The Goal: Street Legal With F1 Performance
Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing are joining forces to build what they describe as the ultimate hypercar. Codenamed AM-RB 001 and due for launch in 2018, the all-new mega-Aston is being engineered under the direction of Red Bull Racing chief technical officer Adrian Newey and styled by Aston Martin design chief Marek Reichman.
The brief for the car, known internally at Aston Martin as Project Nebula, is simple: to build a road car capable of delivering Formula 1 or Le Mans LMP1 prototype levels of performance. What that means, says one Aston insider, is a road car that will be faster than any other street-legal vehicle in the world around any racetrack in the world. And, says Aston boss Andy Palmer, the car will also offer the ultimate in luxury.
Both Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing are keeping most of the details of AM-RB 001 under wraps for now, but this much we do know: The car will feature a mid-mounted hybrid powertrain with an all-new, totally bespoke internal combustion engine and an F1-style KERS energy-recovery system. It will be built in extremely low numbers—possibly no more than 25 cars in total—and will cost more than $2.4 million.
Palmer says only that the internal combustion engine is “big,” but given Aston’s heritage, you can take that as code for a V-12. The engine is likely to feature F1-style technologies such as ultra-lightweight and ultra-low-friction components and pneumatic valves to enable a high rev limit. The KERS system is also likely to recover both kinetic energy and heat energy. Aston sources won’t say whether the energy-storage system will be battery or supercapacitors.
Total powertrain system output is likely to be north of the 1,036 hp of Ferrari‘s LaFerrari FXX K track car, one of the obvious benchmarks for the new hyper-Aston. Like the LaFerrari, AM-RB 001 will be rear drive, both to save weight and to maintain steering integrity. Aston sources say the transmission has yet to be decided, but the hybrid powertrain—and current F1 practice—suggests it will be a dual-clutch automated manual rather than a sequential-shift manual like that used in the 820-hp Aston Martin Vulcan.
As with the Vulcan, AM-RB 001’s chassis and body will be constructed entirely from carbon fiber. Similarly, expect racing-style pushrod-operated suspension, adjustable spool-valve dampers all around, and adjustable anti-roll bars, plus driver-adjustable anti-lock brakes and traction control. The brake system will likely feature Brembo racing calipers gripping carbon-ceramic discs at all four corners, and the tires, mounted on ultra-lightweight center-lock wheels, will probably be sourced from Pirelli.
Red Bull’s Newey, a 30-year veteran of F1 and designer of 10 world championship-winning grand prix cars, is widely recognized as one of the world’s most innovative aerodynamicists, and so AM-RB 001 will feature some of the most advanced moveable and ducted aerodynamic systems yet seen on a road car.
Insiders who have seen detailed digital renderings of AM-RB 001 describe it as “not pretty, but beautiful and very distinctive—there’s nothing really like it out there.” Newey’s aerodynamic requirements have dictated the car’s overall shape, but insiders say Reichman’s influence on its surfacing and detail are obvious.
AM-RB 001 is intended as a technology spearhead for Aston Martin, whose logo will now appear on the Red Bull RBR F1 racers driven by Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat (pictured above) as part of a deal that positions the storied British sports car maker as Red Bull Racing’s “Innovation Partner.”
“Formula 1 offers the ultimate global stage to build wider awareness of the Aston Martin brand,” Palmer says. “However, this partnership will deliver even more than that when the hypercar [that] Aston Martin and Adrian Newey are in the process of developing hits the road. We have a clear vision of the future for Aston Martin, and we needed a true, uncompromised halo car for the range, something that offers the ultimate in luxury but also performance.”
Palmer describes AM-RB 001 as a race car that is capable of driving on the road. “The car will be about aerodynamic efficiency, advanced technology, and getting around a racetrack in a fast but elegant way,” he says. “There has never been a road car of this nature.”
We can’t wait to find out if he’s right.
One of a Kind: The elusive mid-engine Aston Martin
One of the key reasons Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer put together the deal to build AM-RB 001 was to move the storied British sports car maker out from under the shadow of James Bond.
007 and Astons have gone together since Sean Connery and the DB5 starred in the 1964 Bond classic “Goldfinger,” but there are those within Aston—Palmer among them—who feel relying solely on pop-culture iconography is incompatible with Aston’s need to be perceived by a new generation of consumers as a builder of beautiful cars boasting bleeding-edge technology and performance. AM-RB 001 is designed to do exactly that. But it won’t be the first time Aston has tried this idea.
The Aston Martin Bulldog, which appeared in 1979, was Aston’s first mid-engine car and is regarded by some as the seminal hypercar. Designed by William Towns, who penned the extraordinary Lagonda sedan, it was a brutalist concoction of sheer edges and flat surfaces, just 43 inches tall with gullwing doors and powered by a twin-turbo, 5.3-liter V-8 that delivered a stout 700 hp on the dyno.
Aston claimed the Bulldog had a theoretical top speed of 237 mph (381 km/h), a quarter century before the Veyron existed. The engine’s output was dialed back to 600 hp when installed in the car, and the Bulldog ran 192 mph (308 km/h) at Britain’s MIRA test track. While well short of Aston’s claim, it was still a staggering achievement, as the 2.8-mile banked tri-oval was far from the ideal venue for a 200-plus-mph (322-plus-km/h) V-max run.
Aston originally planned to build 15 to 25 Bulldogs, but only one was ever completed, and it was reportedly sold to a Middle Eastern buyer in 1984.
A second mid-engine Aston Martin was considered in the late 1990s—Aston’s then design chief Ian Callum, now at Jaguar, actually sketched a car—but the idea was killed off by Ulrich Bez when he arrived to take the reins at Aston in 2000.
Race on Sunday, Road on Monday: Adrian Newey seeks to join an elite club
With 10 championship-winning grand prix cars to his credit, Adrian Newey is ranked among the all-time great race car designers. Now Newey, who designed F1 cars for Williams and McLaren before joining Red Bull, is looking to follow in the footsteps of race car designers Bruce McLaren and Gordon Murray.
Bruce McLaren’s M6GT was little more than a homologation special that put the chassis and mechanicals of his all-conquering M6 racer underneath a shapely coupe body to make the car eligible for FIA GT racing.
The racing project never materialized, but McLaren decided he could build 250 road car versions and used the prototype M6GT as his daily driver. Powered by a mid-mounted Chevy V-8, the M6GT boasted a claimed top speed of 165 mph (265 km/h), and 0-100-mph (0-161 km/h) acceleration of 8.0 seconds, pretty impressive for 1969, but the project collapsed when McLaren was killed testing a McLaren M8D at Goodwood in June 1970.
South African-born Gordon Murray designed F1 cars for Brabham and McLaren. At Brabham, he created the championship-winning BT49 and BT52 and the extraordinary BT46B “fan car.” The BT46B borrowed an idea pioneered by American Jim Hall on his Chaparral 2J, which used fans to suck air from under the car and create downforce. His McLarens included the 1988 MP4/4, which won 15 of 16 races that year and gave Ayrton Senna his first World Championship.
In 1991 Murray started work on the McLaren F1 road car, which was powered by a 627-hp BMW-sourced V-12. Capable of 0-100 mph (0-161 km/h) in 6.3 seconds and a top speed of 231 mph (372 km/h), the F1, which featured an unusual central driving position, was, until the launch of the Bugatti Veyron, the world’s fastest car.
Now Adrian Newey wants to up the ante.
“From the age of 6, I have had two goals in life,” he says. “To be involved in the design of racing cars, and to be involved in the design of a supercar. The former ambition went on to form my career to date. The latter has always bubbled away, resulting in countless sketches and doodles over the years.
“The opportunity to now develop and realize those ideas while working with Marek and his colleagues from Aston Martin is tremendously exciting.”
Newey knows what the benchmarks are. And he doesn’t like finishing second. This will be fascinating to watch.