Opinion: the AMG One and Valkyrie don't work as 'road-legal track cars'
Paul has thoughts on the Aston and AMG hyperbeasts, and they’re exactly as he predicted five years ago
Is the dust settling around the Aston Martin Valkyrie and Mercedes-AMG One? I can’t find any tester who unreservedly likes either. Full disclosure, I haven’t driven them – frankly I don’t have the skills to take full advantage of any car so fast. I’ll leave it to the hotshoes, including our own Chris Harris and Ollie Marriage. But, ahem, I seem to be skilled at predicting the future. For years I’ve been saying they’d never work. In July 2018 I wrote, “They’re ‘road cars’ in the sense of road legal, but severely compromised as such by their track mission. Equally the track car bit will be undermined by the need to do speed bumps and emissions tests".
Two years before, in 2016, I’d interviewed Adrian Newey, Red Bull Racing’s tech chief who led the Valkyrie project before departing, and Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s head of design. They said there’d be a track version, and it would be very similar to the road one, except for aero and tyres and chassis set-up. “We don’t have time to do two cars,” Reichman said.
In the end they absolutely did do two cars – the AMR Pro having a longer wheelbase and bigger monocoque. Critically, it ditches the hybrid powertrain, active aero and hydraulic active suspension. Saving itself a huge 300kg. Chris Harris says the AMR Pro is “one of the most special cars I’ve had the pleasure to drive”. He said, as I’d predicted, that losing those complications necessary to make it work as a road car are exactly what made it better.
The AMG One suffers many of the same added mass issues as the Valkyrie road car. It needs a lifting suspension and active aero because track spoilers aren’t allowed on the road lest they decapitate a passing cyclist. It also needs heavy plug-in batteries because you can’t start an F1 engine from cold so the batteries are used to warm it up, replacing mains heaters in a Grand Prix pit.
There is vast irony that the Aston AMR Pro is a track car ‘derived from’ a road car, itself a road car that claims to be track capable. Hmm, if you want a track car, start with a track car and don’t go round the road car houses.
So I can’t stand the nonsense that they’re ‘unconstrained’ because their engineering is claimed to overcome the ineluctable contradictions of doing two very different jobs.
Come to think of it, even if a car has just one job, there’s no way it can be unconstrained. I asked Adrian Newey about his new ‘unconstrained’ track car, the Red Bull RB17. Can it be super wide, in search of mechanical grip? No, because it has to fit in a truck. Can it have ultra sticky tyres? No, because budget limits it to an LMP1 tyre. Can it have unprecedented power? No, because said tyre can only take 1,000bhp. Ultra light? No, because it must be crash safe. Tiny frontal area? No, because drivers want to sit alongside their coach. A sucker downforce fan? No, because it mustn’t feel alien to drivers who’ve learned on other track cars. Complex set-up? No, because it mustn’t demand a huge pit crew.
Ah, so this totally ‘unconstrained’ car is already boxed into a seven-legged maze, surrounded by solid walls of constraint.
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