Working (at the wheel) from home: The Curv AMR-C01 simulator
“Supercars making tyre-smoking laps of race circuits accompanied by gushing commentaries from wide-eyed drivers are ten-a-penny on YouTube,” writes Simon de Burton, who last week sampled a new racing simulator promising that same in-car experience from the comfort of your living room. He’s not only ‘driven’ an Aston Martin Valkyrie, he’s also challenged Stefan Roser’s RUF CTR ‘Yellowbird’ time at the ’Ring...
Few can match that nerve-fraying, teeth-clenching, desk-gripping eight minutes and five seconds of footage that captured Roser wrestling the Yellowbird around the Nürburgring back in 1989.
Shot a decade before the internet fully arrived and when the words 'going viral' almost always referred to something bad, 'Faszination der Nürburgring' has since been watched online by millions.
Like many others, I've always wondered what the Yellowbird must really have been like to drive in anger – and the chance to get a slight taste of it came unexpectedly a few days ago, when I was invited to 'have a go' with the new Curv AMR-C01 simulator being produced by Aston Martin in partnership with long-standing works driver Darren Turner.
The 'sim' is a limited-edition virtual driving machine with a seating position based on the 1,160 bhp Valkyrie and built around a superbly finished carbonfibre cockpit with leather trim, a nicely engineered aluminium pedal box and a simplified version of an F1-style steering wheel equipped with clutch and gear-change paddles and digital read-outs.
The 'brain' of the AMR-C01 is the advanced Assetto Corsa simulator software that not only makes it possible to invoke any of the world's famous circuits on the high-definition, 49-inch curved screen but also provides access to dozens of car marques and hundreds of models.
It would have been impolite not to try all of the available Astons, so I started with a Vantage road car and worked my way up to a Valkyrie – which gave a false impression of competence by helping me to turn-in a 58 second lap of Silverstone's National circuit.
What I found really remarkable – and what regular sim drivers will take for granted – is just how accurately the characteristics of each car are replicated.
Which led me to first wonder what a big-block Shelby Cobra would be like around the same circuit (a predictably tail-happy back end and tons of oversteer) and then, as soon as I spotted its presence, the legendary Yellowbird.
Being the owner of an ’80s 911, I reasoned that I would take to the car like a duck to water - but after spins at Luffield, Woodcote and Copse (all on the first lap) my existing admiration for Roser's ability to control the 469bhp RUF's demonically-possessed steering wheel while also managing the foot clutch and long-throw gearchange for two ragged-edge laps around the ’Ring was quickly upgraded to hero worship.
If the sim is to be trusted (and I believe it generally is) the merest hint of throttle in the wrong place would set the car squirming, its brakes left much to be desired and its power delivery was far from what they call 'linear'.
It took several attempts to complete an entire lap in anything like a 'tidy' fashion (and that was with the aid of a clutch-free paddle shift) by which point I was crossing the line a full 15 seconds more slowly than I had in the Valkyrie while suffering from a whole lot more anxiety.
To my undisguised delight, Turner also found the car a bit of a handful in the early stages – but, as is typical of such seasoned racers, he soon had it tamed (although, I'm pleased to say, he still couldn't talk and drive it at the same time).
An AMR-C01 will set you back £57,500 before tax – but if you look at it in terms of how expensive it would be to repeatedly crash an actual Valkyrie/Shelby/Yellowbird etc, it's probably a bit of a bargain.
And if you want to feel even more like Roser in the RUF, don't forget to budget a little extra for his period safety gear of T-shirt, stone-washed jeans, white sports socks and slip-ons...
Photos by Aston Martin