or most of us, the new road car being created by Aston Martin and Red Bull exists only as green swooshes in a teasing picture (seen over page) that hints at a sleek vehicle but doesn’t tell us much. But in the fertile minds of designers Adrian Newey and Marek Reichman, the AM-RB 001 is already a technologically advanced car of astonishing capability, able to jostle through traffic and beat an F1 car for outright pace.
The project has progressed as far as a full-sized model and partners Aston Martin, Red Bull and motorsport outfit AF Racing are still feeling their way. Newey, long considered F1’s foremost technical thinker, and Reichman, responsible for shaping the new generation of Aston Martins, have forged a fruitful relationship. Discovering they think along similar lines was a huge bonus as they set about creating an all-new car that will serve as a ‘legacy’ road car for Newey and a halo vehicle for Aston.
Road car design has lingered in Newey’s imagination since his formative years. “My dad was a great tinkerer,” he says. “He had Mini Cooper Ss and Lotus Elans, and did his own maintenance. He had a little workshop where he'd modify them and I used to help him.”
Newey began sketching his own cars and “using dad’s workshop to fold up bits of aluminium and fibreglass, making my own designs” and his final-year university project explored how ground-effect aerodynamics – all the rage in F1 at the time – could be applied to a F road-going sports car. “I built a full-scale wind tunnel model of [my car]; that’s as far as it got, but it helped to get me my first job in motor racing,” he says.
Newey finds F1’s current chassis regulations restrictive, so he’s also kept an eye on road car design.
“I’ve always remained interested in road cars,” he says.
“I enjoy driving; my treat to myself when we won the F1 championship in 2010 was to buy an Aston Martin Vantage, and I have a DB4 GT that I use on sunny days.
So I’ve always admired Aston and I’ve always been interested in small, efficient sports cars.”
Reichman’s first road car was an Austin Healey Sprite, so it isn’t surprising that his and Newey’s visions are closely aligned. Even though a midengined car wasn’t in Aston's product plan, Reichman had thoughts about how one might look and created the DP 100 Vision Gran Turismo in 2014 for the Gran Turismo computer game. Now both designers had a chance to create a car with few technical restrictions.
“The first time we met, Red Bull’s vision wasn’t 100 miles apart from what I was thinking about if Aston Martin was to do a ‘mid-ships’ car,” Reichman says.
Newey and Reichman won’t reveal much about the car’s definitive shape but their wide grins suggest it will be a jaw-dropper. Reichman confirms the car will “tell you it is an Aston Martin through its proportions” but won’t look like any previous Aston.
“The proportions are near-perfect,” he explains. “It is perfectly balanced in terms of performance, chassis balance and occupant versus engine packaging.”
The car will have two seats and a mid-mounted internal combustion engine. Words such as "purity" and "lightweight" are used and the power-to-weight
ratio is expected to nudge 1:1. Specifics are few, so let your imagination run riot because clearly Newey and Reichman have. There are budgetary constraints, but with a projected price of $4m-$6m, the AM-RB 001’s creators can consider exotic materials, powertrains, and construction methods – provided Aston’s Q division can turn them into reality and build 99 cars.
We can expect the shape to be informed both by Newey’s passion for clever aerodynamic and technical solutions and Reichman’s latest vision of Aston Martin design language. Think Newey’s dramatic Red Bull X2010 and X2014 Gran Turismo concepts and Reichman’s aforementioned DP 100.
There will be two AM-RB 001s: one road legal, the other an extreme track version that will chase that headline-grabbing, F1-bettering lap time. The road car will have “two characters”, says Newey. “The easy thing would be to design a road-going LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype) car, but if it felt like one of those on the road, I would feel we have failed,” he says.
“We’re trying to create a car that’s capable of extreme performance, but equally if you’re stuck in a traffic jam it’s a comfortable place to be.”
Reichman says to expect a carbonfibre body, but it will be more than a road-going racing car. “An LMP1 car has a brutish nature because its form language is following a certain function,” he says. “Because it doesn’t have the constraints of having to follow a formula, we can put the mixture of the arts of aerodynamics and beautiful design together.”
Beyond that it is all speculation. How will it eclipse an F1 around Silverstone? Clues could be found in Newey’s past creations, which have utilised groundeffects, ‘active’ aero, ‘blown’ diffusers, and even ‘fan car’ technology, the latter pioneered by Chaparral in CanAm and Brabham in F1 and featured rearmounted fans that sucked air out from underneath the car to reduce pressure and promote downforce.
Then there’s traction control, active suspension, anti-lock brakes, all-wheel drive… Little wonder Newey feels liberated and Reichman is relishing the ‘no limits’ approach. “A lot of modern cars don’t have these starting points. They are often based on an existing car or something the company needs to do.
This car is a unique approach.”
Extra power is likely to come from a hybrid setup that’s essentially a simplified energy recovery system used by an F1 or LMP car. “Hybridisation offers interesting areas to explore and which, perhaps, haven’t been done before with that technology,” Newey hints. Owners will have to build up experience of driving it at high speeds.
“At the same time, Marek and I would like a car that you can commute in if you want to,” says Newey.
Sounds impossible, but the pair’s relaxed demeanour suggests they’ve studied the CFD figures and know what the AM-RB 001 should be capable of.
The ‘001’ suffix implies it could be the first in a series and while coy, Newey is encouraging about further joint projects. “Sometimes when you put two companies together, it is a shotgun affair, and sometimes it just works very easily,” he says. “This is in the very easy category; we seem to have the same thoughts and ideas.” M