| First Drive | Silverstone, England | Aston Martin Rapide Nürburgring racecar |
Aston Martin's Rapide reveals it's a real gentleman racer at a wet Silverstone circuit.
In the Metal
You're looking at a Rapide, only it's a bit more obvious than Aston's usual four-door machine. Thank a competition livery for that, the dark blue paintwork emblazoned with racing numbers and a big Jaeger LeCoultre watch among other sponsors' logos. Subtle it isn't, though one area where it's less extrovert than its road car relative
is the wheels. The higher profile racing Yokohama rubber and smaller alloy wheels look very small under the Rapide's large arches.
The race car is much lower too, the stance only accentuating its length. With Plexiglas windows, a stripped-out, caged interior and a removable steering wheel, this is one Rapide where creature comforts are of little concern.
What you get for your Money
Around 500kg less. Stripped out and enhanced for racing, the Rapide runs essentially the same engine and transmission as the road car. That means a 6.0-litre V12 with 470bhp, an automatic transmission - paddle shifted - and four doors. The rear pair is useless though, as opening them only reveals the latticework of a strong rollcage. The interior is fully stripped, so there's no nice wood or leather, just a race seat, some strap-you-in-tight harnesses and a fascia that mixes road car switchgear with bits and pieces that look like they've come from Maplin Electronics or B&Q. It's functional then, but you'll not give a damn when driving it.
Less weight means less sound deadening, which is no bad thing. Start this Rapide up and it's so much more physical than the road car. The engine barks into life and you both hear and feel it. The car shakes and buzzes with the intense mechanical cacophony happening under the long bonnet ahead. The weight loss results in more immediate acceleration too, the V12 devouring the gears in the auto 'box with conviction. It'll shift up if you forget to, but the rising engine note lets you know when it's needed, and it's only a finger pull away from the next gear.
What leaves you re-calibrating your senses though is the brakes - and the grip on offer. Silverstone is wet - damp actually - which in November means pretty greasy. Corners that had the Rapide road car (driven for a few sighting laps earlier) sliding about are taken with impunity. Turn the light, feelsome steering and the front end goes exactly where you want it. The traction is superb too; the Rapide able to use all its power with impunity, the Aston's wet race tyres underlining the compromises inherent with road rubber. A combination of soft compound tyres, race suspension, less weight and huge brakes allow the Aston to stop, go and change direction with incredible ease, and it's actually remarkably easy to drive fast.
Forgiving too; the stability control is on, but the Rapide still moves around and the electronics rarely intervene. Forget any suspicions you might have that racing cars are real beasts to drive, as this Aston Martin Rapide is different.
This very car was raced at the Nürburgring 24 hours race earlier this year where it scored a very impressive second place in the SP8 class and 34th position overall.
Aston Martin's Rapide impressed us on the road, and stripped of its niceties and made ready for the track it's even more interesting. Racing cars shouldn't be this civilised, though that's bound to have had some bearing on the Rapide's tremendous success at the Nürburgring 24 hours.