It’s the summer of 2013, I’ve just finished my GCSEs and despite the early start for my pubescent body, I am wired in the passenger seat of my dad’s Laguna eagerly anticipating our annual trip to the British Grand Prix… all is well in the world. This year of all years, we’d set off extra early to catch every minute of the cars on track, as it’s the last time we’d ever hear the glorious V8s before the transformation to the quiet V6 hybrids. It seemed like the beginning of the end for loud internal combustion engines, and the likes of Porsche, Mclaren and Ferrari had recently unveiled what we now know as the ‘Holy Trinity’ of hybrid hypercars. Things were changing.
If you were to tell anyone in those days that the likes of Aston Martin would be producing a thousand horse power V12 hyper car in the 2020s, they’d tell you to get out of town. The necessary hybridisation, catalytic conversion muffling and electrification of cars for the sake of, well the planet, seemed all to widespread and inevitable to quite believe the madness of Aston doing such a thing. And yet they’re about to and it’s called the Valkyrie. But as the title of this article would suggest, the Valkyrie has a couple of rivals in the pipelines.
First off, some info on the Valkyrie. It’s the brainchild of the legendary Formula 1 designer, Adrian Newey. The brief, To deliver Formula 1 levels of downforce for a street legal hyper car, the likes no other road legal machine has seen before. In addition to a 6.5 litre Cosworth V12, the powertrain is helped by a 160bhp electric motor from Rimac, offering a KERS style boost and brining a total of 1160bhp and 663lb-ft torque to the package. Weighing in around 1100kg, the Valkyrie has a near perfect power to weight ratio. All in all, Aston will produce 150 ‘standard’ variants and a further 25 AMR Pro track only editions. A ‘standard’ model coming in at an eye watering £2.5 million. Not that it’s put anyone off, all 175 models have already sold out!
The monocoque is shaped a bit like a kayak, and the floor as manipulative as a ground effect 70s F1 car. The seats of the cabin even point into each other just to fit into the small tub, this isn’t the sort of car designed for a grand tour. Being an Aston Martin though, there are hints of luxury and comfort, with a vast array of luxury interior materials to choose from to make an already special car just a little bit more so. If only we could all have the privilege of customising such a thing. Oh well.
The Valkyrie’s immediate rival would be the Gordon Murray Design T.50, a sequel to his Mclaren F1 – my favourite sports car. For those who don’t know, Gordon Murray is yet another legendary Formula 1 designer with a back catalogue of some of the most successful racing cars of all time, including the infamous Mclaren MP4/4 driven by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1988. Unlike Adrian collaborating with Aston, Gordon has decided to brave it himself using his own company and 50 years of experience to build the car, hence the name T.50. Similarly, like Newey he’s sourced a V12 engine from Cosworth, only this time it’s designed to be lighter; the result, a 3.9 litre V12 creating 653bhp. Whereas the Valkyrie focuses on aerodynamics, the T.50’s aim is to be lightweight, nimble and a pure driving experience. It’s smaller then a Porsche 911 and weighing just 986kg, is lighter then an Alpine A110. Whereas the Valkyrie has a single clutch paddle shift gear box, the T.50 has a traditional manual with three pedals! It even has a three seat configuration just like the F1, with the driver slap bang in the middle.
One of Murray’s most inspiring F1 cars was the Brabham BT46B of 1978, otherwise known as the ‘Fan Car’. Like many of the cars in the 70s, the ‘Fan Car’ used ground effects; only Murray took it to a whole new level by attaching a fan to the driveshaft literally sucking the car to the ground. It was banned nearly as quickly as it went round corners, as it would blow all sorts of debris at whatever followed in its tracks. And yeah you’ve guessed it, the T.50 has an electric fan on the back to do just that. Bonkers! The result is one hell of a weapon for the track, I imagine it’s not advised to use the fan on the road but hey, with the flick of a button it would be one way to deal with an impatient Audi up your arse. The cost? £2.8 million, with only 100 ‘standard’ variants and a further 25 track only editions, you’ve guessed it again… they’ve all sold out. Who would have thought V12s would be so popular in the green 20s!
So the final addition to the ‘new holy trinity’ must have a V12? Erm… no. Otherwise known as probably the most successful Formula 1 engine other then the Cosworth DFV V8, the Mercedes F1 Hybrid power unit from 2015 (PU106B) is the source of propulsion for the third car, known as the Mercedes Project 1. Pretty crap name really, just like the T.50, no disrespect Gordon – I think The Valkyrie’s won this one. Anyway, it produces 1086bhp with an additional 48bhp as a boost, the Project 1 unlike the other two with rear wheel drive, features 4-wheel drive torque vectoring. Expect some serious G! Mercedes claim it’ll be able to do 0-124mph in under 6 seconds. It’s also had some development help from Mercedes’ very own Lewis Hamilton. How much is anyone’s guess, after all I assume he’s contractually obliged to at least appear to have some input. Well, a 7-time world champions’ seal of approval must have done something for sales, all 275 have already sold out! To be fair, they only cost £2.4 million, a bargain really compared to the T.50 and Valkyrie.
From an engineering perspective, the Project 1 is probably the most impressive of the trio. Just taking a racing engine and converting it for road use is no easy task. A modern F1 engine idles at 5,000 revs, transforming the engine to idle lower in the region of 1,000 revs, is like trying trying to train a Great White Shark to perform tricks like a Dolphin. Maybe not quite… either way it’s a mighty feat! Another element to come from the F1 team is the use of pushrod suspension at the rear of the car. Whereas this would be used for aerodynamic effect in single seaters, here pushrod suspension is used to improve the adaptability in suspension adjustment and reduce chassis rigidity at the rear, reducing weight. It’s all very clever and complicated but that’s the gist. Not that the Project 1 weighs very little, at around 1,300kg it’s the heaviest of the three.
Whereas the original ‘Holy Trinity’ of hyper cars showcased the pinnacle of hybrid technology at the time, the new ‘Holy Trinity’ is instead an ode to Formula 1 design and innovation. They all offer something different: The Valkyrie is truly the pinnacle of aerodynamic automotive design, the T.50 the culmination of mechanical grip, driving feel and emotion, the Project 1, a celebration of the most complicated and efficient Formula 1 engine ever created. I’m excited to see all of them and for completely different reasons.
A worthy point to make is that this new ‘Holy Trinity’ is quite a bit more expensive then the last, on average £1.7 million more per car. Probably because they’ll be more exclusive then the last trio and have had a lot more R&D put into the projects. In fact, in terms of the Valkyrie and Project 1, they’re still being developed – and not just because of delays with Corona Virus. Even with adaptive suspension, The Valkyrie has struggled with it’s stiffness on normal roads, maybe Newey could incorporate the pushrod suspension design? Just a suggestion, for the record I’m not an engineer. In the case of the Project 1, over heating continues to be a problem for the engine at idle. Guess my Great White Shark analogy wasn’t too far off after all! Either way, these are solvable problems and both projects aren’t exactly short on brain power and engineering brilliance to iron them out. As for the T.50, production was due to begin just at the start of the pandemic but should be starting up very soon!
Although completely unattainable to the vast majority of us, hyper cars are the most eagerly anticipated releases. Throughout automotive history, the most expensive cars tend to illustrate the pinnacle of technology and design. In the case of the new ‘Holy Trinity’, they seem to represent the crossroads the automotive industry now finds itself at. As motoring fans, we’d love to see louder more exciting cars on the road and Adrian and Gordon are no different.
Perhaps the best news to come out of this year is the FIA’s and Porsche’s recent development of synthetic fuel. The plan to bring in fuel comprised of 20% bio waste is still to go ahead in 2022. However, recently synthetic fuel made from hydrogen and carbon has made serious progress. In theory the process works by combining carbon from the air with hydrogen. An internal combustion engine will still release carbon when it’s burned but the key is that the process results in net zero carbon emissions. The potential this has for not just cars but aviation and shipping is immense. The future of loud internal combustion engines is promising after all, bring on the new ‘Holy Trinity’!
By James Drujon