For a company that builds only about 4,000 cars each year, Aston Martin manages to stay exceptionally busy. After facilitating the auction of one of its DB10 Spectre movie cars (a sale that brought in a stunning £2.4m) but before pulling the wraps off the DB11 at the Geneva motor show, the company decided to avail one of its stunning Vulcan track cars to TopGear.com's Ollie Marriage for an exclusive nighttime blast around Abu Dhabi's F1 circuit.
Based on the One-77 hypercar, the £1.8 million Vulcan — with a planned production run of just 24 — amounts to Aston's track-only response to such specialised machines as the Ferrari FXXK and the McLaren P1 GTR. Beneath that very long bonnet sits a naturally aspirated 6-litre V12 engine producing 820 horsepower — no hybrid systems or turbochargers here. Ollie's first impression of what may be the most beautiful gentleman's racer on the planet? "Properly hardcore".
On the engine:
"It delivers 820bhp at 7750rpm and 575lb ft of torque at 6500rpm, while a P1 GTR has 986bhp and 737lb ft. Both weigh within a few kilos of each other, but here’s the thing about power figures: they’re disruptive. They condense everything about a car’s performance into a solitary, web-digestible, easily repeatable number. But it’s what that horsepower feels like, that’s the ticket, and in the naturally aspirated V12 Aston it feels pretty bloody special."
On the car's biggest surprise:
"The quality of the fit and finish. I don’t know why that should surprise me quite so much, but the door closure is precise, the bonnet rises on gas struts, the precise feel and click of the paddles, the power of the air-con blower, the leather, toggle switches … the design and execution is stunning. And it’s logical to operate – the steering wheel is a work of art, both visually and ergonomically."
It was a massive, massive privilege and one hell of an experience. Downshifts shock the car, flames flash and lick about, the side pipes pop, rumble and crash, shift lights flash, gears whine, the V12 soars and shrieks – it’s a mashing, roaring mechanical melee. So yeah, just a bit special.
On the car's adjustable bits:
"You can change the dampers, toe angles, caster, cambers, gear ratios, fuelling, tyres, whatever. Just come in, have a word with your engineer, maybe go over your data traces. It’s the bloody ultimate track day car and you’ve paid enough for it, so play around with it, indulge yourself. Why the hell not? That’s what it’s there for. It can change and develop with your talents and experience."
On the speed:
"One-fifty on the back straight at Abu Dhabi becomes one-six-five, becomes one-seven-five plus. At the 200 metre board I hit the brakes with everything I have. Everything. You can do this when the car currently weighs about 2.5 tons and is wearing 305-width front slicks. The carbon Brembos have massive power and mashing the brakes, knowing you’ll never lock them, trying to release the pressure gradually as the aero grip bleeds away and the car lightens, carrying braking all the way to the apex to keep the nose locked on line – it’s an addictive business."
On the noise:
"Five laps and I’m spent – I start to get a headache, I need to drink, sweat gathers, ears ring. I haven’t heard a word from my engineer on the pitwall, because even with the intercom turned right up, he’s fighting an unwinnable battle against the V12. When someone else goes out you can hear them around the whole circuit, each gearshift, each lift. When they howl down the pit straight, shockwaves battering the grandstands, it’s actually painful. Moments later, you can taste the pungent fumes."
On driving Abu Dhabi at night:
"That was just so cool. Abu Dhabi has no noise restrictions and runs until midnight. I’ve had some ridiculously good moments in my job, but I can genuinely say that each lap in the Vulcan was a privilege, particularly the fast third gear double apex right hander as you plunge down to the glowing purple Yas Viceroy hotel, whapping down two gears, flames spouting, making sure you punish every apex and kerbstone in front of the spectators. Every lap feels naughty. Illicit. Mischievous. Great. Can’t say fairer than that really. Pure magic."
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