Aston Martin is working on a hitherto secret project with the Red Bull F1 team to launch a mid-engined car to eclipse the LaFerrari and McLaren P1, Autocar can reveal.
The car, known as the “brother of the Valkyrie” by its development team, has been given the internal development goal of establishing a new benchmark for hypercars in the £1m price bracket in around 2021, ahead of any of the established players re-entering the market.
Both the LaFerrari and McLaren P1 were launched in 2013 and, while production of both has ceased, such halo cars are typically replaced at extended intervals. The gap between the launch of the Enzo and the LaFerrari was 11 years and, were such a gap repeated, it would mean the Aston-Red Bull car stealing a march on them.
Confirming the project, Aston boss Andy Palmer said: “It’s correct - we have more than one mid-engined project underway - more than two, if you count the Valkyrie. This new project will draw on all the know-how we’ve taken from the Valkyrie, as well as some of its visual identity and engineering capability, and bring it to a new sector of the market.”
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As the “brother of the Valkyrie” name suggests the opportunity to develop the second, ultra high-performance car with Red Bull has been made possible by the success of Aston’s initial collaboration with the F1 team, led by Adrian Newey. While it is loosely termed a hypercar, Valkyrie’s performance will be far in excess of any production car previously sold, putting it in a different league to the likes of the LaFerrari and McLaren P1 and even - its makers insist - newer special editions such as the McLaren Senna and potentially the Senna GTR.
There has been huge demand for the limited edition Valkyrie and its track-only AMR spin-off - both of which are sell outs despite price tags ranging from £2m-£3m, and despite the first cars not reaching customers until 2019. Consequently, Aston Martin has extended its co-operation with the Red Bull Formula 1 team to launch this new, £1m car project.
It is not clear how much the “brother of Valkyrie” and Aston’s upcoming, more mainstream 488-rival - set to launch in 2021 - will share in common beyond their basic layout, but it is expected that the former will launch as a halo product to showcase Aston’s skills in the mid-engined supercar market. Consequently, the “brother of Valkyrie” will likely be sold in extremely limited numbers, in order to add to its desirability: 499 LaFerrari’s were made, with 210 open-top LaAperta models later added to the run.
It is likely both cars will use an all-new chassis architecture using a new carbonfibre monocoque and similar aluminium subframes, created using the knowhow developed during the manufacture of the Valkyrie.
However, Palmer declined to be drawn on the likely powertrain that will be used by the “brother of Valkyrie”, although there has been speculation that it could also be used as a halo project to showcase the electrified technology that Aston will bring to market around that time, albeit with a high-performance rather than efficiency focus. As such, a collaboration with shareholder Mercedes’s AMG arm is possible, as is an extension of the working relationship with Cosworth, which is developing the 1000+bhp 6.5-litre V12 in the Valkyrie. Either way, it is likely to use a V8 configuration.
The car’s development also underlines why long-time McLaren development driver Chris Goodwin switched camps at the end of last year, with the specific brief to hone Valkyrie now becoming a much longer-term role that puts him at the heart of the Aston and Red Bull tie up. Both projects also raise the prospect of taking him back into frontline racing, including a potential Le Mans project if he so chooses.
The creation of the “brother of Valkyrie” also raises the prospects of Aston Martin and Red Bull working together long-term on numerous road car projects. Aston boss Andy Palmer revealed to Autocar that as part of the arrangement for the second project he has set up a campus at Red Bull’s Milton Keynes facility for around 130 staff to work fulltime.
“We are laying down some pretty deep roots with Red Bull,” said Palmer. “It is a base that will be known as our Performance Design and Engineering Centre and that gives the perfect clue as to the kind of projects that will be developed there. Perhaps the biggest indications of our intentions is that our office is next door to Adrian’s.”
Aston has already recruited heavily in preparation for launching its 488 rival, which will go on sale in 2021. Development is being set up by Max Szwaj, who joined Aston from Ferrari as chief technical officer, and Palmer said that the car was being developed with an eye very firmly on the latest offering from Maranello.
“There are arguments that the McLaren 720S is the better car to drive, but we are aiming at the Ferrari because it strikes us as the most desirable package,” said Palmer. “The Ferrari has incredible dynamics and jaw-dropping looks - it has everything, and that has to be our goal, especially with our mantra that every Aston must be the most desirable in its class.
“That’s a challenge to Marek [Reichmann, head of design] and Max and their teams, of course - but they all have the track records in producing visual drama, handling and performance. They are two inspirational leaders, and they have built dream teams around themselves to deliver what we want, recruiting from Alfa, Ferrari and Maserati to ensure the chassis, engine and shape of the car are the best there are.
Palmer has also previously revealed to Autocar that the 488 rival will have an all-new powertrain, but he remains cagey on specifics. The price differential to the “brother of Valkyrie" means that it may not employ hybrid technology, or use as bespoke a powerplant, although McLaren has shown that such a strategy can be possible. “In our portfolio today, we don’t have an engine capable of giving us the output we require,” he told Autocar. “Whether through collaboration with AMG or whether by ourselves, we have to find an answer.”
The 488 rival will be built in Gaydon alongside the DB11, the Vantage and the Vanquish, which is to move into true front-engined supercar territory when it is revealed later this year. Also planned is the DBX SUV for 2019, to be built at Aston’s new factory in St Athan, Wales, and two Lagonda models; a saloon is likely first, in 2020, followed by an SUV in 2022.
Such is Aston’s rate of growth that it currently has around 400 job vacancies open, mostly in engineering. Palmer confirmed that part of the appeal of spreading the firm’s base to Milton Keynes and St Athan was that it was no longer vying with neighbour Jaguar Land Rover to attract talent. “We’re enjoying incredible growth, but we have to be innovative in attracting the talent to do that,” he said. “But the key point is that Aston is getting more desirable by the day - we are proving to everyone that we are a serious player.”