Hagerty Video: FIRST DRIVE! Aston Martin Valkyrie: An F1 Car For The Road | Henry Catchpole – The Driver’s Seat

Reading Time: 11 minutes
Posted: 2023-03-06 17:00:03
Author: Hagerty
In this episode, Henry Catchpole finally gets to drive the incredible Aston Martin Valkyrie. Under the spectacular floodlights of the Sakhir F1 Circuit in Bahrain, we got some answers as to whether this hypercar developed with Red Bull lives up to the promise of being one of the all-time greats. Will future generations mention it in the same breath as the McLaren F1, the Bugatti Veyron and the original supercar, the Lamborghini Miura?
With a 6.5-litre naturally aspirated V12 producing 1000bhp and revving to 11000rpm it has certainly got an engine that is memorable from outside the car let alone from behind the wheel. But what will 1100kg of downforce feel like? Will it actually feel drivable?

There is also an incredible ride in the track-only AMR Pro version of the Valkyrie, with none other than Formula One driver Nico Hülkenberg. Pulling over 3G around Silverstone is an interesting experience as you can tell from Henry’s face!

It’s fair to say that the development of the Valkyrie hasn’t always been easy and the video also explores what the challenges were and dives into some of the extraordinary stories that surround the car’s gestation. Just how did Adrian Newey’s phenomenally bold aerodynamic design finally make it into production as a full homologated road car? And what have sausage and mash in a pub near Milton Keynes and the Space Shuttle programme got to do with it?

We hope you enjoy the film. Let us know in the comments where we should take the Valkyrie when we get to drive it on the road.

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Hagerty Video Transcript

– Just sometimes there’s a leap. Others take steps, even strides forwards. But a leap, that’s rare. And after a leap there’s a landing that leaves a mark indelible in the sands of time. A landmark. Miura Miura… McLaren F1. Veyron. Valkyrie? What an experience. And something I won’t forget, ever. We’ll come back to the flood lit fantasy land of the Sakhir circuit in a bit. But first I want to take you to a chilly Silverstone, last year. This was my first, slightly nervous taste of a Valkyrie on the move. The track only AMR Pro with none other

Than Formula 1 driver, Niko Hülkenberg, getting the absolute most from it. This is what 3G under braking and a lateral 3.2G through the high speed corners looks like. Enjoy. Amazingly it felt even faster than it looks. The first couple of breaking zones were, and I don’t say this lightly, terrifying. Hülkenberg was popping in 48 second laps at the national circuit. For comparison, that’s about eight seconds faster than a GT3 race car. 8 seconds. Over just 1.6 miles.

Inevitably, it got my mind wondering, how on earth could this be related to a road car? And would I be capable of driving it? And so we come to Bahrain and this, it’s been quite a journey to get here. It’s 9 years since Adrian Newey first had the idea on a beach in the Maldives, then began sketching away in Milton Keens and suggested the idea to Aston Martin. But why has it taken so long?

Why has the development seemed so tortured? Two reasons. First and perhaps most fundamentally, Newey’s idea was, is extreme. This arrow concept required packaging the like of which has never been seen before. It demanded a bespoke V12 engine, that not only produced a thousand brake horsepower and rev to 11,000 rpm,

But also adhered to Euro 6 emissions ranks. Cosworth came up with goods. It also demanded a bespoke gearbox. A DCT? Too big and heavy. A sequential with dog rings was the only option. But how do you make this work in a road car? Ricardo found a way

With the help of a smaller electric motor and a battery from Rimac. Did I mention that this also has fully active torsion bar suspension, something never seen on a road car before? And there’s the active element of the arrow which is really there to bleed off

Some of the monstrous down force most of the time. Getting all these different components from different companies to talk to each other and meld into one seamless entity is mind-boggling. The fact they kept the dry weight down to just 1270 kilos is fairly extraordinary. But as amazing as the fundamentals are,

I think the engineering and financial battles required to tame the pure F1 instincts of Red Bull and get the Valkyrie fully homologated, crash rigs and all for 235 road cars is even more incredible. And here to tell us a few of the amazing stories behind that is Aston Martin’s James Manners,

Head vehicle engineering for the Valkyrie. With a car like this, James, I feel like it’s, because it’s a landmark car, there are always those little stories that you know about the car. So did you know that’s, you can’t even see it. So I wanted just a few of them from you,

Because you know this car probably better than anybody else. – I hate to say it but that’s probably true. – And I thought we should start with the number plate because I’ve mentioned it quite a bit. It has number plates but it’s not just any old number plate holder. – Exactly. It has number plates. We had to argue to get number plates on it

Because Adrian was convinced it would ruin his arrow. But like I was saying earlier about how everything on the on the car does more than one job. So not only is it a bracket for your number plate, you can see down by the side profile and the cross section

That it’s actually shaped to improve the aerodynamics very slightly. But it did just improve them. If the two jobs weren’t enough then if you take the number plate off your first aid kit is hidden behind there as well. So yeah, there was a nice big void.

And throughout this project with everything being so tight we had a sort of running joke that every time we found five minute space it was, “Oh we can fit another module in there.” because we were trying to cram in so much into such a tight packaging space.

– Is there any luggage space under under the there? – Of course there is luggage space, it’s a road car after all. – Yeah. – So under the– – So a week shopping could… – You have your pump and goo kit. – You could live off energy bars I suppose

For sort of a few days. – Exactly. You could have some of the energy goos, your spare pair of pants and a toothbrush. – Absolutely might need spare pair of pants. – All you need for a weekend. – Coming down here. Now there’s torsion bars and a suspension. – Yes. – But there’s another torsion bar on the car. – Indeed. And a torsion bar where you wouldn’t expect one. So because of the double compound windscreen.

So it’s got a compound curb in both directions, the conventional wiper wouldn’t work. And again, that was a piece we had to argue to get on the car that, you know to, when you’re sat in traffic you do need to wipe the windscreen. So yeah, there’s a torsion bar.

So the technology is straight off of the space shuttle. Same company that supplied the windscreen wipers for the space shuttle. And that torsion bar actually twists the wiper blade itself left to right as the arm sweeps across the windscreen. And it’s all about getting the clearance around that tight curve, around the side.

And again, that took about a year to develop. We had to do snow load testing and you know, this is actually something again, when you are creating a car of this performance, we had to take this to a wind tunnel that is designed for trains to be able to throw rain at it

Fast enough to sign off the wiper. – So it’s like TGV’s… – Yeah, exactly. And then this – [Henry] And the first soft closed door on any Aston Martin as well? – Yep. First soft closed door on any Aston Martin. So, this is because again, all about in the pursuit of aerodynamics,

We didn’t want any door handles, we didn’t want any protruding lumps and bumps that we need to. So you just have a nice little neat button and open she goes, yeah. – [Henry] And as we open up I can see down here there is a titanium plate. – Yes, exactly.

The titanium latch plate. So, part of that is there for the strength, the side impact. But you know, seeing titanium, so there was a point where we were buying so much titanium that we actually put the price of it up globally. (chuckles) And then even to then, the next step

Is the MOD phoned us up and they said, “Well what are you doing with all of this titanium?” Because the last time someone needed this much titanium is when Lockheed were building the SR-17 which is just absolutely mad. And we had to convince them, “Nope, don’t worry we’re not building a stealth plane

We’re just building a road car.” (chuckles) – And then finally, I like this story ’cause I think it speaks to an awful lot of the challenges and the sort of, the things that you had to go through working with Red Bull. And you knew it, obviously, the sort of,

The different mindsets that you had to counter and actually explain so much, I think, of why this car is so extraordinary because of the journey you had to go through to get it to be road legal. – Exactly. The rear wing. – The rear wing. – So… – It’s a rear wing.

– [James] It’s a rear wing. – [Henry] You don’t replace rear wings do you? – No, well not in the automotive world, but when we were going through, right, let’s write down all the service items, what should we change and when? And Red Bull are like, “Yeah, rear wing, 25,000 miles.”

I was like, hold on. (chuckles) You can’t just put in the service schedule “change the body work.” And this is ’cause you know at the end of every race, the rear wings scrap. So it was like nope, go back, redesign it to last a hundred thousand miles…

– Lifetime of the car. – Lifetime of the car on the back end, we are not changing the rear wing as part of the service schedule. – Oh that is brilliant. James, thank you very much and congratulations as well. – Thank you very much. (chuckles) It’s been an absolute pleasure working on this.

– [Henry] And with that it was time. Time to squeeze my six foot, four inch frame into the tiny cockpit and set a new record for tallest person to drive a Valkyrie. First up, an exploratory lap or two just to find my feet, drinking the experience and conjure with those crucial

First impressions, before fully opening the taps. Pulling away with the use of the electric motor gets us up to… Makes it easier to pull away and then the engine kicks in. Instantly it’s loud and you got the vibrations coming through the carbon tub. Wow. So I’ve got to try and learn this circuit,

Remember where I’m going and learn the car. Whoa! When you floor the throttle it just picks up. There’s a bit of squat in there, which is actually really nice. We’re on the standard Cups 2s at a moment. But we’ll switch Cup 2 Rs in a minute. Obviously it’s a very different sort of driving position with your heels above your hips.

But actually although it feels claustrophobic to sit inside it in the pits, instantly, out here visibility feels remarkably good. You can feel that it’s a sequential, not a dual clutch, just from, instantly the sort of slight lack of refinement in the upshift there. Down the back straight.

Really nice progression actually, in the brake pedal. I was wondering how sort firm might feel, but it’s really nice and progressive. It’s a really sort of guttural sound from the engine at the moment. Obviously I’m not really revving it that high. Down the straight now. Oh! First time just opening it up a bit there and wow! About those downforce figures, so we’ve got 1,100 kilos of downforce. That’s under braking, so in the corners on the straights, we’re looking at about 700, 600 kilos of downforce. If you go for the optional Track Pack, which brings with it

Different bodywork and things, then you’re gonna get up to about 1,900 kilos of downforce. Oh! The steering is easy and smooth, but feel is something that’s always tricky to judge on circuit. At lowish speeds it’s certainly not a difficult car to drive, so on the one hand you could imagine driving it on the road, but on the other hand the NVH is almost overwhelming.

So it’s not a car that’s easy to envisage popping to the shops and let alone driving for several hours on a road trip. But we haven’t even really got it going yet. So cool underneath the lights here. Wow! Holy (censored)! This is quick. Excuse the swearing, I don’t normally swear. Holy moly! You can hear it spinning up. Here we get a nice run up. The visibility’s actually so much better than what I thought it might be. Right, where would I be for a 200 meter board?

It still feels like I’m braking super early. Up over that crest. Run it onto the curb here. First gear. So this car is actually traction limited all the way up to about 220 when the downforce kicks in. Super late apex here, and onto the back straight. It’s an absolute animal, this car!

I mean, you think you’d get used to kind of, big acceleration, given the sort of cars that we’ve been used to driving over the previous few years. Everything’s quick these days, but this is another level! Whoa! Still only tickling it in the corners, I know that.

Just start to nibble at the front end now, starting to get into it a bit, here we go. All the way, watch the lights. Wave the checkered flag. Whoa. Okay, so that’s the limit in a first gear corner, traction control ESP saved me. That’s nice to know. Oh! I don’t have a pilots license, so this is probably as close as I’m ever get to driving a fighter jet.

Yes, I’m aware that you fly a fighter jet not drive it. But to be honest my head was a bit scrambled by this point. Time to go in, blink, take a breath and regroup. What an experience! This car, under the lights… (chuckles) Yeah, it lives up to everything I hoped it would.

(tranquil music) Back in the pits there wasn’t much time to regroup, just long enough in fact, for Aston to bolt on an even stickier set of Michelins before sending me back out. So now we have a set of Cup 2 Rs on. Do not go gentle into that good night.

Not much danger of that. (chuckles) Just picked up like a speedboat, exacerbates that sense of acceleration. Oh, I love that brake pedal. Normally I would left foot-brake, but it’s just a bit too cramped for me in here. Right, lets try a bit of ERS. Oh, you can feel it. You can definitely feel it.

ERS, by the way, is a 138 brake horsepower boost from the electric motor, which you can only trigger once per lap when you’re in sport or track, 5% throttle or above. The Valkyrie is limited to 208 miles an hour but geared to 267 and I was hitting two miles an hour

By the end of the pit straight in Sakhir. One of the most amazing things about the Valkyrie is that it feels fast even on a big circuit like this, yet it’s also amazingly stable and somehow quite confidence inspiring. This is taking so much of my mental capacity, but it is drivable, you know,

I haven’t driven this ar before today. It does give you confidence as well. That’s something the aero really does. You think it’s gonna be sort of, scary, but actually, it just gives you more stability. Bang it in there. Love this turn. Whoa! A bit of high-speed oversteer through there.

I think we are finding the limit. (chuckles) That’s reassuring. Wow! This is such a privilege to drive to get to drive this car. It’s so loud so angry, so raw in here. Its a much deeper, more guttural sound than you get from outside where it sounds like an F1 car.

Every time I might think this stops kind of amazing me somehow, or you think, “Oh, it’s getting a bit more drivable.” Well you think, this has number plates on it. (chuckles) Number plates! What an experience. And something I won’t forget, ever. The combination of those wild extreme race car feelings with that almighty sensational V12 is so extraordinary that it can’t fail to make you feel truly alive. So to come back to the question at the start, is the Valkyrie a landmark car to sit alongside

The likes of the Miura, McLaren F1, and Veyron? Is it a leap? Well, given how frankly, discombobulated and bamboozled I still feel after driving the car, I think yes, it is definitely a leap of some sort. Of course we haven’t got the complete picture yet because we haven’t driven it on the road.

And the idea of doing that is both, sort of wonderful and slightly terrifying, given the fact that it is a thinly disguised race car in many respects. It reminds me of things like the XJR-15 or CLK GTR. But the thin disguise that it has is amazing and incredible

Because the story of making that is mind-boggling the more you go into it. It is an incredible achievement. And yes, I think it is a landmark.