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Aston Martin CEO tells us how Valkyrie mixes F1 speed, real-world drivability

The Valkyrie will be one of the most outrageous production cars ever when it hits the streets in just a few years, but as an Aston Martin, outrageous performance isn't good enough.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Take a moment to look at that car up there. You'd be forgiven for thinking it an alien landing craft or a concept for some future racing series, anything but a road-legal car that mere mortals will be able to drive. Yet that's exactly what it is. Valkyrie (née AM-RB 001) is a joint development between Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing. Think "Formula One car for the road" and you're not far off.

The car will be hybrid, merging a 6.5-liter V12 with some sort of electric powertrain. The result will be somewhere north of 1,000 horsepower. And, given the car will weigh somewhere around 1,000kg, that means it'll have a one-to-one power-to-weight ratio. 1,000kg, by the way, is approximately 2,200 pounds -- that's more than 100 pounds lighter than a Mazda MX-5 Miata, which makes do with just 155hp.

Merely making a car with Formula One-style performance road legal would be a hell of a job, but this being an Aston Martin it must, of course, do considerably more than that. It's an engineering challenge of epic proportions

"There's a Ph.D. in management there somewhere," Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer told me at this year's Geneva Motor Show. Palmer has the difficult task of overseeing three teams working on the three key aspects of the car: performance, design and compliance. While Aston owns the latter of the two categories, the performance work is largely coming through a partnership with Formula One's Red Bull Racing and its CTO and star designer, Adrian Newey.

"What you're doing is taking three people," Andy Palmer told me, "each having their team representing a different perspective. You've got Adrian [Newey] who's obviously passionate about the aero, the weight, the performance and every little detail. Every millimeter. You've got [Aston Chief Creative Officer] Maerk [Reichman] who needs to make it look beautiful, and [Vice President and Chief Special Operations Officer] David [King] who needs to make it legally compliant and comfortable to drive. Naturally, you have colliding requirements there."


Somehow, two human beings will fit in there -- comfortably

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Colliding requirements and colliding perspectives. "I actually love the tension," he continued, "because we're breaking dimensions in all directions. The biggest difficulty is getting that performance in a car that's road legal. Obviously, sight lines, mirrors, number plates, etc. they all need to comply because it's an Aston."

But it isn't just about legality, it's also about accessibility. 150 of these cars will be made, plus a limited number of an even racier version to come, all available to mere mortals. "Adrian [Newey], from the beginning, has been very clear that he doesn't want this to be a car that only a Formula One pilot can drive. He sees it as a semi-GT type car that you can take it on a long journey -- though I don't think anybody's going to be tooling to the shops and back."

Palmer says that the cabin was designed such that normal people, even those who might shop at a big & tall store, will be able to fit in the car comfortably ("we're not all Max Verstappens or Sebastian Vettels"), and that the car will meet Aston Martin's standards for overall quality and, ultimately, luxury.

But performance will obviously be the focus, and Aston will put owners through a training regimen to help them learn how to handle such a prodigious amount of power. The company will also be hosting driving events at the world's premier race tracks, inviting owners of Valkyries, Vulcans and all of Aston's other track toys to come out and play.

If that all sounds like a program you'd like to get in on, I'm very sorry to say that you may have missed your chance. All 150 Valkyries that Aston Martin plans to build were sold at an undisclosed (though surely eye-watering) price. However, we all may start seeing them soon. "You'll see prototypes on the road at the end of this year," Palmer said. "We've frozen the design for the tub and the body-in-white."

Spy photographers: get those cameras ready.