Track-only version of V12 hybrid-powered Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro hypercar produces performance that’s simply out of this world.
Deliveries of the Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro – the track-only version of the V12 powered hypercar that the company promises offers an equivalent level of performance to a top-flight race car – have finally begun.
To celebrate the fact they also let a small group of journalists experience it from the passenger seat at the Homestead track in Florida, becoming the first people outside the company and the customer base to have the chance to feel its full brutality.
While the while Valkyrie project has gone well beyond its original timescale, and the Formula 1 connection between Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing that underpinned it has since been dissolved, Aston says it is on track to deliver more than 75 of the road-going Valkyrie and the track-only AMR Pro to customers this year.
Meeting the Pro up close also got the chance to see some of the many differences that separate it from the regular car, with Aston Creative Director Marek Reichmann talking us through the changes. As well as a longer wheelbase the track-only car has a different tub featuring even lighter construction and some dimensional changes allowed by the lack of road homologation.
“The car was designed to keep the packaging as tight as possible around the constraints of a human being and an engine,” Reichmann said, “that’s it – there’s nothing else, we don’t have a millimetre of spare space. It’s almost exoskeletal in its design, the tub is the structure, there’s no cladding in it.”
Touring car and sportscar veteran racer Andy Priaulx has been one of the Valkyrie AMR Pro development drivers since shortly after the program began, and says he was very happy to be asked to work on it as his competitive motorsport career wound down. “To be honest I didn’t think I’d get the chance to drive anything as quick as this again,” he says. Apart from a testing a Williams F1 car in 2005, he reckons the AMR Pro isn’t far off being the fastest car he’s experienced.
“Today’s all about giving a taste of what the car can do, but the whole point of the programme has been to make it drivable,” he said, “the guys who are spending their money on these are going to want to enjoy them, and there’s no point in making something that only a professional will be able to get near the limits of.”
I’m doubly blessed. Or maybe doubly cursed. Because I’ve already had a ride in a Valkyrie, sitting next to Aston’s subsequently departed CEO Tobias Moers in one at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last year. That was hugely exciting, but took pace at a pace in keeping with damp conditions and the car’s lack of traction control. But at Homestead the sun is blazing and the TC is apparently working. Despite that the naturally aspirated Cosworth V12 is going to be in its 597kW setting – plenty for the short straights of the infield course, Priaulx reckons – but still 150kW short of the full output.
Getting in is an inelegant process, and once in the tight-fitting cabin I’m forced to adopt an offset position so that Priaulx still has room to twirl the yoke-like steering wheel. But, unlike the car at Goodwood, the Pro’s aircon is at least trying to work, and the view through the screen isn’t obscured by multiple display screens. It’s not comfortable, but I doubt there will ever be a shortage of volunteers willing to cram themselves in to experience the performance.
The AMR Pro starts rolling under pure electric power, the V12 starting with a bang when the car gets up to around 25km/h. There’s a brief chance to experience some low rev buzz as we rumble out of the pitlane, but from that point onwards it spends the entire four-lap stint in close proximity to its 11,000rpm redline. The noise is predictably savage, even through a close-fitting helmet, but there is less vibration than I remember from the regular car at Goodwood.
Performance is huge, but it doesn’t feel impossibly so. Fully lit, Aston reckons the Valkyrie Pro can generate more than 2G of linear acceleration, but the fact those forces are pushing me back into the seat diminishes them relative to the much more violent loadings I’m feeling as the harnesses bite under braking. Lateral acceleration is only slightly less vicious – although the fact Homestead’s infield only has a couple of turns fast enough for aero downforce is saving my neck muscles from a greater pummelling.
But, forces aside, the view through the screen feels impossible. Priaulx is turning into corners at velocities that make it feel like reality has had its playback speed turned up, yet there is no sense of the car sliding, even as the slick tyres come up to full temperature and he starts to get earlier on the throttle. It’s like all the stages of getting a car into and through a corner are being compressed, and neither Priaulx or the car seem at all fazed. As the engine shuts off as we coast to a halt in the pits I ask how hard he was pushing. “Eight tenths maybe. I’m doing this all day, remember.”
One of his next passengers is Marek Reichmann, who is experiencing the AMR Pro moving for the first time. He returns looking as shocked and sweaty as I feel. “I’ve been 12 years at Aston and that was the best 12 minutes of my time here.”