That’s right, no V12. “The V8 is lighter,” says Dan Sayers, technical director at AMR. “We constantly evaluate whether we should switch to the V12, but in terms of efficiency, mass and packaging, the V8 is a better race engine.”
I slide in while the Aston still sits on its air jacks, minus magnesium wheels and Dunlop tyres. The Racetech seat is set far back, with the rectangular steering wheel nice and close. The pedals are set up for either right or left-foot braking, because works driver Darren Turner – like this writer – prefers the more Luddite deceleration method.
Development engineerJohn Ogden gives me a run-down of the controls. He tells me not to fiddle and simply drive the car. This is a good thing, because my brief sighting laps have been in a VW Polo hire car.
The crew secure the centre-lock wheels and drop the Aston noisily onto the asphalt before I fire the engine. The clutch is relatively friendly and only needed when exiting the pits. As I head onto the track, my mind returns to a comment from Sayers: “We targeted making this car easy to drive. It’s not too aerodynamically sensitive. We spend a lot of time on having a car that a professional driver can exploit but is easy for an amateur to drive.”
It’s a comforting thought as I disengage the pitlane speed limiter and begin swapping ratios in the six-speed sequential gearbox.
I’m not overly impressed during my opening stint. Vision is obstructed due to the aft seating position and the safety netting, and the steering seems too light and the throttle too sensitive, but I fare better in my second stint as I begin to connect with the circuit and car. It dawns on me that my initial reservations were due to my disappointing pace.
As I get quicker, the car rewards me more. The steering improves and the traction control tuning is spot on, although you must still take care in low-speed corners, where a grab of opposite lock is needed if you’re too ambitious with the throttle.
At least mechanical sympathy isn’t a big concern. “Every part on the car is ‘lifed’ [life limited],” says Sayers. “Engines are lifed to 5000km [3100 miles]. From all the other parts, such as the gearbox and wheel bearings, we’ll get 10,000km [6200 miles]. If a part is well within its life, there’s no reason to introduce a variable through stripping and rebuilding.”
I can’t get over the amount of brake pedal pressure needed. ABS isn’t allowed in GTE and the modulation of the system is only intuitive when you’re attempting to push the pedal through the firewall. A gym membership would be essential for any extended run.