In its centenary year Aston Martin has developed and raced a futuristic hydrogen-fueled Rapide S model in the 24 Hour race at the Nürburgring, Germany. Held on 19/20 May, Aston Martin joined a world-class field of some 175 Grand Touring cars, running on the daunting 22 km circuit that combines the legendary Nordschleife circuit with the modern Grand Prix track. This is motor racing on a truly industrial scale. Add in torrential rain and fog, which halted the race for a time, and you have an extreme test of man and machine, a tough grind on the race track known as the “Green Hell.”
Matthew Marsh, of Hong Kong, was one of four drivers behind the wheel of the Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S in the 24-hour race. He said: “We are making history at the Nürburgring 24 Hours with the Rapide S, the first time at this event for a hydrogen fueled car, in the centenary year of Aston Martin. Along with partners Alset Global, the team has worked incredibly hard to demonstrate this exciting new technology and we have faced the toughest conditions imaginable racing here in Germany. We reached the finish which was the main objective for the weekend.” The other drivers of the car were Dr. Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin CEO, Wolfgang Schuhbauer (Germany) and Shinichi Katsura (Japan).
After two hours the race was led by the Aston Martin team’s Bilstein-liveried #007 V12 Vantage GT3 racer and this car finished in the top ten, running in appalling conditions after the restart of the 24 hour race. John Gaw, Team Principal at Aston Martin Racing commented: “Conditions out on the Nordschleife were less than ideal. We heard that the fog was clearing, but the torrential rain continued throughout the night. Our cars and drivers performed faultlessly before the session was red flagged, enabling us to lead from early on in the race. We continued to push with the same momentum and managed to get to the end of the race.”
The Hybrid Hydrogen car is based on the Rapide S model, Aston Martin’s new four-door, four-seat sports GT, and operates on a blend of hydrogen and gasoline, capable of producing zero CO2 emissions. The flexibility of the rules in this type of racing means that radical innovations are permitted, something ruled out in many other forms of racing. A special experimental class had to be created to cater for the car, which can run on either hydrogen or gasoline, or a mixture of the two. This pioneering clean technology delivers a dramatic reduction in pollution, and points the way for road car developments.
Aston Martin, as a company, has a special affinity with the Nürburgring, maintaining a test centre at the track since 2008. They also have a long-standing relationship with the Nordschleife, having won the Nürburgring 1,000 km race in 1957, 1958 and 1959. The British sports car maker has been a regular at the annual 24-hour endurance race since 2006, competing in the Nürburgring 24 Hours for the eighth successive year.
Prior to the main event the Aston Martin Centenary Parade, a lap of the Nordschleife circuit featuring over a hundred Aston Martin models, took place to celebrate 100 years of Aston Martin and to offer customers the chance to share in the Nürburgring experience. Joining them on the track was legendary British driver Sir Stirling Moss in an Aston Martin DBR1, a winning combination at the track in 1958 and 1959. James Bond-actor Daniel Craig also appeared in an Aston Martin DB5 and Dr. Bez in the Aston Martin CC100 concept car.
Photo caption: The Aston Martin Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S in the Nürburgring 24-hour race on 19/20 May.
Written by Rupert Lloyd Thomas