in­flates to­tal power.

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