A preface to this first-ride review: I originally said, “Yes, Aston Martin, I will come down to the F1 Miami Grand Prix race, and I’ll be happy to drive the new multimillion-dollar Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro.” That’s right, yours truly was supposed to take the wheel of the of the 1,000-hp UFO—a car initially designed to run a 3-minute, 20-second lap around the 24 Hours of Le Mans’ 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe—at Florida’s Homestead-Miami Speedway. I had recently eaten dinner with Aston CEO Tobias Moers on the launch event for his baby, the fantastic DBX707, and he assured me I would drive the Valkyrie. Trouble was, Moers officially “left” Aston Martin just ahead of the F1 weekend, and I didn’t get my time with the Valkyrie AMR Pro until two days later. I would no longer get to drive the car. Were the two situations related? Aston said no (to be fair, it did tell me a week earlier I’d only be a passenger), but I remained suspicious.
I also admit I (probably) would have been in over my head. I have a bit of experience driving track-only hyper beasts, from Rhys Millen’s Bentley GT3 Pikes Peak car to the sonically devastating Pagani Huayra R. You better believe I mentioned both crash-free experiences to Aston at least a half-dozen times.
But as Aston Martin’s hot shoe, three-time World Touring Car champion, ex-F1 test driver, and Valkyrie development pilot Andy Priaulx showed me, the Valkyrie AMR Pro’s capabilities are out of reach for mortals. To put the Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro’s performance in perspective, consider: A 3:20 lap of Le Mans isn’t too far off the famous track’s lap record of 3:14.791, set by Kamui Kobayashi in the LMP1 Toyota TS050 Hybrid race car. In other words, if you’re rich enough, you can buy a car that’s potentially only about 5 seconds off the pace of a leading prototype-class racer. Let that sink in; it’s staggering. As we awkwardly said previously in our First Look story about the Valkyrie, such a lap would “assuredly take the skill set appropriate to the highest tiers of motorsport to attempt.”
Getting into the car—especially if you’ve had a gander at the photos—might seem daunting, but it’s not so bad. Aston’s former CEO, Andy Palmer, let me climb inside the production-car Valkyrie (much to the horror of the Aston PR team) on the Geneva Show stand in 2018. The street version is surprisingly roomy once you’re seated, but with this track-only AMR Pro version, the carbon-fiber tub has been altered. It’s now narrower than the “regular” Valkyrie, reshaped for better aerodynamics, and the passengers now sit closer together. True, the wheelbase is a shocking 15 inches longer (yes, inches), so legroom was never a Valkyrie issue. Little secret: Aston Martin’s VP of design, Marek Reichman, is 6-foot-5, and he made sure he could fit. He got his first-ever hot laps in the car about 30 minutes after I did.
While simply getting into the AMR Pro, even for a 240-pounder like me, isn’t difficult, getting the five-point racing belts attached is a different matter. It took a team of two engineers a minute or so to fully, properly, and intimately strap me into the deep carbon-fiber seat. The third-generation Ford GT might have a cozier cockpit, but because Priaulx would be leaning into me during right-hand turns, I was asked to please sit with my left hand wrapped around my right elbow. You know, just to keep as much of me away from him as possible. Even though the bulk of the street Valkyrie’s hybrid system is tossed out for the AMR Pro, there’s still a small electric motor hanging off the crank that’s used for torque-fill between gearshifts and to move the car down pit lane silently up to 17 mph. The 6.5-liter Cosworth-fettled V-12 then roared to life. We were off, and the first lap was good fun.
The second lap was quite a lot quicker than the first. Shockingly quicker. Lap one was but a warmup/reconnoiter circuit—a sighting lap, as they say in F1. In a sci-fi fantasy of a hyper-mega-crazy car like the Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro, a sixth-tenths lap felt simply incredible. Priaulx then gave it the full English breakfast, beans included. He suddenly nudged the car to the left at the end of the front straight, and I thought he’d initiated a crash. My recollection of the first couple corners of lap two are mostly absent as my brain was occupied trying to acclimate itself to the rapid and physically violent nature of what I was experiencing.
Clarity came on the middle straight. Spend enough time on tracks, and you realize straights are the only place you get to relax. I looked up at the braking-distance signs. On lap one Priaulx had hit the stop pedal well before the 300-foot marker. On lap two we whizzed past it, and then past the 200 sign. I panicked for a moment, convinced we were headed into a wall I was staring at. But Priaulx kaboomed the brakes, and there was no crash. “How odd,” I thought to myself. “I can feel the blood pooling in my fingertips.”
In one word, “extreme” describes this track-only version of psychotic bat guano designed by Reichman and legendary F1 tech guru Adrian Newey. Indeed, the design is about as far as you can push a car that still fits human beings. Reichman said the design’s limiting factor was the fact two people had to fit inside. Can you imagine how wild-looking cars will be when auto-drone racing arrives? Even here, limited by our mortal coils as we are, the Valkyrie AMR Pro moves its occupants around with a force three times greater than gravity. Meanwhile, the noise from the V-12 is madness in a can, and it registers an absurd decibel level (though the Pagani Huayra R sounds better). Oh, and I failed to mention: Because we were on such a small track, Priaulx decided to run the car at only 800 hp.
Back to those first moments of lap two. The extreme-looking aero is pure 10-time F1 Constructors’ Champion Newey, and calling it effective is a gross understatement. If you’ve never driven or been in a big-downforce car, they behave in a way (i.e. , not flying off the fracking track) that does not make sense to a normal human mind. Especially at first, which is what I experienced when Priaulx quickly yoinked the yoke left.
My split-second thought of, “Oh, we’re crashing. Well, I’ve had a good run,” morphed quickly (everything happens quickly in this thing) into my helmeted, HANS-deviced head being shot-putted seemingly into my knees as Priaulx howitzered the otherworldly brakes. Before I could lean back, we’d reached the the apex and he began to roll on the throttle, smashing my head against the seat. And by “seat,” I mean it’s more of a carbon-fiber pit with Alcantara glued to it. Put bluntly: I’ve never experienced a machine like this.
I finally acclimated to the speeds, g forces, and awkward circulatory feelings by the end of that second lap. Priaulx’s right thumb went up in my peripheral vision, asking me if I was good for more. I hoisted my right thumb (left hand still tucked under my elbow), and bent it toward him. By the time we’d hit that first-left-feels-like-you’re-crashing bit, I began to see my son’s face. Logically I knew I had nothing to fear; Priaulx is an ace driver and, to make a Britishism, the car is mega. However, the novel, extreme sensations my body experienced overrode the right side of my brain.
Subconsciously, I wanted it all to be over. “Too much,” as my sister used to say; the ride was simply too much. Mercifully, by the middle point of lap four, Priaulx lifted and we began cooling down. For context: I’m not a nervous passenger. I spent a decade riding passenger with pro racer Randy Pobst as he flung supercars all over racetracks. Hell, I famously once fell asleep as he entered Willow Springs’ daunting Turn 8 at about 150 mph. But the Valkyrie AMR Pro? This was just a couple levels above the level after the next level.
Where do we go from here? That’s the question that ran through my head after I’d left the vehicle and sat and tried to process what I’d just gone through. Surely this must be the end of the line. Where could you even imagine from here? Power is easy, and yeah, stuff like the Rimac Nevera makes twice as many horses, but in terms of total, all-around performance it feels ignoble to even mention the two cars in the same sentence. For about the same price ($4.2 million) as a Bugatti Chiron or a Pagani Huayra RBC, you get a car with the outright speed potential to compete at Le Mans. It’s simply, utterly mental. Remember how I feigned disappointment up top about not being allowed to drive it? I’m a touch relieved. I could’ve managed at my own pace, but I would’ve been so far over my skis that I would have left not having a clue as to what the Valkyrie AMR Pro is truly capable of.
I can’t fathom a vehicle that will eclipse this experience. I suppose used F1 cars are for sale, though they require a team of technicians to even turn them on. No, if you want to experience anything anywhere near this sensation, start training for Le Mans or befriend your local billionaire. I know I’m wrong halfway through typing this sentence, but I can’t imagine there will ever be another car quite like the Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro.
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