Con­corde was the prod­uct of bound­less am­bi­tion; As­ton’s Valkyrie rep­re­sents that same spirit

Evo India - - BAJAJ QUTE - RICHARD MEADEN Richard is a con­tribut­ing editor to evo and one of the mag­a­zine's found­ing team @Dick­ieMeaden

MANY (MANY) YEARS AGO, IN THE DAYS be­fore I was a mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist, I worked for a sand and gravel quar­ry­ing com­pany. One of the sites was near Hat­ton Cross, close to Heathrow Air­port. Noth­ing re­mark­able about that, ex­cept for the fact that if I was canny about sched­ul­ing my day I could be in the vicin­ity around 10.30am. That meant see­ing Con­corde take off.

Un­less you are for­tu­nate enough to have ex­pe­ri­enced it for your­self, it’s im­pos­si­ble to grasp what see­ing that re­mark­able air­craft was like. Or in­deed to ex­plain the yearn­ing you felt to fly on it. The em­bod­i­ment of bound­less am­bi­tion, against-the-odds achievemen­t and ‘ one day’ as­pi­ra­tion, see­ing Con­corde leap into Heathrow’s airspace was a mo­ment when or­di­nary peo­ple like me were touched by some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary. Lest we for­get, this was a sched­uled pas­sen­ger air­liner that could cruise at over Mach 2 (that’s over 2400kmph!) and de­posit you in New York an hour be­fore you left London. Fly­ing at 18,288m, its 100 pas­sen­gers en­joyed the trap­pings of first class travel while watch­ing the cur­va­ture of the earth slide by the peep­hole win­dows.

To this day, wit­ness­ing the con­tra­dic­tory spec­ta­cle of that pris­tine white dart tear­ing into the sky with the vi­o­lence of an air force jet re­mains one of the most in­tensely pow­er­ful and in­spir­ing things I’ve ever seen. Just as it’s one of my eter­nal re­grets that I never did travel on it.

Why the ret­ro­spec­tion? Well, as I write this it’s a full half-cen­tury since Con­corde first flew. This in it­self blows my mind, but it’s only when you ap­pre­ci­ate that the An­glo-French treaty to em­bark on the project was signed in 1962 – just 59 years af­ter the Wright brothers made their first con­trolled and sus­tained pow­ered flight – that you get a mea­sure of the 20th cen­tury’s re­mark­able pace of tech­no­log­i­cal progress.

It sad­dened me greatly when Con­corde was re­tired from ser­vice in 2003, for it seemed to sym­bol­ise the mo­ment in which the world lost its ap­petite for speed. Given that at­ti­tudes have since changed to­wards such prof­li­gate de­mon­stra­tions of power and con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion, per­haps that de­ci­sion was for the best. Es­pe­cially given Con­corde’s party piece of leav­ing sooty sepia-toned lines in the sky and count­less wail­ing car alarms in its wake.

This cen­tury’s quest is not to go fur­ther, higher and faster but to be leaner, cleaner and qui­eter. It is with­out ques­tion the greatest

chal­lenge we’ve ever had to face, not least because it de­mands we place ethics be­fore ego and sup­press the urge to in­dulge in those feats which make our hearts beat faster.

For­tu­nately those of us who miss en­gi­neer­ing progress mea­sured in kmph, and not kmpl, still have the hy­per­car. And when it comes to the hy­per­car, none has cap­tured my imag­i­na­tion more com­pletely than the As­ton Martin Valkyrie. It is a truly ex­tra­or­di­nary project; the au­to­mo­tive world’s Con­corde mo­ment.

Just as the su­per­sonic air­liner blurred the bound­aries be­tween civil and mil­i­tary avi­a­tion – Krug and af­ter­burn­ers, if you will – As­ton and Red Bull’s Newey-de­signed hy­per­car will not only pro­pel the road car into the realm of the pure rac­ing car, but it glo­ries in push­ing to achieve the ap­par­ently im­pos­si­ble in ev­ery­thing it does. Of course, un­til the sim­u­la­tor-honed prom­ises jump from the vir­tual realm to the phys­i­cal there is al­ways room for ques­tions and doubt. Will it ever ac­tu­ally be fin­ished? Can it re­ally de­liver those lap times? Can it work on the road? Hav­ing spent plenty of time chat­ting to those charged with de­liv­er­ing the project there have clearly been times when ev­ery one of them has pri­vately con­sid­ered those same ques­tions and more. Yet all draw strength from the fact that if this car didn’t force them to ques­tion ev­ery­thing they knew it would have been a fail­ure be­fore it turned a wheel.

What we do know is the com­bined might of the Cos­worth-built 6.5-litre V12 and Ri­mac/In­te­gral Pow­er­train’s hy­brid sys­tem has been of­fi­cially cer­ti­fied at 1160bhp and 900Nm. The nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated V12 alone pro­duces 1000bhp at 10,500rpm and revs to 11,100rpm. Down­force? Close to match­ing its own weight – which is ex­pected to be some­where be­tween 1050 and 1100kg – in road-le­gal trim, and com­fort­ably ex­ceed­ing it with the Track Pack body­work. What­ever the fig­ures, we’re look­ing at a road car that will not just have a power-to-weight ra­tio that com­fort­ably ex­ceeds the magic 1:1, but a down­force-to-weight ra­tio that comes very close to match­ing it.

The Valkyrie is a car that will only be driven by a priv­i­leged few, but it will be a source of won­der, ex­cite­ment and in­spi­ra­tion for the many who never for­get the mo­ment they see one. It will also serve as a fit­ting el­egy for the road-cer­ti­fied internal com­bus­tion en­gine and – per­haps – be the last word on the au­to­mo­tive industry’s glo­ri­ously self-in­dul­gent pur­suit of un­bri­dled per­for­mance. ⌧

The Valkyrie is a truly ex­tra­or­di­nary project; the au­to­mo­tive world’s Con­corde mo­ment

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