Stop what you're doing: it's the Aston Martin AM-RB 001 | Top Gear
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Stop what you're doing: it's the Aston Martin AM-RB 001

Oh yes, meet Aston and Red Bull's new hypercar. With 1000bhp per tonne

  • So now at last we can actually see, rather than imagine, what all the fuss is about. We've already reported, somewhat breathlessly if we're honest, that Adrian Newey, don of Grand Prix car designers, is to execute his long-held dream of building a road car. A road car to put the hyper into high-performance.

    To do it he's teamed up with Aston Martin. And here, rolling for the first time into the gaze of an astonished public, is the resulting machine. Welcome to the Aston Martin AM-RB 001. The name references its co-creators, Newey's Red Bull Advanced Technologies.

    In that same interview with Newey and Aston's design chief Marek Reichman, we listed, in tones of gobsmacked semi-disbelief, the aims they have for the car. That it will raise performance to a level well beyond last year's trinity of McLaren P1 and LaFerrari and Porsche 918.

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  • Newey and Reichman said all along that it would only be possible because they were starting from a clean sheet of paper. They didn't use an existing tub (the P1 is derived from the original 12C's; the 918's is a bit like the Carrera GT's). There's no shared engine or powertrain architecture.

    So we can see how the design draws downforce from immense under-body voids. You could set up camp under there. Above, the driver and passenger sit with knees and feet high, like a grand prix pilot. And behind them is a brand-new ultra-compact naturally aspirated V12 - a V10 would have been too vibratory, according to Newey, hence the V12. Its exhaust exits upwards behind the tiny tear-drop cockpit canopy.

    Newey is speaking calmly as usual, but we gasp when he says the power-to-weight will be similar to an LMP1 car. More specifically, he adds, it will be about 1000bhp-per-tonne, with weight being targeted at under 1000kg. So we're looking at around 1000bhp, then? Newey nods.

  • In fact, at this point Newey is still leaving himself some wriggle room as to the specs. He explains that designing the exact outline of that V12 will take a couple more months. He says he'll use that time to do lots of virtual simulations of different configurations for the rest of the powertrain – the transmission and possible hybrid system.

    There will be no twin-clutch gearbox, that's for certain. "The transmission is a key area of research. The current DCTs are just monsters, they weigh 150kg-plus, and are tremendously bulky," scoffs Newey. "The concept of the car is small and light. So we're researching exactly how we'll do the transmission. We're homing in on a solution but it's going to be tricky."

    What about hybrid augmentation? "Clearly hybrids offer a lot of opportunities. But we're researching those, or whether we can do it purely mechanically."

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  • Then he drops an intriguing nugget. "LMP1 cars have electrical power that lasts a short time and then fades away. The battery is not big enough to sustain discharge more than the initial part of the straight. They might have 1200bhp for initial acceleration, but might get to the end of the straight with 300 or 400bhp. If we have an electric contribution it will be a much smaller percentage of the combustion-engine power so the variation is less." From which he concludes, astoundingly: "I'd say we'll be above the average power of an LMP1 car, but less than their peak."

    The simulations are cracking on with suspension ideas too. He hints it will have to be active. The reason is the colossal downforce at big speeds. A passive suspension able to resist those forces would enforce ultra-high spring rates. Then at low speeds the car would be excruciatingly jarring. So it needs to adapt. Possibly the aero too will be active.

  • Also, he explains that the track version of the AM-RB 001 is the one that will match LMP1 lap times. Compared with the road version seen here, it will have bigger wings and diffusers, wider tyres, and a stripped cabin. But the powertrain and fundamentals will be the same. "We don't have time to do two cars," says Reichman.

    Back in 2014 Newey designed a virtual car for PlayStation's Gran Turismo, called the X2014. It used a fan to suck it down, but he says the AM-RB 001 can't do that because it would scatter gravel over everyone else on the road. But he does say some of the aero themes in the new car are evolutions of that virtual racer.

    Reichman too did a Gran Turismo car, called DP-100. This was the only mid-engined Aston of modern times, until the AM-RB 001. "The information you have to provide to PlayStation has to be accurate," he says,  "Because the feeling of driving virtually is getting more and more real." He says the two virtual cars had some common ideas. Both men say working together now has been an easy meeting of minds.

  • To get this dominant underfloor aero, the cockpit package has to be pretty wild. Reichman, well above six feet himself, insists he can fit. While sitting alongside his more compact boss, CEO Andy Palmer. Well it'd be pretty daft to design a car like this then be unable to drive it.

    It will be comfortable. Newey says you could, if you want, go to the theatre in it once in a while. Or even commute. It's got driver aids – partly he says to make it easier on the track, but also because it will be used on unknown roads.

    He is also very aware that the car must be friendly to drive. While he casually mentions that several current Formula One drivers have ordered it, he insists it must also be possible for normal drivers to enjoy the thing without getting intimated. In fact he puts enjoyment above sheer speed in his priorities. "We're talking also about the driving experience, not just the statistics. How you are feeling in the car, taking pleasure in driving it, feeling involved in it."

  • You'd want to use it a lot too, if only to make yourself look good. It is stunningly beautiful. Reichman is loving the design process as it's very different from doing a 'normal' Aston Martin. "You spend a lot of time drawing sketches that are impossibly low and wide. They couldn't fit two adults. That's what a designer wants. So when someone comes along and says 'Could you make even it lower?' You just go 'Fantastic.' Nothing has been impossible. Reduction allows a designer freedom. This car is pure and simple. We both had the desire to make a beautiful, efficient object."

    Actually 99 beautiful efficient objects. That's the production run, plus the track versions. The production date is end-2018, with prices between £2m and £3m - partly depending on how much driver training you have. And the order book is already filling fast.

    Red Bull F1 team principal Christian Horner adds: "This car is a natural evolution for Red Bull as an engineering entity."

    So where, on a scale of one to speechless, does it leave you? Comments below.

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