Closely involved with Aston Martin’s most advanced cars of recent years, engineer Adam Barnie now oversees the development team working on the forthcoming Valkyrie. Barnie has created a unique niche in contemporary manufacturing, combining his own driving skills with extensive engineering knowledge and an ability to help a whole raft of technical partners push new boundaries.
Barnie's own career was focused on motorsport from the outset. He began at Williams, working on the hugely advanced Renault Laguna racing car for the British Touring Car Championship at the tail-end of the 1990s. “I then realised I wanted to be more hands-on, building gearboxes and sub-assemblies,” he says, explaining that his own experience racing Karts got him into the industry in the first place. “I quickly realised it was a very expensive game,” he says. He went on to work at Prodrive during the famous 2000 season when Alain Menu's V6 Mondeo won the championship, with his teammates taking second and third place as well. “We then built 550 Ferrari specials for Le Mans, taking road cars from dealerships, stripping them down to the chassis and creating a very successful sports car.”
Barnie followed this up with another stint at Williams, working on the Formula One test team in the era of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya. He then spent some time in Dubai “looking after hypercars”, before his association with Aston Martin began when the company paired up with Prodrive to create Aston Martin Racing in 2004. “I was the number one mechanic on Darren Turner's car when he won at Le Mans in 2008,” he says. “It was one of my highest career achievements.”
Barnie left Prodrive in 2012 to set up an independent team, Ram Racing, running Ferrari 458s in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Around this time, David King, now Aston Martin’s Vice President and Chief Special Operations Officer, as well as President of Aston Martin Racing, contacted him regarding the nascent Aston Martin Vulcan project. “It was a very small team and a very tight project,” Barnie says. “We built the 24 cars and still do three or four events a year with the owners at tracks around the world. We’re like a family.”
Regardless of how special and spectacular the 820hp Vulcan was, Valkyrie represents an order of magnitude of complexity. “This car is so technically advanced — it's full of things that have never been done in a road car before,” Barnie says. “We’re breaking all the rules about how a car is put together.” The development journey is a long one and it’s all the more important that customers are kept close to the process throughout. “I've worked on some pretty advanced cars,” Barnie admits, “and I'd compare Valkryie to a Formula One car. The components are definitely at Formula One level — the attention to detail, their light weight. Everything is like jewellery. It's very rare that you get to work on a project like this.”
Valkyrie has come a long way since the very first engineering car, VP1, was built for the Geneva Show in Spring 2019. VP1 didn't include the Valkyrie's innovative active hydraulic suspension or aerodynamic kit. “Before that, we'd built a mule car using an LMP2 race chassis, with the Valkyrie engine and gearbox, for all the original calibration.”
This car is it's full of things that have never been done before. We’re breaking all the rules
The VP2 car is 90% representative of the finished product, while VP3 to VP8 are to all intents and purposes representative of final customer cars, save for the HVAC installation for cabin cooling. The fleet of engineering cars is now undergoing track trials at the Motor Industry Research Association and at Aston Martin’s test facility at Silverstone and other key European test facilities, before ultimately going on to the high-speed circular test track at Nardò in Italy. As well as Aston Martin's own technicians and a lead engineer, there will be direct input from specialists at Bosch (responsible for most electric modules) and Red Bull Technologies. “Everything is a science project on this car,” says Barnie.
The first three Valkyries were assembled at Unit 20 in Wellsbourne, Aston Martin's Advanced Operations unit — the base for special projects and home to the cars built for No Time To Die. Final manufacturing will take place at nearby Unit 8, with each car assigned to a small team of just five people. Mechanically, there will be very little difference between the final engineering cars and the finished machines delivered to the customers. “Of course, they'll be differentiated by trim and styling,” says Barnie, explaining how each and every car is tailored to a precise and personal specification handled by Q by Aston Martin, right down to the mix of the paint. There’s also an optional Track Pack. “Among many detailed changes, it includes a different front end that allows the car to run at a much lower ride height for track use,” the engineer says.
Valkyrie is without doubt Aston Martin’s most ambitious technical project to date. Aston Martin builds close relationships with its customers and taking delivery of a Valkyrie will not be the end of the story. “With Vulcan, we took the cars to events and tracks and helped the owners understand how to get the best out of the cars,” says Barnie. “Many Vulcan owners are now future Valkyrie owners. They're coming along to testing sessions, for example.” Adam Barnie and his team are working to ensure Valkyrie sets new standards and opens another chapter in Aston Martin’s performance history.