Riding Shotgun in the Blindingly Fast Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro

2022-06-07 07:31:31 By : Mr. Jack Chiang

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The track-specific Valkyrie makes for one heck of an experience from the right seat.

You emerge from a passenger ride in the Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro sweaty and exhausted, broiled in the close-fitting cockpit of this carbon beyond-hypercar and pummeled by the sort of savage g-forces normally only experienced by pro racers or fighter pilots. Yet my first question on returning to the relative calm of the pit lane at the Homestead Miami Speedway wasn’t “how?” It was “why?”

When historians are writing the history of the automobile’s late combustion era, which likely won’t be very far in the future, the Aston Martin Valkyrie is likely to be regarded as the apogee of the street-legal performance car. And the track-only AMR Pro version I got to experience in Florida is set to make the road-going Valkyrie look positively tame.

The Valkyrie project came from Adrian Newey’s long-held ambition to create a road car alongside his work in Formula 1. That lead to Newey’s employer, Red Bull Racing, and Aston Martin agreeing to collaborate on an ultra-exclusive new model back in 2016, with the intention being that construction would start in 2018. That didn’t happen, and although deliveries of both the regular Valkyrie and the AMR Pro have now begun, they are reaching customers after the partnership between Aston and Red Bull has been effectively ended by the former’s decision to buy its own Formula 1 team.

Although extreme, the regular Valkyrie has been necessarily compromised by its need to wear license plates. It rides on road-legal tires—these limiting the downforce it can create—has enough ride height to deal with low curbs. It also has turn signals, rule-compliant headlights, and a front-end designed to meet pedestrian impact requirements. The AMR Pro, being track-only, is confined by none of these restraints, instead designed to deliver on Newey’s fever dream of creating a purchasable car that will be as fast as a front-running LMP1 racer. Seriously: on Aston’s numbers the Pro is just one second slower around a lap of the Le Mans 24 Hours track than the Toyota that won the race overall in 2020.

While the AMR Pro’s carbon tub is similar to that of the regular Valkyrie, it has been evolved in various small ways—several of which have removed even more space from the already minimal passenger accommodation.

The Pro is just one second slower around a lap of the Le Mans 24 Hours track than the Toyota that won the race overall in 2020.

“The car was designed to keep the car as tight as possible around the constraints of a human being and an engine,” Aston’s creative director Marek Reichmann explains in the pit lane at Homestead; he is also here to have his first experience from inside the car. “There’s nothing else—we don’t have a millimeter of spare space. It’s almost exoskeletal in its design, the tub is the structure—there’s no cladding on it.”

Outside the tub, more substantive changes have been made. The AMR Pro gets unique bodywork, a widened track, a longer wheelbase and what may well qualify as the most extreme rear wing ever fitted to a car: Its elements fold around to finish in the vertical plane (counter-intuitively, this also works to increase downforce). Standing next to the car, the most striking thing isn’t what’s there, rather what isn’t, with huge gaps beneath the vestigial bodywork to channel air around the teardrop shape of the passenger compartment in the most advantageous way possible. Aston hasn’t officially released a downforce number, but company insiders hint it is capable of producing around 6000 lbs. This in a car that weighs under 2200 lbs.

My passenger ride takes place on the road course at Homestead, one of a group of journalists (and owners) who will be experiencing the car for the first time sitting next to Andy Priaulx. The 47-year old Guernseyman is a three time World Touring Car Champion and was a factory pilot for Ford’s WEC program, but happily admits that—with the exception of testing a Williams F1 car—the AMR Pro is the fastest thing he’s driven.

Getting in is an inelegant process. The best technique is to step over the tub, taking care to avoid the side blade wing elements, and then to slide down in one go. The passenger seat is nothing more than foam padding applied to the carbon fiber of the tub; the Pro will normally be driven solo. Once installed, the seating position is more bathtub than chair, ankles at the same height as my backside, yet my legs don’t feel cramped, and there is still helmeted-headroom once the top hinged doors are closed. Lateral space is much more limited, with the only way to ensure Priaulx has the room necessary to turn the yoke-like steering wheel being to fold my left arm across my body.

Despite the presence of the Cosworth-built 6.5-litre V12 engine attached directly to the rear of the passenger compartment—it is structural element—the AMR Pro starts rolling on electrical power from its starter-generator. It does have a clutch and can make full race starts, but this is reckoned to be much more mechanically sympathetic and better suited to the pit lanes of high end track days.

The V12 fires at about 10 mph, filling the cabin with buzzing harmonics and vibration. It’s loud, even through the padding of a helmet, and it soon gets louder as we leave the pit lane and join the track, volume and pitch increasing well beyond the point where my brain is expecting another gear to arrive. The engine has been turned down slightly to only make 800 hp today, it is capable of 1000 hp, but Priaulx is still using the full 11,000 rpm available.

While the Pro can reportedly make more than 2 gs in linear acceleration, the forces pushing me back into the seat feel much less extreme than those that carry other vectors. Retardation feels completely outside the frame of reference; even on his outlap Priaulx is choosing braking points that would be impossible in anything street legal, and the first big stop immediately makes my carefully tightened harnesses feel loose and baggy.

Surely there can’t be enough driving talent among the 40 mega-rich buyers who have signed up for one to get on terms with such a beast.

Cornering loads are even more brutal; even in tighter turns, the Michelin slicks make huge grip well below the speed the AMR starts to generate significant downforces. But Homestead’s road course also has a couple of turns fast enough for the wing-work to be making a serious contribution, and my neck muscles are soon suffering.

Yet the view through the AMR Pro’s heavily curved windshield is compelling enough to stop me from being too distracted by the heave-inducing loadings. It feels as if the world is on fast forward, the accepted stages of getting the AMR Pro slowed, turned, and accelerated seemingly compressed. The huge pace suggests Priaulx should be working hard, yet his inputs remain calm and unhurried. And apart from a single tail slide, immediately corrected, there’s no sense of slip or drama from the chassis. He isn’t actually working very hard.

“Yeah, eight tenths maybe,” he admits, when I ask how hard he was pushing after we return to the pits. The car is going to be working all day in the baking sunshine; there’s no point risking unnecessary wear.

The AMR Pro is a mad car and an engineering masterpiece, but the question of why it needs to be as quick as it is remains unanswered. Surely there can’t be enough driving talent among the 40 mega-rich buyers who have signed up for one to get on terms with such a beast.

As Marek Reichmann puts it, when he emerges sweaty from his own passenger ride later on: “If we do ever race it, we’re going to need to turn it down a bit.”

“I’ve been at Aston for 12 years,” he adds, “and that was the best 12 minutes of my time here.”

Are you one of the 40 mega-rich buyers of this beast? Likely not, but if you were so lucky, let us know what you would do with an Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro in the comments below.