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Aston Martin works driver Darren Turner emerges from the Vulcan driver’s seat and removes his helmet. “It’s seriously fast,” he grins.
Turner has raced LMP1 cars at Le Mans, test-driven in Formula 1 and competed in DTM. Safe to say his conception of ‘seriously fast’ is fairly high.
“Even experienced racers are blown away by the Vulcan’s performance,” says Darren, fresh from a full-bore run around France’s fearsome Paul Ricard circuit. “It’s not in the same sphere as a road car. It feels like a GT3 racer. Actually, it’s faster than a GT3 racer.”The Vulcan is the lowest, most extreme Aston ever created: a track-only, carbon fibre, bewinged monster armed with an 820bhp, naturally aspirated V12. Just 24 will be built, each costing around £1.8m. A race car free from the burden of race regulations, the Vulcan pushes the very boundaries of performance. And speed.
THE OIL CHANGE OF THE FUTURE
Which is why the Vulcan is debuting Castrol’s revolutionary ‘Nexcel’ technology. Essentially an ‘oil change in a box’, Nexcel promises to drag the mucky, time-consuming process of changing oil – and filter – firmly into the 21st century.
“The process of changing oil hasn’t really changed since the dawn of motor cars,” explains Nexcel Chief Engineer Oliver Taylor. “It’s basically the same today as it was for the Ford Model T. You unscrew the sump plug, all the hot oil spurts out, and you have to catch it in a pan. It’s not particularly safe, not particularly clean, not particularly efficient.”
But changing the Vulcan’s oil is simply a case of unplugging the compact Nexcel unit from the top of the engine, where it nestles at the front of the V12, and plugging in a fresh module. No mess, no tools, no waste.
Total time for a change of oil and filter? Around 90 seconds. Even a skilled mechanic will take about 20 minutes to change oil and filter the traditional way, with some fiddly sports cars requiring far longer.
There are, of course, easier places to debut a new technology than in Aston’s most warp-speed creation yet. But that’s exactly why it’s there. If Nexcel can do the business for Vulcan, it can do the business for just about any car on the planet.
“Vulcan is a very extreme application, with very high oil flow rates,” explains Taylor. “We’ve tested the system at up to 600 litres per minute, 10 or 20 times that of a normal passenger car.
“The Vulcan is a very stiff car, so there are a lot of vibrations through the oil system. Because it’s a track car, you have to prepare for it being pushed to the limit in extreme conditions, and we have. We’ve successfully simulated crash tests up to 25G.”BEYOND VULCAN
Nexcel isn’t only designed for carbon fibre hyper-Astons. “Almost every new car could have a Nexcel system,” says Taylor, with the technology expected to find its way into mass-market road cars within five to ten years. Castrol has tested Nexcel on prototype vehicles of just about every shape and size, right down to the most compact city cars.
“Our theory was that if we could fit Nexcel into a small city car, we could fit it anywhere,” explains Taylor.
And because the ultra-precise Nexcel system can provide just the right oil in just the right quantity for any engine, it’ll help to reduce tailpipe emissions in the road cars of tomorrow.
There’s more to Nexcel’s eco-benefits. Today, only 75 per cent of used engine oil is recycled globally, with countless lubricants generally slopped into one big drum before being carted off for processing. Such a mishmash of different oil is all but impossible to chemically separate, meaning the product returned from recycling is, at best, of low grade, at worst simply incinerated.
Nexcel eliminates such wastefulness. After use, every unit will be collected and returned to Nexcel. After every drop of oil has been recovered, the units are cleaned, fitted with fresh filters and dispatched back into duty. Because the team know exactly what the used oil is, and what it’s been up to, it can be re-refined back to ‘virgin quality stock’.
And the ease of Nexcel’s ‘plug-and-play’ approach opens up a whole bunch of new possibilities. No more driving to your local garage and sitting round waiting for an oil change: with Nexcel, the switch could be done on your driveway, or even in the car park while you’re at work.
Not, of course, that Vulcan owners are likely to leave their new Aston in the local multi-storey while they’re having lunch in the office…