DRIVEN: ASTON MARTIN V12 ZAGATO
PH tries the mighty V12 race version on the track
Both companies tried again in 2003 with a creation based on the DB7 Vantage, and followed it up with some American market roadsters too. Now, fifty years after the original they're at it again. Aston Martin is a long way removed from its cottage industry past, and Zagato is these days in Russian hands as part of the Coventry-based CPP (Coventry Prototype Panels) group, but the idea is roughly the same.
They built two cars - the much referred to 'Zig and Zag'. Green Zig has always been a racing car, taking to the Nurburgring circuit for the VLN series and then the Nurburgring 24 hour race at the end of June. Red Zag would begin life as a show car, initially without the aerokit, and winning the Concepts and Prototypes Design award at the Villa D'Este concours at Lake Como. Trophy netted, Zag was then brought up to full race spec for the N24 race alongside Zig, and then converted back to a road car for the recent Frankfurt motor show.
But first it's into a V8. So that we can re-familiarise ourselves with the Nurburgring Grand Prix track (we're not using the Nordschleife for this test, sadly!) there's a pair of V8 Vantage GT4 cars ready in the pits. I pick the angrier-looking orange one, which turns out to be a sort of GT4+ spec, suitable for VLN customers wanting to increase their on-track performance. Unlike the standard GT4 it features a large rear wing, the latest seven-speed paddle shift gearbox and an unsilenced exhaust.
Then it's on to the main event, lurking in the pitlane. Wow. Up close and personal Zig is a monster, something pictures can't really communicate; the ornate folds of its terrifyingly expensive aluminium panels, the massive rear wing and the even more aggressive rear diffuser that sprouts from the rear of the car.
It's so invigorating to think that racing cars can still sound like this. When that 6-litre V12 kicks into life with a BLAM! and then settles to its intimidating idle something deep inside of you can't fail to rejoice. Electric racing cars? Diesel racing cars? No thanks.
Once the window net has been attached to my left the cockpit becomes dark and almost turret-like in the view out it offers, providing a strong contrast with the most unusually sunny weather at the 'Ring.
Given only three flying laps in the car it would be daft to start making too many judgements on how it drives, but the family Aston 'feel' is still inherently present, albeit with everything that much more immediate and more precise. Weighing considerably less than other models on this platform (at 1,350kg) but with a mildly tuned engine (now 530hp and 440lb ft of torque) it's no surprise that the V12 makes light work of hauling this car out of tight turns - you can use third gear for the final corner onto the straight and then enjoy a great seam of acceleration along it. Stopping at the other end is convincing too, certainly by road-car standards, thanks to Brembo six-pot callipers with massive grooved discs, and as you flick down the quick-shifting 'box you're treated to an extravagant series of pops and bangs from the V12 (sorry, must stop talking about the noise it makes).