Journalism is anything but a growth industry. Cutbacks, mergers and changing consumer habits have resulted in fewer jobs and a dramatically different environment for reporters than even 15 years ago.
Many reporters now find themselves covering an array of beats, everything from town council meetings to local crime to business, all while writing puff pieces on such “events” as parades and festivals.
Yet, there are still a rare few that draw assignments that can only be considered plum. Ollie Marriage could safely be said to have received one of those coveted assignments when he was given the task of putting an Aston Martin Vulcan, valued at $2.5 million, through the twists and turns of Abu Dhabi’s Formula 1 course for TopGear.com.
Aston Martin is building just 24 of the high-end vehicles, and the car is about as close to a rocket ship on wheels as one can purchase from a manufacturer: It possesses a V12 engine that delivers 820 brake horsepower at 7,750 rpm and 575 pound-foot of torque at 6,500 rpm.
The Vulcan features a carbon fibre monocoque structure, a pushrod-actuated suspension with adjustable dampers and carbon ceramic racing brakes. Its horsepower is delivered to the rear wheels through a race-specification six-speed sequential shift gearbox
Here he describes the Vulcan’s speed:
“One-fifty on the back straight at Abu Dhabi becomes one-six-five, becomes one-seven-five plus. At the 200-meter board I hit the brakes with everything I have. Everything. You can do this when the car currently weighs about 2.5 tons and is wearing 305-width front slicks. The carbon Brembos have massive power and mashing the brakes, knowing you’ll never lock them, trying to release the pressure gradually as the aero grip bleeds away and the car lightens, carrying braking all the way to the apex to keep the nose locked on line – it’s an addictive business.”
He writes that the sensory experience isn’t for the faint of heart.
“Five laps and I’m spent – I start to get a headache, I need to drink, sweat gathers, ears ring. I haven’t heard a word from my engineer on the pitwall, because even with the intercom turned right up, he’s fighting an unwinnable battle against the V12. When someone else goes out you can hear them around the whole circuit, each gearshift, each lift. When they howl down the pit straight, shockwaves battering the grandstands, it’s actually painful. Moments later, you can taste the pungent fumes.”
Of course, driving a Formula 1 course in and of itself would be spectacular; factor in that you’re behind the wheel of ultra-high performance car and it’s difficult to top the experience if you’re a gearhead.
“That was just so cool,” Marriage writes. “Abu Dhabi has no noise restrictions and runs until midnight. I’ve had some ridiculously good moments in my job, but I can genuinely say that each lap in the Vulcan was a privilege, particularly the fast third gear double apex right hander as you plunge down to the glowing purple Yas Viceroy hotel, whapping down two gears, flames spouting, making sure you punish every apex and kerbstone in front of the spectators. Every lap feels naughty. Illicit. Mischievous. Great. Can’t say fairer than that really. Pure magic.”
(Top: An Aston Martin Vulcan is taken through The Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Photo credit: TopGear.com.)