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Aston hypercar breaks cover

The info we have – so far – about Adrian Newey’s latest project | By Andrew Frankel

This is what we know. The new Adrian Newey-designed Aston Martin hypercar has been unveiled. For now it’s called the AM-RB 001, but that won’t last. Its real name is with the lawyers making sure it’s not infringing anyone else’s copyright. It will likely begin with the letter ‘V’. I guess that puts ‘Victor’ and ‘Valiant’ in the frame, following on the V-bomber theme of the extant Aston Vulcan.

It has been designed in partnership with Red Bull Technologies, will have a normally aspirated V12 engine and, combined with any hybrid power source it may or, more likely, may not have, it will have to produce 1000bhp if it is to meet the project requirement of a 1:1 power to weight ratio, namely that every kilo of its one-tonne mass is to receive its own personal horsepower. It will develop more downforce than any road car seen to date – so more than the 600kg peak offered by the McLaren P1 – but no clue concerning lap times at the Nürburgring or anywhere else has been proffered.

We know it will be built out of materials well known in the hypercar world, such as carbon fibre and titanium, but it will use these materials in ways they’ve not been used before in the road car theatre. There will be no truly wacky stuff on board, so you can forget beryllium brakes and the like.

It will seat two people in relative comfort and offer enough luggage space for an overnight bag and not much else. But it will have satellite navigation, air-conditioning and all the usual refinements. It will also have anti-lock brakes, stability control systems, airbags and all the mandatory paraphernalia required to homologate the car even for low-volume European type approval. The car will not be type-approved by Aston Martin in the US because it would require the sacrifice of several more cars in crash tests, but Aston Martin believes owners will be able to register cars there. What else? Only that between 99 and 150 will be built, followed by 25 track-only versions capable of lapping circuits at LMP1 speeds, and that the road version will cost between £2-3 million.

This is what can be surmised. If a one-tonne weight is to be achieved, it seems impossible that the car could have a hybrid system such as those carried by the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 or LaFerrari, whose true kerb weights are about half as much again thanks to the weight of the batteries they must carry. So the V12 is going to have to work alone. 

I believe the engine is British, comes from a third party and will not be the largest engine ever fitted to an Aston Martin, which means it is smaller than the 7.3-litre motor used for the One-77. Even at that capacity, it would need to develop about 137bhp per litre – a doddle for a turbo engine, but new ground for normally aspirated motors. Even so, a Ferrari 458 Speciale engine managed 132bhp per litre a while back, so it’s not such a leap of the imagination. What seems certain, however, is that the engine will need to spin faster than any street motor of its size to get there – the 458 required 9000rpm and I expect the RB 001 will need every one of those revs. And if you are now imagining what this V12 might sound like on the far side of 9000rpm, you are not alone. As for the engine’s architect, there seem to be two clear candidates: Ricardo, but it already builds all McLaren’s engines or, perhaps more likely, Cosworth. My bet is also that it will be bolted directly to the back of the monocoque as a fully stressed chassis member in true racing style, rather than carried separately in a heavy subframe. This would not be a first, for Ferrari pioneered the technique with the F50, but no one has felt inclined to try it since.

No one at Aston Martin mentioned the transmission, but it’s inconceivable it will be anything other than a paddle shifter and I’d bet plenty it operates a racing-style single-clutch gearbox.

Newey is being equally tight-lipped on the suspension, but a conventional passive system seems unlikely, not least because the car must not only be able to support its body under massive downforce pressure, but also be capable of offering at least acceptable on-road ride quality. With Newey calling the shots, some kind of active system seems most likely.

The only other thing that can profitably be estimated is how fast this new device is likely to be. That 1000kg weight figure unquestionably refers to the car in ‘dry’ configuration, so no fuel, oil, water or occupants. For a conventional kerb weight you’re therefore looking at something a little over 1100kg. Even so, the known projected dry mass provides a power to weight ratio of 1000bhp per tonne.

For comparison purposes, the LaFerrari is both the lightest and most powerful of the current crop of hypercars and, using an estimated 1300kg dry weight, provides 730bhp per tonne. Proportionally speaking the step-change is going to be akin to that provided by the McLaren F1 over the Jaguar XJ220 back in 1994.

Details of the track version are almost non-existent, other than it will be visually very similar to the road car but with more aero, even more power and full race suspension. Production will start only once all the street machines have been built at the rate of two a week, starting early in 2019.

Bristol back in business

Bristol Cars is once more showing the immortal side of its brand. Showgoers at the Goodwood Festival of Speed were treated to an early sight of the first all-new Bristol in more than a decade, currently known only as Project Pinnacle. The car (below) was officially a concept and wore a light disguise, but that did not stop us seeing its traditional yet attractive shape, nor would anyone have mistaken it for anything other than a Bristol. The word is that the car is extremely close, if not identical, to the production model that should go on sale next year.

Driven with verve by BRDC secretary Gillian Carr, the Bristol also showed off the sharp sound of its BMW-sourced 4.8-litre V8 motor, rekindling an association that goes back to the very earliest days of the company. The first Bristols were powered by the 2-litre BMW engine found in the 328, and which would go on to enjoy success under the bonnets of a wide range of sports and single-seater racing cars.

Though not confirmed, the new Bristol is believed to feature largely carbon-fibre bodywork, eschewing a lifetime’s devotion to aluminium. Its light weight coupled with a likely 400bhp output should provide all the performance required to create an authentic Bristol experience.

Defender to be revived?

Unlike Saab (see left), it seems reports of the demise of the Land Rover Defender might be exaggerated. Following a story in The Sunday Times, the rumour mill has gone into overdrive suggesting the 68-year-old icon is to be put back into production in the UK by entrepreneur Jim Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s wealthiest individuals. The story has been fed by the studious refusal of either Jaguar Land Rover or Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group to deny it.

Quite how or where the Defender could be exhumed is not clear. The car is believed to face a number of issues related to crash and emissions standards, issues that forced JLR to stop production some years before its replacement was ready. Were Ratcliffe to make the car in his own right, however, and in small enough quantities to qualify as a low-volume manufacturer like Caterham or Ariel, many of these rules could be circumvented.

Come what may, JLR’s all-new Defender faces a stern challenge when it does appear, probably some time in 2018. On the one hand it will need to be derived from an existing platform such as that underpinning the next Discovery, on the other it will need to be seen as rugged and authentic, and sufficiently easy and affordable to maintain to appeal to customers as diverse as the military and farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.