How Vulcan’s first flight was almost grounded

A computer fault almost ruined the Aston Martin Vulcan’s southern hemisphere debut.

THIRTY hours’ travel, three hours under the bonnet … but the fix was found that ensured the mega-dollar Aston Martin that wowed Kiwi media and motorsport fans at a race circuit’s third birthday celebration would not suffer the embarrassment of conking out during its moment of glory.

The story of how an Aston Martin engineer in England was forced to race half-way around the world to rectify a technical failure with the $4-point-something million Vulcan super car that had its southern hemisphere reveal at Highlands Park circuit in central Otago was only revealed after the car’s weekend debut.

Surprisingly, too, it seems the tale of the flying fix that kept the car on track was one missed by the specialist motoring media in attendance. Rather, it was a scoop that went to a local reporter.

Since then the story has gone international and seems to serve as a salutary reminder that even top shelf cars built from exotic materials aren’t exempt from faults.

And what a fault. The huge crowd of motoring enthusiasts gathered at the Highlands on Saturday, April 9, to see Australian multi-millionaire Tony Quinn fly around the track he owns in his latest toy were oblivious to the behind-the-scenes frenzy to get the car to the show on time.

It transpires that, during a test run on the previous day, Quinn noticed a mystifying and somewhat maddening fault – something that never seems to affect any ordinary car these days.

Simply put, the car’s high-performance V12 would run for just three minutes, then stop. And not want to restart.

Not exactly the kind of thing that would provide a positive impression of a track special that has a top-speed of more than 320kmh, and can accelerate from 0-100 in just three seconds. 

Aston Martin execs at the track had the solution. With doubts the local Automobile Association would offer any solution, they determined to foot the cost of flying an expert out from the UK to fix the problem. It was a massive call that, when made, started a race in which every minute counted.

“It was 3pm New Zealand time, 2am their time and they made the decision to put him on a plane to New Zealand. We very quickly had a discussion with the team,” Highlands CEO Josie Spillane was quoted as saying by Fairfax NZ.

“Tony and I were confident in Aston Martin's ability to deliver and we decided to stick to the plan.”

Aston Martin has not explained what went wrong with the car, aside to say it was a computer fault.

Proving that all came right on the day, here’s a video of the rectified car running on its big day.