Yes, building a 1,160bhp hypercar isn’t easy, but these bits were especially tricky
Adrian Newey – storied F1 designer who won championships with three F1 teams, fond of an old Lotus – doesn’t have a particularly ‘favourite’ detail on the 1,160bhp Aston Martin Valkyrie, the car he helped design.
“I always design a car as a package, and then details fall out of that evolution of the package,” he tells TopGear.com. “The overall layout I feel has worked quite well, and trying to marry performance against aesthetics, against the emotion of driving a car.”
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However, he becomes more specific when revealing the more difficult parts of designing a V12-engined, road-going rocket. “With hindsight, we underestimated the amount of electronic boxes, safety equipment and general paraphernalia that’s now associated with modern road cars.
“Some of that is to do with emissions, some of it with safety regulations. Some, a little bit but not very much, with customer expectation. That has certainly made the car a little bit heavier than we initially hoped and expected,” he conceded.
However, he still reckons the end result, though heavier, has worked ‘pretty well’. “It’s a car that has stretched or pushed the performance boundary, particularly the track performance boundary, of a car that’s hopefully reasonably comfortable, and civilised to drive on the road, to a much higher level than any other car has done to date.
“I hope that people will enjoy and appreciate that,” he added.
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There’s certainly much to appreciate. Conceived back in 2014 when Newey felt like a new challenge beyond Formula One (because obviously, winning back-to-back world titles in the Vettel/RB era wasn’t challenging enough), it’s an entirely ‘clean-sheet’ design; a racer with its edges chamfered off to be road-legal.
Underneath sits a 6.5-litre V12 pumping out 1,000bhp on its own, allied to an e-boost that adds an additional 160bhp. It redlines at 11,100rpm (a little way short of the Murray T.50’s 12,100rpm, mind) and produces 545lb ft of torque, all wrapped up in that sinuous bodywork that bends the surrounding air to its will.
I’m a big fan of Lotus. My father had a couple of Lotus Elans
Newey confirmed that although Red Bull’s involvement in the Valkyrie is coming to an end, they’ll still have engineers working with Aston to fine tune the active suspension. “It’s great because it means we can still be involved when the car goes down to a track such as Nardo, and our engineers go with it and try to tune the car to perform to its intended limit,” he told TG.
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Newey got to experience another facet of the Valkyrie – one far removed from its lofty track limits – at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. “It’s actually a very good test in many ways,” he says of driving up the famous hillclimb. “It’s quite a lot of manoeuvring simply to get onto the track in the first place. You have to do a lot of low speed running when you’re coming back down the hill queuing up to get up it. It accidentally combines all the features that you might have in ‘normal’ day use – driving slowly in traffic, then driving briskly on an open bit of road.
“To be able to demonstrate the car and see people’s reactions when they saw it, was then very rewarding,” he said.
This year’s Festival of Speed also saw the debut of the new Lotus Emira. Just how much of a Lotus fan is Newey? “I’m a big fan of Lotus. My father had a couple of Lotus Elans. Both of them arrived as kits on the back of a trailer.
“The first one, I was a bit too young [to help with], but by the time the second one arrived, I was 12 or so. I helped him assemble that kit. He got quite carried away modifying it with a bigger engine and a five speed gearbox, and wider wheels and so forth.
“He kindly gave me that car when I got married. Between us, I think we did about 170,000 miles in that Lotus, which was probably a record for an Elan! I do have very fond memories of Lotus. I own a Lotus now because it’s a Formula One race car (a gorgeous 49B) rather than a road car,” he added.
He admits he hasn’t followed the more recent Lotus updates “in any great detail” but reckons if they can stick to Chapman’s original value of being small and light, then it’ll be a thumbs up from him.