Aston's test driver tells Top Gear what it’s like driving a 1,160bhp hybrid hypercar
It might feel like decades since we first laid eyes on it, but Aston Martin’s long-awaited Valkyrie hypercar has finally become something of a reality.
Just before qualifying for the 2019 British Grand Prix, Aston’s ‘High Performance Test Driver’ Chris Goodwin took the first verification prototype for a lap of Silverstone, marking the start of an “extensive physical testing regime” before customers get their cars in a few months’ time.
“On the spectrum of road cars I’ve driven, it’s not even on that. It’s totally off that scale,” he told us afterwards.
“It’s more along the lines of Formula One cars I’ve got experience of. I’m racing GT cars all the time - and it’s not like that. It’s just like sitting in an F1 car. Even the seating position is very reminiscent of that. When you fire the engine up, there’s a lot of structure-born feel from the powertrain coming through. You really do feel like you’re bolted into the car. It’s pretty exciting before you even engage first gear.”
Goodwin describes the Valkyrie’s development program as “more reminiscent of the way Red Bull would develop its Formula One car, where there’s more reliance put on simulation than in mainstream automotive”, meaning the team can get down to the minutiae much more quickly. Indeed, while the development team has clocked countless hours on F1-grade simulators - even letting Chris Harris have a go - this is the first time the general public has seen it move under its own steam.
It’s still early days, so Goodwin wasn’t going for it and the car was only running half-power. “You’ve got to walk before you start running,” he told us. “This is the powertrain development car. After this its life will be spent working on the calibration of the petrol engine and hybrid, and the integration of that into the gearbox.”
After his demo lap, Goodwin says Red Bull’s Adrian Newey was picking his brain about the steering, powertrain, suspension and so-on. “It is a PR exercise, but at the same time you’ve got a bunch of technically hungry people that are sucking every bit of information out of my tiny brain.”
“The fast driving stuff is the most straightforward bit,” he adds. “The real clever stuff is being able to keep that performance and make this car incredible to drive around whatever racetrack you want to take it to, but also make it amazing to drive on the road too. This is a British sports car, it’ll be great on British roads. If you can make a car that’s good on British roads, it’s going to be good anywhere.”
Will they chase a lap-record at say, the Nürburgring? “I’d rather forget about all that,” says Goodwin. “If you need to do that to sell your cars, maybe you should be looking a bit more deeply at your cars.
“We’ll just focus on making sure this thing has the correct ride, handling and powertrain performance. Then those other things will look after themselves.”
Should you need a reminder, the Valkyrie is set to be one of the most hardcore hypercars the world has ever seen. Developed in partnership with Red Bull Advanced Technologies and AF Racing, Aston is set to build 150 road cars - all already sold for £2.5million before options - which will be powered by a naturally aspirated Cosworth V12 engine that can rev to a staggering 11,100rpm. It sounds just as good as you think it does.
Paired with a hybrid system developed by Rimac, no less, the Valkyrie will be good for 1,160bhp and 664lb ft.
But it’s not about straight-line speed, though no doubt there will be much of it anyway. Around a track, we’re promised the Valkyrie will be like no road-legal car the world has ever seen. Indeed, it’ll form the basis of Aston’s assault on WEC in 2021, when rule-changes will see the current LMP1 cars replaced by road-going, race-modified hypercars like the Valkyrie.
The first customers are scheduled to get their cars before the end of this year. Lucky things. We’ll bring you more on its development over the coming months, so watch this space.
CREDIT TO WWW.TOPGEAR.COM