You know you have reached the world of the ultra-wealthy when you can afford to buy an exclusive car that costs more than the average person will earn in a lifetime.
Supercars are the biggest, boldest, and most brutally luxurious statements of wealth and the latest offering from Aston Martin makes James Bond’s previous cars of choice look like old clunkers.
The Aston Martin Vulcan is so exclusive and so expensive, it costs more than some penthouses in the most sought after locations in London and New York. It also has some of the most cutting-edge technology that is set to revolutionise the world of motoring.
Luckily, Aston Martin flew me out to Marseilles, France to not only see what all the fuss was about but to also take a ride in the supercar that has got everyone talking.
Aston Martin flew me out to Marseilles and I stayed in the Grand Prix Hotel -- which of course was adorned with various F1 memorabilia. Here is a car mounted to the wall.
After a 10 minute trip from the hotel, we arrive in Aston Martin HQ in Le Castellet, which is near Marseilles.
It is housed next to the Paul Ricard motorsport race track. It was built in 1969 by an eccentric magnate of the same name.
The last French Grand Prix held at the circuit was in 1990. It is now used as a test track for supercars and can host events for Aston Martin owners and F1 drivers.
The length of the full track is around 3.61 miles (5.8 kilometres) and can be configured in 167 ways.
But it was all about seeing the Aston Martin Vulcan which the company confirmed to Business Insider costs a massive £1.8 million ($2.8 million). Only 24 were made.
But before we got to sit in the car, we got to take a look at the engineering and literally under the hood. It kind of looked like a Transformer.
The supercar isn't just an incredibly beautiful piece of machinery, it is also the only supercar to be 'track only' and has a brand new cutting edge technology.
The piece of new tech is the Castrol Nexcel oil cell which allows oil to be changed in 90 seconds -- usually it takes 20 minutes to do so.
The Vulcan is seen as a hypercar because the Nexcel which has electronic components that can actively gauge how much fuel should be pumped into the engine in order to make it more efficient.
Being a 'track only' car means you won't see playboy billionaires parking these outside Harrod's in London or by the Marina in Monaco. Paul King, director of special projects and motorsport at Aston Martin, said some clients housed their cars near race tracks while some took theirs back home.
Naturally, King remained tight-lipped on the identity or origin of the 24 Vulcan customers, although he mentioned that one owner already has a huge fleet of supercars already.
King also told us that making a track-only supercar allowed the company to push the boundaries on engineering the Vulcan to have 800-plus horse power.
It has a race-derived pushrod suspension and a set of massive carbon-ceramic brakes with Brembo calipers.
The Vulcan is constructed using a carbon fibre monocoque and the colours can be customised. This car actually belongs to an Aston Martin customer.
Lunch was served in the restaurant where the world's wealthiest people would eat. I opted for salmon tartare, roast duck, beef carpaccio and some spinach tortellini. Although this probably wasn't the best idea before setting foot into a supercar (more on that later).
The view from the restaurant was perfect to see cars pull in and out of pits and speed around the race track. But the weather was looking worryingly overcast.
After lunch we were asked to sign our lives away, I mean, fill out indemnity forms. Basically, if something horrific happened, we signed a piece a paper saying we couldn't sue for damages. Pretty standard stuff.
Then we were given a band to signify we were pilots -- or pilote in French -- which was apt considering the Vulcan more closely resembled a space shuttle or light aircraft than a car.
But before we got into the Vulcan, we got to experience what an owner would go through once they sank nearly two million quid into a car that felt like it defied the laws of gravity. Each one of us would be paired up with a professional race car driver.
When the ultra-rich buy a Vulcan, they are given lessons in how to drive it because the engine is so immensely powerful. Drivers like Andy make sure Vulcan owners work their way up in understanding how to handle the high-tech racing gauges, speed, force and steering.
Before customers take the steering wheel in the Vulcan, they are prepped on handling the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S.
It was incredibly snug getting inside. I don't know how celebrities do it. It took me about 5 minutes and some light gymnastics to get in the driving seat.
Andy, the professional driver that accompanied me, showed me how he would train Aston Martin customers to handle supercars.
Drivers are encouraged to 'always think ahead' because you're going so fast you have to have to think about turning points, gear changes and where you need to end up on a track in a split second.
People are taught to navigate the track by aiming for cones that are placed in strategic points on the corners and straights. It helps them become used to what angles and speeds are needed to effectively get around without going too slowly, or crashing.
We then went as fast as possible. Some people get over 220 mph on the famous Mistral Straight on the track.
This will ruin my street cred, but the sheer power and speed of just riding in the Vantage over 150 miles per hour around tight corners made me feel incredibly sick. I managed 4 laps or so before I had to admit defeat. I was in serious danger of showing Andy, and the expensive car, what I had for lunch.
After pulling into the pit, I was grateful for the 10 minute break to get my bearings and drink some water. I was warned that feeling the 'full capability' of what the Vulcan can do was going to be more intense. In fact, it made me think that this is what astronauts have to go through to do High-G centrifuge training.
We were all made to wear the helmet in conjunction with the HANS (head and neck support) kit. It makes sure your neck and head doesn't really move at all, no matter how much the car throws you around.
As you can tell, the inside of the Vulcan makes sure that it is as light and comfortable as possible for the driver and passenger and supports your body from head to toe.
We were incredibly lucky on the day -- we got professional race car driver Darren Turner to take us out in Vulcan. Turner has raced touring cars and sportscars since 2000. Prior to that, he was a test driver for the McLaren Formula One team.
After each turn in the car, the wheels had to be changed to accommodate the weather as it increasingly got wetter on the track.
Meanwhile, they kitted us out in the full racing overalls, as it does make a difference in terms of fitting in the seat.
Again, I managed to completely destroy any dignity I had left by trying to get into the car. It took two guys to get me in and I managed to burn my foot slightly while trying to get my leg past this seriously heated part of the vehicle.
But once I was in, it was awesome. I was strapped in like a rollercoaster ride and was told by Turner that I would signal a thumbs up for an extra lap and a thumbs down if I was feeling ill and needed to got back to the pit. I told him to go as fast as possible for one lap as I wasn't sure how long I'd hold out.
It was quite scary at the beginning pulling out of the pit and how fast the Vulcan could go in a short space of time. Good to know it can halt from 100 km/h in 1.6 seconds.
The Vulcan sprints from 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds. But we couldn't reach its top speed of over 200 mph due to the rain.
I can safely say that I really got to feel the full force of the supercar. It really makes you appreciate how sharp race car drivers are and what skill it takes to handle a beast of a machine.
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