My Aston Martin VULCAN ride with Vulcan23 !
Here’s how my Vulcan ride story started. When I was at the Goodwood Revival having a good time and filming cars, I received an interesting message from Jamie (aka britishboy100), about something interesting that might be coming up with his Aston Martin VULCAN (who happens to have its own Facebook page: #Vulcan23). You probably recognize this cherry red Vulcan, as the one that was recently featured on The Grand Tour, and driven by Jeremy Clarkson himself. Anyways, an invitation was sent to come and check-out the Vulcan during a trackday in September. Cherry on the cake, I could have a ride in it. Obviously, I was in. A few months later, I travelled to Spa-Francorchamps with my friend Seb for one of the most epic automotive experience of my life. No doubt about that.
Aston Martin had organized a « track day » for the Vulcans the day before. Only owners & authorized guests were allowed in the boxes (even though you can still « see the action » from outside). There were NINE Vulcans that day, which has led to some very interesting group shots. But I only arrived the next day, which happened to be the FIRST TIME the Aston Martin VULCANS were going to be driven on a PUBLIC track day. Indeed, until that day, every time a Vulcan had graced a circuit, it was during private trackdays meant solely for the owners and their friends: no spectators, no publicity, only among Vulcans. Which is why you can understand it wasn’t just « any » day, but it was without a doubt a « first time ». People just had to be there.
The Aston Martin Vulcan is Gaydon’s latest track-toy (I don’t consider the AM-RB001 a « thing » yet). The car was presented at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show (which I attended) with a green & orange model. Fast-forward a year later, and all 24 units of the 2,5 million € machine are built and sold. The Vulcan has a 7.0-liter V12 engine delivering 820 horse power at the top of its game. That’s a lot of horse power for a 1350kg monster. All of this allows the Vulcan to reach speeds of up to 320 km/h. Vulcan, Vulcan, Vulcan. You keep hearing that name a lot, and I feel bad for not giving you an explanation. Contrary to what I first instinctively believed, « Vulcan » is not a reference to the roman god (too bad, it would’ve made it even more BADASS I think), but to the Royal Air Force strategic bomber: the « Avro Vulcan ».
Enough chit chat.
There were « only 4 Vulcans » that day (it sounds like I’m complaining, doesn’t it, lol?), and they were driving around the most beautiful track in Europe, aka Spa-Francorchamps. The funny thing was they weren’t entirely alone either: there was a trackday event by Club GTevents as well. There were some very nice cars: McLaren 570, Aventador SV, 991 GT3rs… as well as other cars like the FUN CUPS. But I only had eyes for the Vulcan. Knowing what was going to happen didn’t help either, I was obsessed.
I kept watching them go on the straigh line, loud as F@CK (though not as loud as I thought they would sound, given how many times I’ve heard them being « banned from tracking in the UK »), stealthy, but above all: majestic in every possible way. Seeing them drive next to other cars was also quite interesting, to see how they measured up. And it wasn’t a fair fight, though fun to watch. I didn’t venture out too much on the track to vary my angles, I was too obsessed with the Aston Martin hospitality area, where the Vulcans were neatly kept when they weren’t on the track. It was just too beautiful, clinical. It’s an atmosphere I’ve always enjoyed, seeing the mechanics at work, the smells, the sounds of people working on cars (even though I didn’t know what they were doing half of the time). The good old english style. I felt GOOD.
My Vulcan ride time came a little bit after lunch. I felt a bit worried because we had just driven to a town nearby to have lunch with my friend. Basically, I ate a burger less than 20 minutes before a crucial moment. I don’t think this is particularily reccomended just before going in a +800hp track-car in a very hilly circuit. Especially if you’re not used to it. But the excitation was too much = I was about to be part of the privileged few to have an Aston Martin Vulcan ride. Spoiler alert: you’ll be glad to hear I handled it like a boss. Sort of.
Everything started out with putting the helmet on. Good thing Aston Martin had organized everything very well, and there was one lying around (I don’t have a personal helmet, nor did I think of borrowing one). But it wasn’t just « any helmet », it was an official « VULCAN » one, made out of carbon fiber. It belonged to Jamie’s instructor (because you don’t simply teach yourself to drive these things out of the blue). I also had one of those carbon-fiber « neck-holders » thingy, which would keep me straight and balanced later on. Once the helmet was on and everyone checked things were good, it was time to get in the car. I might not wear slim-cut shirts, but I didn’t have any particular trouble to get in (or get out), which was good. It might not have been as gracefully as a ballet dancer, though. Only thing you need to keep in mind when getting in: be very careful to NOT hit the car with the helmet (which is not something you usually think about when you get in a car).
Jamie was already in the car, discussing technical stuff with his mechanics. Meanwhile, I was getting strapped inside like a log on a lorry. It was very tight, very firm, but that’s exactly how you need it to be. It’s a funny sensation, being inside a race car: on the one hand, you feel 100% safe, yet on the other hand at the mercy of the car and its driver, without control. Jamie fired-up the engine, and the V12 started growling. Boy was it loud, excitation was at its climax. I tried talking to him. And that’s when it happened: he switched on the built-in talkie-walkie. I could hear Jamie answering me from inside my helmet, and we could both speak to each other without having to deal with the very loud sound of the engine. Though this is a very common thing nowadays, I felt it was important to add, because that kind of technology really help the experience and make it that much more pleasant.
Jokes aside, I was starting to feel very very hot inside the car. Luckily for me, that’s when Jamie turned up the AC: I didn’t even know the car had one. What a feeling. The cold air made me feel so much better. I seriously can’t imagine how pro drivers did it back in the day, strapped in race-cars that were about as hot as molten lava. Technology has come a long way… It comes to show that the Aston Martin VULCAN while being a crazy track-car that fills its purpose is NOT devoid of comfort. The seats are comfortable, and you’re not as hot as you could be.
We started to head for the track. Jamie seemed relaxed and casual about it. It wasn’t his first time behind the wheel, he had driven the beast countless times during previous trackdays. And off we went. He said we would be doing a « warm-up lap » first. Writing about it now, it didn’t feel like a warm-up to me haha. As soon as he hit the accelerator, it was an immense feeling of joy and fear: I had never felt that much power in a car. Things were moving real fast around me. We went up eau-rouge quicker than I thought. On the straight-line following Eau Rouge, he zig-zagged to warm-up the tires, which was unexpected and made me think he had lost control haha (silly me). I sounded like a giggling girl on the talkie-walkie helmet thingy. He kept accelerating real fast, changing gears on the steering wheels. I had never been that fast in a car, and my eyes were wide open. The trees and the forest around kept changing forms. I think we hit 270-280 km/h.
And then space & time stopped: he braked. My body was NOT prepared for this, the whole thing was thrown forward (that’s when you understand the strapping). It felt as if you were sudenly hitting a wall. The first braking was the most impressive one for me, because 100% unexpected. For a split second, I was speechless, but a lot of incomprehensible blabbering followed: I kept saying « OMG! WOW! Incredible! » and a bunch of swear words. Jamie simply laughed. He kept answering my questions and chatting with me YET stayed impressively concentrated on his task despite his loud passenger. I would sometime watch his face, and his eyes kept moving around everywhere, picking-up information from all over the place: front, back, around, calculating his next move. He didn’t lose focus because of me. This was very reassuring. The amazement from the power of braking didn’t go away (it actually never left me still). At every corner, after each straight line, you would feel it, powerful and unforgiveable. Even if the element of surprise was gone, it was a physical reality: this car brakes in such a way I couldn’t have imagined. My Vulcan ride made me understand how motorsport is a sport that requires to be in top physical form. If you’re not ready to take the Gs, you’re going to have a bad time.
And to think the man had been doing this all day… and yesterday… I think this is the perfect time to explain a little something about the Aston Martin VULCAN (which Jamie explained while he was casually tracking a 2,5m € car). There are 3 modes of power, which are controlled by a switch on the steering wheel. We had done our first warm-up lap in POWER 1, which only gave the car about 500bhp. Wait, what? You’re telling me this madness was only at step 1 of 3? Yes. He then went to POWER 2, which gave the car more power (and probably more capabilities). To be honest, I didn’t really feel a difference considering how brutal POWER 1 already was. After a lap of POWER 2, he then switched to POWER 3. The final stage, which gave you ALL THE POWER. This gradual power increase felt like Dragon Ball Z. I was now riding with Goku in his final form. The beast was finally unleashed on the race track. And boy, was it CRAZY. Jamie handled every corner like a boss, and was very cautious with his surroundings. Indeed, we were racing with other cars on track, that weren’t exactly on the same power-level as the VULCAN. Overtaking felt like child’s play, very cruel to the overtaken.
After about 4 or 5 laps on POWER 3, my body was taking its toll. I didn’t expect it to be that physical, to be honest, it felt as if I was a bit groggy, almost drunk. I didn’t feel bad, but I wasn’t paying attention to everything anymore: my body was tired, weakened. I didn’t feel like an active passenger, but rather like a passive bystander. Obviously, it remained incredibly fun and cool, but my body couldn’t take it anymore. I’m not one of those people that would keep going no matter what for the sake of it, because I was living something special and unique. Maybe I’m too cautious? I could’ve kept going, but I didn’t want to take the risk to faint or something, so I told Jamie. He instantly took it « more lightly » (is that even possible lol?), and we got back in whenever he could.
WHAT. A. RIDE.
The mechanics helped me get out of the car. You don’t really feel it inside because of the ventilation, but I was still really hot haha. Once my sweaty head was out of the helmet, my first words were something very close to « HOLY FUCK ». Everyone around laughed. They knew what it was, they knew what I had felt, they knew how incredibly unique being in that car is. At first it was really hard to put words on this experience and explain what had happened. I don’t even think I was able to convey all my emotions and everything I’ve felt during those blessed minutes. I just had a ride in the Aston Martin VULCAN, brother of the P1 GTR, Zonda R, FXX… what a family. My first ride in a « track car ». What an unforgettable experience that was. I can’t thank Jamie enough for this opportunity. I don’t think that many people around the world were able to sit their petrol-headed arse in one of the 24 Vulcans and go around it in the most beautiful track in the world in my eyes: Spa-Francorchamps. Even Jeremy Clarkson, who drove it for The Grand Tour, didn’t do it in Spa-Francorchamps haha. I have to face the fact that I’m an incredibly lucky and privileged person. This Vulcan ride was absolutely insane. That day, I have lived my passion in a way most people could only dream of. And I’m not about to forget it.
BTW, the day kept getting better and better: POG let me drive his Ferrari.
Photos: Myself & Sébastien Cosse
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