I am lucky enough to be racing an Aston Martin at this weekend’s Nurburgring 24hrs. It is a GT12, the new model announced at the Geneva show with a 600hp V12 and bodywork derived from the GT3 racer.
Now I’m acutely aware that there is some ennui attached to this race, and that people struggle to see the connection between full-house racing cars and the machines they can buy for road use. But one of the many great things about the N24 is that it remains one of the last old-school endurance races. Amateurs make up a large percentage of the grid, and almost all of the cars on the grid are road-based because they have to be.
And this makes the GT12 the perfect car for the event: powerful, with decent aero and most certainly a car you could buy, if they weren’t already sold out!
When I first discussed this project with boss man David King back in January, I asked him if we could drive the finished racing car from Gaydon to the ‘Ring, complete the race and then drive it home again. He didn’t say ‘no’, but he did suggest that if I crashed it on the way to the N24, I would look a little silly. I didn’t disagree.
But I still wanted to prove the car’s road credentials for the video we’re producing of the event, so we agreed to unload it from the truck, ten miles before its arrival at the track, so that I could drive it into the circuit. As anyone who has driven from Prum to the ‘Ring will confirm, the roads are stunning. I arrived in a gleaming Vanquish, which had whooshed me from the UK in some comfort and style, jumped out, watched the boys unload the race car – complete with number plates – and then jumped aboard. Immediately after pinching myself that this was actually happening!
Racing cars just look so naughty on the road, and the GT12, with its protruding arches, extended chin and large aerofoil, looks naughtier than most.
If the mechanicals are mostly identical to the street car, save changes to meet the technical regulations, the most annoying of which is a big drop in power to below 550hp, then the interior and bodywork are heavily modified and almost completely carbonfibre. The styling and dimensions are the same, but the weight saving is significant.
We raced the car at the second VLN event when it was fresh out-of-the-box and had no development time. In the three weeks since that race it’s been on the rig at Multimatic and undergone several changes to the powertrain and suspension tuning. So I was a little nervous when I pootled it out onto the public road, for fear that it would be some bucking, over-stiff Touring car, but it was nothing of the sort. It was supple, progressive and felt no harsher than a fast road car. In my experience of the event, this bodes very well indeed.
Driving a V12 Aston with minimal silencing and no interior sound deadening is one of life’s better experiences. In fact, just driving something so obviously designed for use on a circuit alongside ordinary traffic is something everyone should try just once. I suppose it’s the ultimate expression of why Caterhams are so popular, they feel like they shouldn’t be allowed, but they are!
So I trundled through a few towns, drove it rather fast between them and then dropped it off at the Aston Martin Technical Centre to have its final checks before competing in the most grueling circuit race of all.
If it finishes, I will ask David King if I can drive it all the way home.
I’ll be blogging throughout the weekend.