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Aston Martin’s new trio of mid-engine models are close to being handed over to customers, but it was the digital world of Gran Turismo that helped bring the Valkyrie, Valhalla and Vanquish to reality.
Speaking to CarsGuide, Aston Martin chief creative officer Marek Reichman said the DP-100 concept featured on Gran Turismo helped push the luxury sportscar brand to build the mid-engined models.
“I couldn’t say they [mid-engined cars] wouldn’t exist without [Gran Turismo], but if you then consider now the world of virtual is just as important as the world of real … did the digital influence the physical? From my perspective, for sure,” he said.
“And would they have existed without [Gran Turismo]? Maybe they would have taken a little bit longer. Maybe DP-100 was the push the world needed to say ‘hey, you can do a cool-looking mid-engine car and have a wing on it and here it is’.”
Gran Turismo launched the Vision Gran Turismo feature back in 2013 with the sixth numbered game on PlayStation 3, allowing car brands a platform to release digital concept cars and for players to pilot them on virtual tracks around the world.
Aston Martin’s submission was the DP-100, which was released in mid-2014, and featured a mid-mounted V12 engine with a 597kW power figure, as well as a futuristic design.
Mr Reichman said that reception to the DP-100 was so strong and enthusiastic, it opened Aston’s eyes and, in some part, paved the way for its trio of mid-engined cars.
“That journey started with [Gran Turismo developer Polyphony Digital CEO] Kazunori Yamauchi and we did the DP-100, which was our first virtual mid-engine car. We didn’t have a Valkyrie, we didn’t have a Valhalla, we didn’t have a Vanquish at that time, we had a DP-100,” he said.
“We did it as a GT car and had so many inquiries from customers saying ‘you’re going to make this, you’re going to make this, you’re going to make this’, so I made a model, we took the model to Pebble Beach … I’m not going to rewrite history, but after that came Valkyrie.”
Aston Martin first showed off the Valkyrie in mid-2016, which was then known as the AM-RB 001 concept to highlights the brand’s partnership with Red Bull.
The concept would then morph and be rechristened as the Valkyrie at the 2017 Geneva motor show before confirming its hybrid V12 powertrain.
Total outputs reach 865kW/900Nm thanks to a Rimac-sourced electric motor and battery pack, and a 746kW Cosworth-fettled 6.5-litre free-breathing V12 petrol engine – the latter of which is the most powerful naturally aspirated engine to be put into a production road car.
From there, the less track-focused Valhalla (first known as the AM-RB 003) was introduced in 2019 with a hybrid petrol V6, before evolving into production-ready form last year equipped with an electrified V8 punching out 699kW.
The Valhalla was in Melbourne for this year’s Formula One event, with Aston Martin confirming a handful will make it to Australia each wearing a pricetag of around $1.8 million.
The last of Aston’s mid-engine models for now will be the new Vanquish, shown off with the Vision Concept in 2019, and will make use of a V6 powertrain to take on the lights of the McLaren 720S and Ferrari F8.
Mr Reichman explained that getting a car into Gran Turismo is not as simple as putting pen to paper and sketching a new model to be recreated in the digital world, extra work needs to be done to ensure there is enough information to realistically recreate how the car would drive.
“If you look chronology of the [Aston Martin] mid-engine car, if you do your research, DP-100 was our car in Gran Turismo to celebrate 15 years in Gran Turismo, and I’m a good friend of Kazunori San, and Kazi phoned me and said ‘we’ve been working together next year 15 years, we should do something special’,” he said.
“And I said ‘what about one of those [DP-100]’? And he said ‘yeah’.
“It’s an incredible process because what Gran Turismo want is not just my sketch, they want CAD, they want to know how heavy is it, what’s the weight distribution, what’s the torque curve?
“It’s not just a ‘here’s a pretty picture’ because they then calibrate the car for the track, etc.
“[It took around] six months as a process because you’ve got to create all the CAD and have to work with the engineer team to verify weight distribution, engine torque, horsepower, etc.
“So, it wasn’t a case of getting my guys to do the CAD and looking at it and saying ‘oh that looks good’.
“You know, inboard suspension system, wheel/tyre sizes, all of that, and it’s a constant back and forth, and if there’s any info missing, then you want to provide that information.”
Despite the extra work involved in creating a virtual concept car, Mr Reichman said it takes around the same amount of time as a show car, and that it is important for an ultra-luxury, desirable brand like Aston Martin to feature in racing video games.
“As a manufacturer, you need to be there, because that’s where your brand starts to be recognised by – dare I say it, the six-year-old or the seven-year-old – because that’s when people get hooked now and start to have their favourite cars that they want to drive,” he said.