Once an RAF and then a USAF SAC airbase, Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome and Proving Ground is well known to British car enthusiasts for its near two-mile runway, making it about the only place in the UK where supercars can legally knock on the door of 200mph.
Today, we’re taking part in shakedown trials for a car Lamborghini has never made: a rear-wheel drive Aventador. More than that, it’s 300 lb lighter and has 60hp more!
The weather gods had been kind to us – it’s unusual sunny but also windy and bitterly cold. On the other hand, cold air is good for internal combustion engines, and it carries the sound a long way.
The scream of the Oakley Design Aventador LP760-2 V12, amplified by its titanium exhaust system, reaches us long before the orange
apparition lunges into view. Jon Oakley is on his return run and the symphony of engine and exhaust grows to manic proportions. Yet it suddenly falls away as the nose dips under braking. The Lambo slows at the end of the runway, pulling alongside the stock Aventador we’d brought as a benchmark.
The car throws off serious heat into the frigid atmosphere. And as the butterfly door opens, it’s clear why so many enthusiasts fall under the spell of the Raging Bull. In fact, some wealthy customers have paid well over sticker price to jump the queue for the Aventador, so it might not seem such a stretch to the $500,000 (£320k) Oakley’s cars have sold for (depending on spec). But if you already have an Aventador, the modifications will set you back $95000.
So what’s the rationale for the Oakley Design LP760-2? Believe it or not, even in this rarefied atmosphere, there are some for whom this exclusive club simply isn’t exclusive enough. Personalisation is the name of the game.
The first clue lies in the name. The Oakley LP760-2 has 760hp and 2WD. “This isn’t about making the Aventador better per se, but rather about emphasizing its good points and playing down the less good ones to create a better balance,” explained Oakley founder, Jon Oakley.
For those unfamiliar with Oakley Design, Jon’s a respected test- and race driver whose specialty is setting up cars for some well-known road and race teams. His company gained its reputation with engine, suspension and aerodynamic additions for Porsches and the Ferrari Italia. Lamborghini is the third marque in the portfolio.
“The Aventador is relatively slow to turn into a corner and has a tendency to understeer,” Jon explained. “The general feedback from clients is that it feels too sensible, Audi-like, losing the aggressive, razor edge feel of earlier cars like the Murcielago LP670 SV.
“That was my reaction when I first drove the car,” said Jon. “I felt many of these issues could be addressed by removing the four-wheel drive system. So we placed orders for five cars in late 2010, which were scheduled to arrive in November.”
“November came and went, and we heard there were teething problems that halted production,” Jon continued. “So we didn’t get our first Aventador until March this year. The second and third cars have now arrived, and the last two are due by July.”
“We sold all five cars almost immediately on the strength of our press release,” said Jon. “Three will go to customers who have our Ferrari Italia conversion. This orange car is the only right-hand drive example, all the others were LHD and white.”
“Development took longer than you expect,” he explained. “When you delve into a new car, you are on a steep learning curve. After six weeks working overtime into the early morning, the first car was finished at 2.45am in time for the Auto Italia Show at Brooklands, where it was met with an amazing response.”
In addition to converting the car to rear-drive only, the company’s objectives were to improve downforce, reduce weight, increase power and improve the soundtrack.
The weight reduction program involved removing all the front-drive components: The front differential and mounts tipped the scales at 92 lb, the driveshafts 35 and 31 lb – a total of 160 lb.
Next to go was the factory exhaust, weighing 88 lb, where Oakley’s titanium replacement weighs only 9 lb!
Finally, the forged HRE wheels removed 15 lb from the unsprung weight at each corner, saving 62 lb across the four wheels, even though each is 0.5” wider than standard, helping to reduce sidewall flex from the factory Pirellis. All this adds up to an overall weight reduction of 300 lb.
Oakley Design’s carbon-fiber aerodynamic kit consisted of 15 functional and 12 cosmetic parts, made from the same material as used by McLaren. As with previous Oakley cars, the aero parts were developed in the MIRA wind tunnel. “We spent more than 14 hours in the wind tunnel over a three-day period, testing at simulated speeds over 120mph,” Jon explained.
“The front splitter extends 50mm further forward than stock while the front intakes have been reworked to increase airflow, and the leading edges are 10mm longer, add further downforce. We now have 170 lb of downforce over the front axle at 125mph,” he said.
The stock Aventador looks incomplete at the rear because it’s begging for a rear wing. The carbon Oakley wing sits on alloy uprights that facilitate adjustment up to a 45˚ angle of attack.
Carbon wing adjustable to 45˚ for 535 lb of rear downforce at 125mph, but tested proved 15˚ and 180 lb optimal to balance front-end. Rear bumper vents are wider to increase engine bay cooling in the absence of electronic factory wing
Carbon wing adjustable to 45˚ for 535 lb of rear downforce at 125mph, but tested proved 15
“While 45˚ would provide 535 lb of downforce over the rear axle at 125mph, the wind tunnel showed that 15˚, delivering 180 lb of downforce, balances the front-end,” Jon said. “This was borne out in high speed testing in France where the balance felt absolutely right.”
The 15˚ angle of the Oakley wings is 17˚ less than the high-speed position of the deck-mounted factory spoiler. This obviously produces less drag, benefiting top speed.
The top carbon air intakes at the rear are 25mm wider than stock to increase the ram-air effect into the airbox system. The side sill intakes are extended 50mm, and opened to increase airflow to the radiators for better cooling.
Finally, the rear bumper vents are 20mm wider to evacuate hot air from engine bay. This was necessary because the rear wing disables the deck-mounted, factory wing that normally lifts 20mm for engine cooling.
The factory claims the Aventador’s 6498cc V12 develops 700hp at 8250rpm and 510 lb-ft of torque at 5500rpm. Jon Oakley’s target was to increase this to at least 750hp.
“We baselined the new car on the dyno and saw 683.25hp with 524.2 lb-ft of torque,” said Jon. “Although we expect that to improve slightly with a few miles under its belt.”
The power increases from the Oakley modifications arrived in two stages. “When we improved the engine’s breathing with the larger intakes and less restrictive titanium exhaust, we saw 733.4hp at 8000rpm with 547 lb-ft of torque at 5500rpm,” Jon explained.
“Then we remapped the two ECUs to optimise fuelling and ignition for our parts, after which the dyno showed 760.21hp at a lower 7250rpm, with 577 lb-ft at 5500rpm.”
Part of the ECU programming involved addressing the traction control protocols, while leaving Launch Control unaltered. “Essentially, we trick the ECU into thinking the car is moving less than 10mph so it doesn’t want to send power to the missing front differential,” Jon explained. “Thus, the car thinks it’s rear-wheel drive.”
The suspension geometry was reset to compensate for the lower weight and rear-drive balance but there’s no change to the ride height. However, Oakley Design is working on a four-way adjustable titanium-cased damper kit to make the ride more compliant, with a range of adjustment for the track.
Behind The Wheel
The lower weight and greater power has an amazing effect on the Aventador. The standard car needs revs before it gets on cam but with the added torque and less bulk to move, the Oakley car punches you down the road with a ferocity that assaults your senses. It simultaneously assails you with a spine-tingling soundtrack; so that’s two issues addressed.
Taking drive away from the front wheels feels like a veil has been removed from power steering ability to communicate. Turn-in was crisper, and without the front wheels pushing, understeer was reduced; advantages three and four.
Next up was a big surprise. You’d think that 760hp going to the rear wheels would make the Oakley Aventador a real handful, but it’s not. And despite the company’s efforts to disable the stability system, it wouldn’t go away completely.
Put the car in Corsa mode, press the Off button, and you assume the car will drift. But no matter how hard we tried, it kept jumping back in extremis. This was very frustrating.
The Oakley Design LP760-2 is nothing short of epic. From its orange snout to the incredible soundtrack, the car remains branded into your retinas and eardrums long after it departed.
My first encounter with the Aventador LP760-2 was a mixture of elation and disappointment. Its riveting appearance carries the gravitas of any supercar but with the off-the-scale street smarts of a prizefighter.
A study in the art of the razor-edged, stealth-fighter school of car design, the Aventador has a matching interior with space-age LED instruments and red flip-up cover for the Engine Start button that would make a Top Gun pilot feel at home. However, for all that theater, the driving experience left me slightly bemused.
Compared to the Murciélago, its voice is more remote, and the handling is tamer. With its state-of-the-art safety systems, unless you do something terminally stupid, this latest all-wheel drive Lambo is unlikely to put you into a flat spin.
Despite the concessions, the Aventador does have a hard edge that’s a throwback to its predecessors. For all its cutting edge carbon-fiber construction and electronics, the race-style suspension is distinctly old school, eschewing the comfortable active damping used by Ferrari and McLaren. For that alone, the Aventador is hard work over distance.
The other negative is its seven-speed ISR paddle-shift transmission. While it may be lighter than a dual-clutch system, the software calibration delivers upshifts that kick like a mule in Corsa mode.
Fortunately, the finer driving points of Lamborghini’s flagship are largely irrelevant to potential owners since there’s already a two-year waiting list.
2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP760-2
6498cc V12 with titanium exhaust and custom software
stock seven-speed ISR transmission in RWD only
Wheels & Tires
19x9.5” front, 20x12.5” Oakley Design/HRE forged wheels with 255/35 ZR19 front, 335/30 ZR20 rear Pirelli P Zero tires
27-piece Oakley Design carbon fiber kit including front splitter and intakes, side channels, mirror caps, adjustable rear wing, rear outlets
Oakley Design carbon fiber sill plates