Pebble Beach is regarded as one of the finest golf courses in the world. The road that leads to it – 17-Mile Drive – is studded with magnificent real estate, and the view across Stillwater Cove is evocative in a way that only this part of California can be. Every August, though, these become mere distractions as the focus shifts towards the world of automotive.
The annual Concours d’Elegance is arguably the most prestigious event on an increasingly busy calendar and caps a week of fervour that swallows the greater Monterey area. The judges tend to revel in the pre-War splendour of the automobile: only twice since the inaugural event in 1950 has a car manufactured after 1945 taken best-in-show honours.
Aston Martin arrived into the North American market 70 years ago, just as Pebble Beach was establishing itself. Interestingly, one of the first customers for the company’s then-new DB2 model was a young racing driver called Phil Hill, whose reputation was forged in the first road race held around Pebble Beach in 1950.
Hill would go on to be one of very few American drivers to win the Formula 1 World Championship, but he also piloted a highly significant Aston Martin — DP215 — in the 1963 Le Mans 24 Hours race. That same car was sold during Monterey Car Week in 2018, when it achieved the headline-grabbing sum of $21.45m at the RM Sotheby’s auction.
Aston Martin’s presence at this year’s Pebble Beach is thus deeply rooted and highly symbolic. One wonders what the late Phil Hill would have made of the star attraction at Aston Martin’s Club 1913 display: the Valkyrie Spider.
In some respects this will surely come to represent the apogee of the motor car, and certainly one of automotive engineering’s greatest achievements. The Aston Martin Valkyrie, we already know, aims to be the single most adrenalised road-legal car in history. Now, with the removal of its roof, it gets closer to the Formula 1/LMP sensory overload that partly defines it.
“There’s enormous drama to this car,” says Aston Martinʼs Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman, “because you can now see through the aperture at the top. Removing the roof makes the car look lower, and your eye is drawn down by another 100mm along the side of the car. By opening up the interior there’s even more of an F1-inspired experience.”
Until or unless you’ve seen the Valkyrie in person, it’s almost impossible to fully grasp the impact it makes. Impossibly low, this is a shape dictated almost entirely by aerodynamics, an exo-skeletal form that sprang initially from a summer break sketch and musings by Red Bull Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey, before being fleshed out — if that’s the word — by Reichman and his team.
This is a shape that remains defiantly minimalist, whose beauty is derived from function. Newey is renowned in motorsport for pushing the packaging of his cars to the limit, and leaving absolutely nothing on the table. It makes life challenging for those around him, especially when it came to envisaging a road car.
Reconciling the demands of extreme aerodynamics with aesthetics is a big ask, but on the Valkyrie Spider that mission has been accomplished. Its form is so extreme that it’s defined more by what isn’t there than what is. Look at the minimalist teardrop shape of the cockpit, and the space beneath that’s been carved out by the full-length Venturi tunnels that run either side of the cabin’s floor. This is what a car needs to look like in order to deliver more than 1,400kg of downforce at 150mph (in Track mode).
“Right from the very beginning of the Aston Martin Valkyrie project we were driven by exacting targets that went way beyond any previous road car,” Newey explains. “The Valkyrie Spider brings that same ethos to the open cockpit hypercar category. What you see is a simple removable roof panel, but the challenge of remaining true to the Valkyrie concept was anything but. Maintaining aerodynamic performance with the roof removed was of paramount importance, likewise keeping any unavoidable weight gains to an absolute minimum while maximising enjoyment for the driver.”
Until you’ve seen the Valkyrie in person, it’s almost impossible to fully grasp the impact it makes
The Valkyrie Spider can achieve 205mph with the roof removed or 217mph with it in place. Although those figures are rather missing the point: this is surely about what it feels like to experience serious motorsport levels of downforce through a corner like Copse at Silverstone, Eau Rouge at Spa, or 130R at Suzuka.
Weʼll give the last word to CEO Tobias Moers: “The Aston Martin Valkyrie is the product of incredible innovation and technology, but above all, it has always been about emotion. With the Valkyrie Spider, we are taking that passion and emotion to the next level. The driving experience promises to be truly sensational. The sound of that 6.5-litre V12 revving to over 11,000rpm with the roof removed is something I cannot wait to hear.”
This story is an extract from an article featured in the AM49 issue of Aston Martin magazine, out now. If you're not already a subscriber, visit magazine.astonmartin.com/magazine-subscription so that you can read the full story.