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McLAREN P1 THE PASSION AND PEOPLE BEHIND BRITAIN’S NEW HYPERCAR


‘IT WOULD BE A WASTE OF LIFE TO DO NOTHING WITH ONE’S A B I L I T Y, F O R I F E E L T H AT L I F E IS MEASURED IN ACHIEVEMENT, NOT IN YEARS ALONE’ BRUCE McLAREN


McLAREN P1 | WELCOME

ONE GOAL: TO BE THE BEST DRIVER’S CAR ON ROAD AND TRACK So said the scribbled notes from that very first meeting in 2009 when McLaren’s boffins sat down and started to sketch out a successor to the legendary F1 supercar. Writing it down is the easy part, of course. We can all dream. Where McLaren is different is that it has turned that lofty goal into a reality. It has taken years of dedication, plus a substantial amount of perspiration, frustration and inspiration. And this special Autocar supplement is a behindthe-scenes celebration of exactly how that’s been achieved and some of the people who have made it happen. McLaren is used to reaching for the stars; its 12 Formula 1 drivers’ championships and eight constructors’ crowns are a testament to the vision of its founder, Bruce McLaren, and the men and women who keep the Kiwi’s legacy alive. With McLaren, we have come to expect success, be it from its racing glory, road car expertise or myriad other projects to which it is applying its expertise. But, for all that, we shouldn’t be complacent in recognising the brilliance and determination that lies behind each achievement. The P1 is not merely a staggering car; it is also a standard bearer for all that McLaren Automotive stands for. It rekindles memories of the passion and performance of the F1, crowns the technical achievements of the 12C and underlines the levels of prowess that are being poured into future models. New car stories don’t get any bigger – and we’re proud and delighted to have chronicled them all.

JIM HOLDER, EDITOR

CONTENTS

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TOURS OF DUTY

6 F1 CAR FOR THE ROAD

How the P1’s on-track manners were honed around the feared Nürburgring Nordschleife

BIRTH OF ‘PROJECT 12’

14 BRUCE McLAREN

Why McLaren set out to build the most potent performance car on both road and circuit

UNDER THE SKIN DESIGN STORY

48 EXTREME TESTING

From hillclimbing to hypercars, these are the defining moments in the car firm’s past

30 UNSUNG HEROES

McLaren design chief Frank Stephenson on combining aerodynamics and aesthetics

30

42

Remembering the man whose vision continues to inspire the company

22 HISTORY OF McLAREN

All of the P1’s major components stripped down and laid bare

36

How Formula 1 racing technology is transferred to McLaren’s road cars

Profiling some of the key people involved in making the P1 a reality

56

We join the P1 development team for hot-weather tests in the California desert

52 THE TECH SPEC

64

Everything you need to know about the P1 in facts and figures

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McLAREN P1 | LAPPING THE ’RING

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THE SEVEN MINUTE ITCH McLaren says the P1 is capable of lapping the Nürburgring’s 13-mile Nordschleife in less than seven minutes. Matt Saunders is there to see them attempt it PHOTOGRAPHY PATRICK GOSLING


McLAREN P1 | LAPPING THE ’RING

n There are more legends associated with the ’Ring than the Iliad and some are writ large on the track. This P1, driven here from Woking, is bidding to joi n the elite

I

magine motorsport’s map of the world spattered with little orange dots. Each one represents a circuit owned – albeit only in a figurative sense – by McLaren. Each dot is an outright lap record. No one has ever turned up at Germany’s Hockenheimring, for example, and gone quicker than Kimi Räikkönen did in his McLaren MP4-19B in 2004, or beaten the time that he set at Suzuka the following year. The same man-plus-team combination ‘owned’ Spa Francorchamps until 2007 – when the Belgians changed the circuit. Bahrain belongs to Pedro de la Rosa, 2005 – pub quiz gold, that one. Even Mount Panorama, home of the Bathurst 1000, has an unofficial lap record set by McLaren: Jenson Button, 2011, as part of a publicity stunt ahead of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Adding one more little dot to that map sounds straightforward enough. After all, it’s not as though any of the above were objectives for the team at the time they were set; they were just the natural consequence of designing and running some of the fastest

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cars, driven by some of the most talented drivers, at the very pinnacle of motorsport. When you’re McLaren Racing, you accumulate lap records a bit like a track-day regular does ‘noise test pass’ stickers. Standing in a disproportionately small pitlane, McLaren Automotive chief test driver Chris Goodwin is striking exactly that sort of tone, being almost blasé about what he’s building up to do. Nothing to see here, apparently. No one is fooled. He has come to the Nürburgring Nordschleife to set a benchmark lap time for the P1 – not necessarily a lap record, but certainly with the goal of achieving a sub-seven-minute lap time, the target set by McLaren boss Ron Dennis when he unveiled the car at the Paris motor show in 2012. Until the morning damp has evaporated from the shaded parts of the 13-mile circuit, the P1 is running smoothly and Goodwin is into his groove, talk of times is neatly skirted. And for the moment there are several times that no one – especially yours truly – wants to mention. One of them is the existing lap record for ◊

n Chris Goodwin (below) is McLaren’s chief test driver and he has only one speed: ‘on it’


LOCATION

NÜRBURG, GERMANY BUILT

1927 LENGTH

12.93 MILES TURNS

154

SURFACE

ASPHALT, CONCRETE

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McLAREN P1 | LAPPING THE ’RING ∆ a series-production road car around this bumpy, treacherous and uniquely testing ribbon of road: 6min 48sec, in a Radical SR8 LM, driven by Michael Vergers in 2009. Then there’s the time set by Pagani’s Zonda R – not a road-legal car, but still a hypercar capable of 6min 47.5sec around here. Which sounds like going some. Finally, there’s the one that really matters: the time set in only September this year, by a rival hybrid hypercar, the Porsche 918 Spyder. The tooth-and-nail rival is more similar to the P1, notionally, than almost anything else to ever turn a wheel around here, and its fate seems intimately tied to the McLaren’s. The Porsche did a 6min 57sec. We wouldn’t be here today if McLaren didn’t think the P1 had the potential to break some, if not all, of those records, but for now the official mantra is purely of getting under seven minutes. But to call that a given, even in a 900bhp, all-carbonfibre game-changer like the P1, would be like calling Mount Everest a gentle leg-stretcher. The P1 is still under development; Goodwin and the team

n Saunders (on left) straps in beside Goodwin for a quick lap

are still ironing out the creases from this super-sophisticated machine. And even if it were completely finished, getting the maximum performance potential out of it at a place like the Nürburgring will take time and commitment. “The P1 we’re doing this with is completely standard, on standard tyres,” says Goodwin. “If it wasn’t, we’d be here for the wrong reasons. As it is, this forms part of our development programme. The minute we start fiddling – departing from the standard set-up for whatever reason – the value of the time and effort we’re expending is lost.” Good win is standing next to a silver P1 prototype being cleaned and rigged with cameras, microphones and data-loggers. It’s already in Race mode – dropped through 50mm on its springs, rear wing fully extended, like it’s about to line up on the grid. “It’s hard to believe with it looking like this, but one of the engineers drove it here from Woking over the weekend,” Goodwin says, “and we’ll be filling the tank and driving it back there after we’re finished. “This is a car with a roof and a boot, power steering and airbags, comfortable seats and air conditioning. It’s built to do everything, to very high standards on quality and durability, 10 AUTOCAR.CO.UK

and it’ll be usable every day for decades to come. Making a car like this go even close to setting the time of something weighing half as much – you know, basically a spaceframe competition car with numberplates [a thinly veiled reference to the aformentioned Radical] – that’s asking a lot.” Goodwin is ushered away for some further preparations. Meanwhile, there’s time to take stock and consider what relevant history McLaren has at the ’Ring, and how realistic it is to expect the P1 to smash its way into the record books. Two years ago a McLaren 12C coupé was driven to an unofficial lap time of 7min 28sec, and not even by one of Woking’s own hotshoes. Kerb weight excepted, there’s a lot more of everything to the P1: power, torque, rigidity, grip, downforce, you name it. But as the man from the PR department tactfully reminds me, Goodwin will still need to find fully two seconds over the already quick 12C for every kilometre of track, in order to hit the bullseye with the P1. Through the high-speed and high-downforce sections, he might do that – perhaps even more. But for every kilometre of the lap? To pull out two seconds? It does seem like a lot. Still, he’s got the run of the place today, the same tomorrow, and plenty of options to come back again on another day if necessary. The plan is to perform for the cameras for most of the morning, have a few shakedown laps and then stop at noon, take stock and get back out for a few last, full-bore circuits when the conditions are just so – when the tyre temperatures are spot on, the car’s systems are performing perfectly and the driver is likewise. There will also be time, I’m told, for a passenger ride in this P1 for one slightly awestruck journalist.

HURRICANE FORCE During the morning, we drive out to Karussell to watch the P1, and its driver, limbering up. You can hear the car about a mile away, through the trees. And what you hear isn’t so much like an approaching car, but more like a very localised and particularly fast-moving hurricane. The whistle of air displaced by the P1 – in its wake, plus the sheer volume forced out by the turbos – announces its arrival long before you can hear the V8. And when you do hear the rising and falling of revs, it’s just as if a slightly louder, angrier 12C were driving straight at you. There’s no spine-tingling scream, but there’s plenty of mechanical thrash, plus the occasional pops, bangs, fizzes and hisses of forced induction. This is what the ultimate in 21st century efficient performance sounds like. Goodwin is on it already; he only has one setting, his colleagues tell me. And although he’s only supposed to be supplying a focal point for the cameramen, he’s still attacking Karussell with enough commitment to make the P1 bottom out like a kart over a high kerb. I tackle him on the subject when we return to the pitlane, as most of the cameras are being removed. “I’m losing a good couple of ◊

n The big rear wing helps to generate the downforce needed to commit fully to high-speed corners but drops to avoid impeding the car’s outright speed on straights


The whistle of air displaced by this car — in its wake, plus the sheer volume forced out by the turbos — announces its arrival long before you hear the V8

n The tyres and suspension settings are all standard showroom spec; temporary cameras are not

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McLAREN P1 | LAPPING THE ’RING

n Goodwin circulates at speed with almost forensic precision to his lines

∆ seconds around that corner, but we just

have to accept it,” he says. “There are so many different kinds of surface here; it’s not possible to have a perfect car for all of them. If it were a racing car, maybe we’d swap the bump-stops to create a bit more clearance. But that’s exactly what I was talking about earlier. You’ve got to guard against getting sucked into an everdecreasing spiral at this place – against trying too hard to chase a lap time.” So what qualifies this man to drive today? “Lots and lots and lots of development laps, over many, many years, mostly,” he says. “You’ve got to be more than familiar with the place to drive the P1 to its true potential here. Knowing what’s around the next corner isn’t enough. Your line’s got to be precise to within that much,” he says, peering at me though an inch and a half of fresh air between his thumb and forefinger. There are enough corners for 10 typical short circuits around the Nordschleife, and Good win says he never gets mixed up. It’s incredible how calm and collected he is for someone who, before long, could very well beat Jackie Stewart’s pole position time for the 1971 German Grand Prix. On standard tyres, remember. And in a production car weighing one and a quarter tonnes. Right, now it’s my turn to find out what that might feel like. All of a sudden, I’m levering my bonce into a borrowed openface helmet and my backside into the P1’s passenger seat. “We’ll take it steady for a few corners, to get some heat into the tyres,” Goodwin shouts, as we spear down towards Hatzenbach. Steady? This is steady? For the love o’ Mike. Good win has spared me the g-force of a full-bore standing start, but even picking

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up from 80mph, the P1’s performance feels incredible. Given the drag that must be involved, I expected the car’s rate of acceleration to tail off much more quickly above 120mph, but there’s no sign of that as we surge down towards the first big stop for Aremberg. The electric motor chimes in with a big slug of boost every time Goodwin comes back on to the pedal, making the car feel uncannily responsive at really big speeds. After the fiddlier stuff early on in the lap, the faster third and fourth-gear bends come thick and fast. They’re scary but they reveal plenty about the car, as it gets somewhere near full stride and that wing and those splitters begin to work. As you’d expect of a racing driver in a car with so much aerodynamic grip, Goodwin charges hard on the way in – so hard that, for a moment, you fear for the circuit’s legendarily expensive Armco. But then the P1 reacts, seemingly coming up with some extra mid-corner purchase from somwhere. Maybe it’s ‘brake steer’, or the active suspension firming up under load and delivering more directional power to the front end. But we make the apex time and again – and undramatically enough to cause you to wonder what the hell you were worrying about in the first place. Through the very fast run from Bergwerk, the P1 romps up beyond 150mph with preposterous ease and corners at that speed with amazing stability. Even very fast cars start to wander a bit at this kind of rate, as their tyre carcasses start to flex. But the P1 has much stiffer sidewalls than the average fast car; it needs them to prevent the rubber from collapsing under the ‘weight’ of so much downforce. And so the car seems unbelievably stable and absolutely nailed to

its line at high speeds, its driver guiding it with utter confidence and precision. And thereafter… well, thereafter, if I’m honest, it’s all I can do to stay conscious and not test the capacity of the glovebox with the contents of my stomach. We get airborne at Brunnchen, and I come closest to an Exorcist moment. I close my eyes again. And then I open them just in time to be blown away by the speed that we carry through Galgenkopf and on to the long straight. When it’s over, staggering around with enough lactic acid stored up in my thighs for a stage of the Tour de France, I’m overwhelmingly glad. And amazed. And

n The P1 runs low in track mode and even bottoms out at Karussell


n Everyone is on the edge of their seat, wondering whether the P1 can go under seven minutes

The P1 explodes around the final corner with even more commitment and ferocity than before. Goodwin is on it, all right. But what’s he done? utterly convinced of one thing: that the P1 is capable of things well beyond the talents of most of us to actually ask of it.

THE FLYING LAP Minutes after depositing 100kg of quivering ballast at the kerb, Goodwin is back in the car, a fresh set of perfectly inflated P Zero Trofeo R tyres fitted, and exiting the pitlane – in the wrong direction. Time’s running out on McLaren’s exclusive track access and, on this circuit, an outlap is a lot of time to waste. So Goodwin zips up to Tiergarten anti-clockwise, turns the P1 around and duly launches it up to race speed for what will be only one absolutely full-bore timed lap. He howls past the pit wall, using every last centimetre of track width. Damn it. I’ve been so caught up in the moment, ready to witness the P1 fly-past, that I’ve forgotten there’s a stopwatch on my wrist. Goodwin is probably 30 seconds down the road by the time I remember and prod it into life. He’s out of earshot very quickly – and from that point, the minutes begin to drag their heels. Total quiet descends. No one leaves the pit wall. Four minutes pass, five minutes, and then, not so long after the sixth ticks around on

my watch, the P1 explodes around the final corner with even more commitment and ferocity than before. Goodwin is on it, all right. But what’s he done? Have we witnessed history being made? There are no immediate cheers from McLaren’s polo-shirted support crew, whose huddle on the pit wall is immediately relocated to the returned P1, which looks surprisingly fresh. The brakes are hot but there isn’t a wisp of smoke from them, or even much whirring from the cooling fans or ticking of recovering metal. A few minutes later, Goodwin emerges from the aforementioned huddle and takes off his helmet. For the first time today, he has broken a sweat. “We’ve done it,” he says. “We said anything under seven minutes would be quick enough – and that felt quick enough. We came here today with that goal in mind, and we’ve achieved what we set out to do.” There are smiles and celebrations, but nothing over the top. The P1, remember, was built with the mission statement of being fastest on track and road. Today has ticked off one more goal for the team, but there are plenty more achievements still to be notched up for them and this remarkable car. L


McLAREN P1 | THE BIG IDEA

THE BIRTH OF

PROJECT

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How do you go about creating a game-changing supercar? Steve Cropley hears from the people who laid out the framework for ‘P12’, which we now know as the P1


F

rom the beginning, the standards set for the McLaren P1 hypercar were almost impossibly high. It had to be recognised from the first day it rolled a wheel as one of the world’s greatest cars. No other objective would justify its £866,000 price, allow it to meet Maranello’s LaFerrari and Porsche’s 918 Spyder on its own terms or match the standards laid down by Woking’s man at the pinnacle of everything McLaren, group chairman Ron Dennis. Here, three key men in the 100-strong team that has created the car – McLaren P1 programme director Paul Mackenzie, chief designer Dan Parry-Williams and product manager Jamie Corstorphine – describe what it feels like to accept such a daunting challenge and carry it through to the end. ◊

KEY MEN

DAN PARRYWILLIAMS

PAUL MACKENZIE

JAMIE CORSTORPHINE

CHIEF DESIGNER

McLAREN P1 PROGRAMME DIRECTOR

PRODUCT MANAGER


McLAREN P1 | THE BIG IDEA WHEN DID YOU START PLANNING THE P1? Paul Mackenzie: From the very beginning, we wanted to do a three-car range, so our initial planning for P12, the so-called hypercar, goes right back to 2007. It started in earnest in October-November 2009, our G-zero or ‘gateway zero’ phase, when we laid down our technical targets and what we reckoned the market’s requirements would be. The big question was what the main characteristics of a McLaren hypercar should be. The Bugatti Veyron was already launched, and it was an obvious influence, but it was very powerful but very heavy. We decided we had to deliver an ultimate driver’s car. Jamie Corstorphine: We think a McLaren driver’s car has lots of feel and feedback. It’s a car that feels precise to drive and has a sense of agility. You feel connected at all times, and it’s not unpredictable in any way. One important point is that it gives the driver options about how he or she drives, both in terms of comfort and performance. Specifically, the P1 is the pinnacle of our range, the embodiment of our targets. Its high price represents the time, effort, investment and materials it takes to be the very best McLaren can do.

WHAT WERE THAT CAR’S KEY CHARACTERISTICS? Dan Parry-Williams: The Veyron seemed to us all about top speed. If we followed that path, we’d be involved in an endless chase for power and longer straights, and it wasn’t a race we wanted. We had a great list of attributes for a McLaren driver’s car – compiled by Jamie Corstorphine – but what the P1 really needed was a big idea. The McLaren F1’s big idea was its central seat – the symmetry of it – but we reckoned it would limit sales. We looked at it seriously, but ingress/egress was always going to be a big issue. PM: Mind you, we’re not knocking the F1. The central driver’s seat is cool, and it feels great. But we didn’t think we could hope to sell a modern car of that layout by the hundred…

n From the earliest stage, it was clear that aero function would play a defining role

n The P12 brief spelled out clearly what was required: a car that was about driver satisfaction in every respect, not simply on top speed or against the stopwatch [[1L]] AUTOCAR.CO.UK

‘WelookedattheF1 GTRLeManscarand somecurrentLeMans machinery.Finally,we decidedon600kgof downforceat150mph’


DP-W: There were legislative issues, too. To make a central seat work, you’ve got to open up the whole side of the car and cut away some of the roof. That leaves an enormous hole, which makes it difficult to achieve the stiffness you need for suspension loads and crash legislation.

SO WHAT WAS THE BIG IDEA? DP-W: It had been bubbling away for a while: how cool would it be to turn up at the track with the world’s best driver’s road car, and then just press a button and instantly configure it as the world’s best track car? And how cool to have a car that was more efficient than any other hypercar, that used its hybrid components for extra performance as well as extra efficiency? PM: Those were the starting points. They were big ‘asks’. They meant the car would need a purpose-designed hybrid system – the existing components we found would have made our hybrid supercar slower – and it would need very clever suspension to allow it to use ground effects, which make race cars go as fast as they do.

BY CLEVER SUSPENSION, DO YOU MEAN A SYSTEM THAT COULD ACCEPT MUCH HIGHER AERO LOADS ON THE TRACK WITHOUT BOTTOMING OUT? DP-W: That’s it exactly. You need compliance and subtlety for the road, but when you get to the track, it’s all about maintaining aerodynamic performance by maintaining the right gap between car and ground. That means having precisely the right suspension rates when the car is braking, accelerating and cornering. It has to be very low and very stiff. Everything’s got to change – ride height, damping, roll stiffness – and by several orders of magnitude.

PRESUMABLY, THEN, YOU HAD TO DECIDE EARLY ON WHAT AERO LOADS THE P1 COULD GENERATE? PM: Yes, there was lots of discussion around that, mostly involving n McLaren engineers wanted to make a car that was engaging, precise and predictable

Simon Lacey, the chief aerodynamicist at McLaren Racing. DP-W: We looked at the downforce of the F1 GTR Le Mans car and of some current Le Mans machinery. Finally, we decided on a target of 600kg of downforce at 150mph, just about deliverable in a car like the P1.

WHY CHOOSE 150MPH? DP-W: We thought about the fastest corners we knew and decided that was a sensible target. There aren’t many places in the world where you can corner at more than 150mph…

IS IT TRUE THAT NO PURE ROAD CAR COULD GET CLOSE TO THE P1’S LEVEL OF DOWNFORCE? PM: Yes, it is, but there was a funny side to our finding that out. Early in the P1 programme, we fitted the rear wing from an F1 GTR to one of our 12C mules, albeit with a special splitter that stuck out about a foot. Some spy pics came out of one of our test sessions, and everyone assumed it was the new GT3 car, but it was actually the aero mule for the P1. DP-W: Quite a few of us drove this car, and we learned a helluva lot about the effects of downforce. The car was a 12C but felt like it was completely anchored to the road. It felt easier to drive that any 12C we’d tried up to that point.

HOW WERE YOU GOING TO COPE WITH THE BUILD-UP OF AERO LOADS? IT’S NOT LINEAR, IS IT? PM: That was on our minds. We kitted our mule out with strain gauges and all kinds of instrumentation and then drove it to circuits all over the place, collecting readings, to see if we could achieve the design loads. We also used that car for suspension development. One thing we realised early on was that, ultimately, we might overload the car. Aero loads increase as the square of speed, so in a car this powerful, if you’ve got 600kg at 150mph, you don’t have to go all that much faster to double it. DP-W: It became obvious we’d need to be able to shed aero loads at times, and that we’d need to adjust them to balance the car in corners. Another thing: when you brake for a corner ◊


McLAREN P1 | THE BIG IDEA now a fundamental part of life. It was also pretty clear that with the right hybrid system we could achieve not just improved efficiency but also a performance benefit. We made our initial hybrid decisions a year before Porsche revealed their 918 Spyder, also a hybrid, at Geneva in 2010, and when we saw what they’d done, it was partly a disappointment and partly a validation of what we’d decided.

n The rear wing adjusts in fractions of a second to preserve the optimum balance of downforce

∆ in a ground-effects car, the change in aero balance can be huge. Normally, you have too much downforce at the front and not enough at the rear, so we needed to use our active systems to balance things up: use more wing at the rear and deploy flaps ahead of the front wheels to kill some of the front downforce.

SO THESE DEVICES MOVE CONSTANTLY IN ORDER TO BALANCE THE CAR ON ITS JOURNEY THROUGH A HIGH-SPEED CORNER, DO THEY? JC: Yes, they can work in fractions of a second. The way the rear wing reacts is difficult to

believe – it’s just so close to instant. Matter of fact, we’re thinking of introducing a bit of lag into the retraction of the rear wing, just so people can see it. At the moment, you glance in the mirror after you’ve done some hard braking and you’ve missed it.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HYBRID SYSTEM? DP-W: In our earliest discussions about what the top McLaren supercar should be, we knew we had to acknowledge the fact that fuel economy, efficiency and low CO2 were

PM: The very first time we looked at a hybrid layout, it didn’t make sense. Our calculated power-to-weight ratio came out at about 1.5kW/kg. We needed more like five – and an F1 car is about 12. But there weren’t any suitable components available. Everything was heavy, clumsy and too big. There was no suitable battery, either. All that existing stuff would just have made our car go slower, and we weren’t having that.

SO YOU DECIDED TO MAKE YOUR OWN HYBRID COMPONENTS, THEN? DP-W: Yes, with the help of our technical partners. Clearly, we had some helpers in-house, such as McLaren Electronics, and others we’ve had a close relationship with in other projects.

WHAT HAVEN’T YOU MADE? PM: Nothing much. The system is all-new, but building it was a huge risk when I look back now. The only similar experience we had in the company was with KERS for Formula 1 – not exactly a close fit. And our


team amounted to just 10 people. MercedesBenz probably has about 200.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF YOUR HYBRID SYSTEM? DP-W: We were looking for really good EV-only performance, because cars like this may soon have to function in a zero-emissions environment. We wanted a responsive, sporty feel, almost a feeling of fun, and a good, practical range. I think we’ve achieved all that. The great thing is that when the engine is running, you have the electric motor to smooth any gaps in its torque delivery. That makes for a completely different kind of driving.

HOW DIFFERENT? JC: The real proof of the concept comes when you touch the accelerator. It sounds different. The moment you hit the accelerator, you know it’s neither a conventional turbo nor a normally aspirated engine, but something different. When we started driving it, we all knew what the technology should do for us, but we were still gobsmacked by the results. It’s really potent and exciting, of course, but it’s also amazingly refined.

THE CAR’S IN PRODUCTION. HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’VE BUILT WHAT THE CUSTOMER WANTS? PM: Right at the beginning, we put the main protagonists – Bugatti Veyron, Pagani Zonda,

‘Normally,youhave toomuchdownforce atthefrontandnot enoughattherear, soweneededtouse ouractivesystems tobalancethingsup’

Porsche Carrera GT – together for a static assessment. The findings from that still inform us. Meanwhile, we have a spreadsheet with about 500 lines on it, and on every line there’s a target. There are ‘attribute owners’ right through the company whose job is to deliver standards on things like ride quality, steering feel, NVH [noise, vibration, harshness]. And then we have Jamie, our ‘voice of the customer’.

THE CAR IS EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE. HOW DO YOU JUSTIFY ITS PRICE? DP-W: In the end, the P1’s sophisticated aerodynamics and unique hybrid system are just the means to a very special end. That end is to make a car that can deliver the ultimate road driving experience and also deliver the ultimate racetrack experience – in effect, at the push of a button. That’s the big idea and, as far as we can see, no one else has managed to isolate it, let alone deliver it the way we have. We’re confident the customers will agree. L


McLAREN P1 | UNDER THE SKIN

STRIPPED DOWN AND LAID BARE UNDER THE P1’S SKIN Every component on the P1 has been exhaustively developed and honed for maximum performance. Colin Goodwin discovers the devil in the detail PHOTOGRAPHY PATRICK GOSLING


REAR WING AERODYNAMICS Simon Lacey, head of aerodynamics on the P1, is under no illusions about what’s expected of his department. “The goal is to make every bit of high-pressure air going over the car do a specific job and then disappear. You don’t want it then interfering with another section,” he says. The P1’s rear wing is pretty conventional and is very similar to the F1 car’s aerofoil. When producing maximum downforce, the wing has an angle of attack of 29deg. That’s reduced to 0deg when the DRS system kicks in to reduce the downforce, and it can adjust to any point between those two extremes according to the demands being put on the car. “The key is that you don’t want to keep producing more and more downforce the faster you go,” says Lacey. “At

150mph the P1 is producing 600kg of downforce, which is enough because you’re not going to be cornering at speeds above that. Corners faster than that simply don’t exist. It’s a balance. If we were producing more downforce than that, it would have been wasted. Also, we would have needed to make the suspension stronger and therefore heavier to cope with it. “By having adjustable aerodynamics, not only do we get the downforce we want, but we can also adjust the car’s balance in high and low-speed corners, and how it reacts to steering inputs. This is what we hope will really stand out for a P1 driver; we want them to feel that the car is working with them to give the ultimate driving experience both on road and track.”


McLAREN P1 | UNDER THE SKIN

CLAMSHELLS The P1’s bodywork is made up of two carbonfibre clamshells. Each one can be lifted between thumb and forefinger, such is their lightness and minimalistic design. The front clamshell is removable, but the rear one seen here only comes off during servicing. At other times, for convenience, McLaren has incorporated two flaps behind the roof to give access to the fuel filler, oil and coolant fillers and the battery charger. “Every moulding has been designed to do as many jobs as possible,” says P1 chief designer Dan Parry-Williams. “I hate brackets and nuts and bolts; we ruthlessly remove them where possible.”

The P1 has only five body panels in total: the two clamshells, the front bonnet and the two doors. ParryWilliams’s team’s dedication to saving weight is evident everywhere. For instance, the doors are held on by two small hinges rather than one, as it saves weight. The clamshell’s shapes were almost entirely dictated by aerodynamic and engineering requirements. The hammerhead nose shape, for instance, directs air at two low-temperature radiators to cool the engine and battery. Meanwhile, the bonnet vents redirect hot air exiting the front radiators, ensuring a clean flow of cool air into the roof-mounted snorkel.

TURBOCHARGERS

ENGINE

ELECTRIC MOTOR

The twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 petrol engine in the McLaren P1 is fitted with a new pressure charging system designed to optimise durability and cooling under high-load conditions. The P1’s turbochargers run at 2.4bar (compared with the 12C’s 2.2bar). The compressor and turbine housing are bespoke, designed to fit within the confines of the P1’s tight packaging and to cope with the high-performance capabilities of the car. One similarity to the 12C is that the turbos are water cooled and oil lubricated. The V8 combustion engine on its own produces 727bhp at 7300rpm and 531lb ft of torque from 4000rpm. It’s a dry-sump unit, as on an F1 car, and uses a low-sited flatplane crankshaft to lower the centre of gravity.

Whatever you do, don’t suggest to P1 project manager Paul Arkesden that the engine is a modified version of the 12C’s. While technically you’d have a point, the reality is that the majority of components are very different. “For starters, the block is completely different,” says Arkesden. “So many factors come into play when you’re developing an engine with this amount of horsepower, and on top of that we’re dealing with the complexity and challenges that the P1’s hybrid powertrain throws up.” The engine’s power and the heat it generates mean redesigned cylinder heads, combustion chambers and exhaust valves. Oil and water pumps are new, the oil tank is different and, as you’d expect, the two turbochargers are a bespoke design.

The electric motor weighs 26kg and delivers 176bhp and 192lb ft of torque. It is mounted to the side of the engine block, which in turn requires the engine block’s webbing and structure to be substantially beefed up. As a result, the crankcase is 200g heavier than that of the 12C. As well as providing drive, the electric motor acts as a starter for the twin-turbo V8. It cranks the engine so much faster than a conventional starter motor that the team was concerned the torque reversal might snap or stretch the camchain. As a result, McLaren has modified the cam drive to make it stronger. Unusually for a road car application, the electric motor has internal rotor cooling. This enables the engine to produce its maximum performance for longer periods.

24 AUTOCAR.CO.UK


BATTERY PACK The P1’s batteries and inverter are mounted up in the monocoque. There are 324 individual lithium ion phosphate cells mounted in an aluminium pack. “The great challenge is keeping the batteries cool,” says Richard Hopkirk, McLaren’s battery and electric drive expert. “In an F1 car, boost is used for very brief periods, so there is time for the batteries to cool before the system is used again on the next lap, whereas the P1’s system can be used for prolonged periods. “We’re really proud of how successfully we have managed to control battery temperature. Each cell is cooled by water in a surrounding jacket.” The cooling water for the battery pack, the electric motor and the inverter is channelled to the front of the car, which houses three individual radiators.

AUTOCAR.CO.UK 25


McLAREN P1 | UNDER THE SKIN

EXHAUST The P1’s exhaust system is made from Inconel. This so-called super-alloy was developed in the 1940s for jet engine applications and is now used for such things as the casing of aeroplane black box flight recorders. It is light, exceptionally strong and, most importantly, effective at working under extreme heat loads. In keeping with the P1’s shrink-wrapped design philosophy, the exhaust system has been designed so that it follows the most direct route from the engine out to the back of the car. This not only minimises the system’s weight and ensures it takes up as little room as possible in the P1’s tightly packaged rear end, but it also 26 AUTOCAR.CO.UK

minimises the areas affected by heat dissipation. At 17kg in total, the P1’s exhaust system is 5kg lighter than the 12C’s, which is already a notable lightweight. The direct exit route taken by the P1’s exhaust has in turn allowed the design team to keep the back of the car as low as possible, which both aids aerodynamics and maximises the performance-car styling. Look closely at the angle of the exhaust’s exit and you will see that it has been optimised to match the sloping angle of the rear of the car. This enables it to assist more efficiently in creating downforce by pushing gases under the rear wing to create an area of low pressure.


BRAKES The target for the P1’s brakes was to deliver the same stopping power as that of a GT3 racer, but with enough durability for road use. As a result, the braking system, which has been developed with technology partner Akebono, features aerodynamic aluminium monoblock calipers and uses discs made from a type of carbonceramic never previously seen on a road car. The material was first used on the Ariane space rocket programme because of its heat-resistant properties. It is stronger than conventional carbon-ceramic material, dissipates heat more effectively and can absorb 50 per cent more energy than the carbon-ceramic material used on the 12C’s braking set-up. They are also reckoned to save 4kg over a standard set of carbon-ceramic discs. The P1’s ultimate stopping power is rated at close to 2g.

MONOCAGE

HYBRID DRIVE

STEERING WHEEL

The carbonfibre MonoCage tub, which weighs just 90kg, is a single unit, setting it apart from the 12C’s MonoCell because it incorporates the vehicle’s roof and snorkel air intake into the one-piece structure. The F1-style carbonfibre material from which it is made contains fibres with a stiffness modulus as high as 500GPa — more than twice the stiffness of steel. The construction also contains fibres with a strength greater than 6000MPa, or more than five times the strength of best-grade titanium. Kevlar fibres also run throughout. As a result, safety is improved and weight is driven down. The stiffness also means the suspension geometry can be tuned more accurately because the chassis engineers are working from a more constant base.

Sandwiched between the V8 and the transmission is a clutch and simple gearbox that engages or disengages the electric motor’s drive. By driving the e-motor through a gearbox, McLaren has been able to make it smaller. “In Hybrid mode, when the engine and e-motor are working together, the throttle pedal is more like a torque demand control,” says McLaren’s electric drive expert, Richard Hopkirk. “At low speed, the e-motor adds 369lb ft at 1000rpm, which acts as turbo lag compensation.” The P1’s joker is the IPAS system that provides electric boost for the V8 engine. In Auto, the default driving mode, the driver can use a steering wheel-mounted button to activate IPAS. “If you floor the throttle and don’t press this button,” says Hopkirk, “you’re only getting V8 power.”

Ever held a steering wheel and dreamed of winning an F1 world title? Place your hands on the P1’s wheel and you’re closer to that dream than most, because its shape was created after McLaren computer-scanned its recent world champions’ hand grips and amalgamated them into the design that you see before you. Note, too, that the DRS and IPAS buttons are mounted on the steering wheel, F1 style. To avoid unwanted distractions, there are no other buttons on the wheel. The standard wheel is finished in Alcantara, as per F1, although buyers can specify leather, with carbonfibre inserts. The steering set-up itself is of the electrohydraulic type, with the system’s pump also facilitating the transition between Race and Road modes. AUTOCAR.CO.UK 27


McLAREN P1 | DESIGN


‘W H E N T H E R E ’ S NOTHING LEFT TO T A K E A W A Y, YOU’RE CLOSE T O P E R F E C T I O N’ That’s the approach taken by the design team in shaping the P1. Hilton Holloway gets the inside line from their boss, McLaren design director Frank Stephenson


McLAREN P1 | DESIGN

The P1’s rear clamshell is a very large single piece but, like the nose cone, it is as minimal as possible, mostly, in the case of the rear, to let out the enormous heat generated by the engine.

T

o really understand why the McLaren P1 looks the way it does, I had to walk around to the back of the car and crouch down to get a proper look at the mesh-clad rear end. Squeezed between the car’s huge, double-sided diffuser and the low rear deck is a mesh grille that’s stretched right across the rear of the car. It’s a very open mesh, with huge holes and a very fine structure. I suggest to McLaren design director Frank Stephenson that it looks close to being weak. “This is the maximum thickness we can get away with; it is very thin,” he says. “But it’s calculated to let heat out. We couldn’t have used anything thicker. It wouldn’t perform as well in letting the heat from the engine disperse as quickly and efficiently as possible.” Stephenson has a memorable turn of phrase when describing what the P1’s body has to do: “It’s about getting clean, cold air into the engine bay and hot, dirty air out.” To this end, the P1 has three big air intakes in the nose, two in the doors and one over the cabin, as well as four smaller intakes – two in the quarter lights and two on the rear deck. Stephenson says that, right at the outset of the project, the design team was given figures for “how much air we have to get in [to the car] and how much we have to get out and we match that square centimetre area [in intake sizing]. “We started doing ideation sketches 32 AUTOCAR.CO.UK

in mid-2010 and Dan Parry-Williams [the P1 project chief designer] had two ideas for the basic, underlying structure. One was a radical carbon tub and the other was a derivation of the 12C’s tub but with the addition of a MonoCage to allow support for the over-cabin snorkel, which feeds the turbochargers.” Stephenson says the adaptation of the 12C tub won because “it meant we could keep the weight very low. We are regularly improving the process of building the 12C monocoque. It’s a very complicated process, because when you mount the carbon sheets in the mould, you inject the resin afterwards and you have to make sure you don’t have too many wet spots or too many dry spots. The whole challenge is to get the fabric coated evenly within. But we were very consistent in the process by 2010, so we thought it was probably the best way to go for the P1.”

n A lot of the P1’s original body surfacing didn’t work as intended aerodynamically


The front clamshell is immensely complicated and handmade. The need to get air into the radiators and out around the wheels and nose creates a minimalist structure.

With the huge emphasis on aerodynamics and internal airflow, I ask Stephenson how much freedom his team had for pure styling when, presumably, any proposal needs to spend a lot of time in the wind tunnel. “We were back and forward to the wind tunnel all the time,” he says. “It’s non-stop. The aerodynamics guys are in the wind tunnel every day. Once a week on Friday, everything stops at midday and the scanning people come in and scan the whole car. On the Monday, the data goes back to the CAD guys and the aero guys and they work with that data immediately and they improve and check it.” Stephenson says the aerodynamic tests were carried out with a quarter-scale model. “The first thing we did was the sketch process, narrowing it down to two major themes, which were quite different from each other. And then we did quarter-scale models of those, and when we did CFD [computational fluid dynamics] testing on those, we found out which was more effective. “When we chose which model to take forward, that one was made into a full-size clay model. And it was CFD developed and wind tunnel developed. There’s a lot of fine-tuning. A lot of the original surfacing just didn’t work. In fact, we weren’t getting to our targets for getting the volume of air into the side intakes, which were originally more like those on the 12C. Then we went to this

Frank Stephenson has a memorable turn of phrase when describing what the P1’s body has to do: ‘It’s about getting clean, cold air into the engine bay and hot, dirty air out’

solution, with the air intake on the shoulder of the door, and the volumes of air entering the car went up enormously. We said, ‘Okay, this is a strong characteristic. It looks new and fresh. We can develop that.’ “So the solution of the shoulder radiators was new and the snorkel was pretty much based off proven technology with the F1. In fact, the aerodynamics in certain areas were very much F1-driven, including the cutaway behind the front wheel, which is legal, although many companies wouldn’t do it.” Another problem for the stylists was the hot, dirty air that was travelling through the big nose-mounted radiator and being expelled by the twin vents in the nose. “We wanted 110 litres of boot space in the front and the main radiator was also in the nose of the car,” says Stephenson. “One big problem we found was that the hot air that exited the radiator had to be carefully controlled so it wasn’t sucked into the rear of the car through the snorkel or through the door intakes. “Using the wind tunnel and CFD tests, we got the expelled air to run across the side windows, so that it never re-enters the car. It is easy to talk about it, but when you actually see how the air goes through the car – which you can when it is in the wind tunnel – it’s an incredible sight.” One of the most complicated structures in the P1’s make-up is the doors. The skin is made up of 15 separate pieces, partly ◊ AUTOCAR.CO.UK 33


McLAREN P1 | DESIGN

n Wildlife, sci-fi and planes helped to inspire the P1’s design; full-size clay model is true to the spirit of the sketch, but aero played a big part

‘In those minimal areas where you have freedom to interpret or give it character, such as the air intakes or the headlamps, we used that freedom’ 34 AUTOCAR.CO.UK

∆ because the main part of the door structure not only channels air into the rear radiators but the lower section of the door also acts as a channel for air. The lower edge of the door has a three-sided, box-section moulding that seals against the centre tub, to create another vent, taking air from the front wheel wells to the engine bay. At the tail of the P1, Stephenson says the big design constraint was the need to get the rear deck as low as possible. “The exhaust position is dictated by the shortest route out; we were able to push it as low as possible by cutting two crescents into the rear subframe,” he says. “That meant we could have a low rear end, which was one of the aims at the beginning of the project.” Perhaps the most innovative stylistic feature is the tail-lights, or what might better be described as the rear light strip. Trapped between the very low rear deck and the need for the most open tail possible, there was no space for conventional light clusters. “With the open rear, we thought the tail-lights were going to be an issue, so running a very thin LED strip along the trailing edge of the body colour was the only answer we had,” says Stephenson. “It’s not the cheapest solution, and by packaging as tight

as you can, there are a lot of tolerance issues. You have to vibration-weld the lenses, which can be a very expensive process. When you tint lenses – which is also expensive – you need more powerful LEDs to get the same amount of light to show.” The design theme for the interior was to “minimise as much as possible”, he says. “We’ve used unlacquered carbonfibre everywhere and shrink-wrapped everything. Even the vents are popping through the dash top. We tried to give a cocooned, wraparound feel to the cockpit. Everyone says that, but this really is. The package is different from the 12C; the driver is tilted 1deg to the inside, which gives an extra 2.5cm of head clearance on the cant rail. It also allows more tumblehome on the side glass and helps to minimise the car’s frontal area. “Another feature on this car was to get the windscreen base as low as possible and the


This rather more finished door trim design made it into production, without the highly finished upper trim section. McLaren’s designers plumped for a single colour scheme.

Early concept drawings for the interior show how extreme the ‘wrap-around’ cockpit theme was. This sketch even considers continuing the seat structure into the sill and door moulding.

top as high as possible,” says Stephenson. “You really notice that the header is way up and the cowl is very low. So the vision angles are very good and we’ve again made sure that the highest point you see from the driver’s seat is directly above the front wheels. In fact, the header rail is non-structural. You could homologate and drive the car without the header bar. The A-pillars and roof pillars are a continuous structure.” At the end of Stephenson’s detailed walkthrough of the P1, it’s hard not to conclude that there’s very little pure styling on this car, which has grown out of rigorous wind tunnel calculations. “It’s technical styling,” he says. “The basic idea of the car was to make it very effective aerodynamically, and in those minimal areas where you can have freedom to interpret it or give it some character, such as the air intakes or the headlamps, we used that freedom. “You can, for instance, make the quarter lights any shape you want as long as it doesn’t mess up the performance of the intakes. But there was also plenty of design effort into every single radius on the body. We are carving out and trying to minimise rather than using sensual, voluptuous shapes, where you are adding material. When you can’t take away any more, you are close to perfection.” L

EXHAUSTIVE IN THEIR ATTENTION TO DETAIL After being talked around the P1 by Frank Stephenson, I meet up with the rest of the core design team at the McLaren headquarters, near Woking. Mark Roberts is the McLaren studio manager and one of the few people whose career crosses from the original F1 road car through the Mercedes McLaren SLR to the new P1. Robert Melville is a senior designer who mainly worked on the exterior of the P1, as did designer Paul Howse. Anna-Louise Clough was in charge of the materials used in the P1’s interior, as well as the colours used inside and out. What comes most forcefully out of a wide-ranging conversation about the designers’ various influences (wildlife, science fiction, aeroplanes) is this team’s astonishing, and instinctive, attention to detail. When we walk into the McLaren reception area, the design team is all over the P1 that is on display, one of the very last pre-production cars. Stephenson and the other four designers are earnestly discussing the way the ‘helicopter tape’ (a heavy-duty clear plastic finish that protects the carbonfibre panels from stone damage) has been fitted to the door. Although it is very hard to see, the tape has been finished in a vertical cut down the face of the door panel. Stephenson and his team gather around and run their fingers along the near-invisible edge. The consensus is that the tape edge should be cut on an

angle, either following the grain of the carbonfibre or the shape of the winglet-cum-sill extension. Around the back of the car, it is possible to spy — down the side of the exhaust pipe — an unglamorous steel clip, nestled in the engine bay. That, and two screws holding down the titanium heat shield under the exhaust pipe, is causing the designers much chin rubbing. Clough is also unsure about the finish on the titanium grille that sits over the engine. It’s highly impressive that such concern for the finest details is going right down to the production wire. And if this is the attention that is lavished on the smallest clip and piece of clear tape, what effort must have been expended under the skin? HILTON HOLLOWAY AUTOCAR.CO.UK 35


McLAREN P1 | THE F1 CONNECTION

PUTTING F1 Formula 1 is an intrinsic part of McLaren’s DNA, but translating F1’s advanced know-how and technology to its ultimate road car has been a selective and hard-won process, as Jim Holder reports PHOTOGRAPHY STAN PAPIOR

1981

MP4/1

1993

F1 GTR

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ormula 1, Can-Am, Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula 5000 and Le Mans victories may be the foundations on which McLaren is built, but victory on the racetrack is no guarantee of success when it comes to building road cars, especially when they have ambitions as lofty as the P1’s. Whether a company without a deep pedigree in racing could build the ‘world’s best driver’s car’ is open to debate. McLaren, inevitably, argues that it couldn’t. What is not in doubt, though, is that McLaren has been able to apply lessons learnt in racing to the development of its ultimate car. The road and race car divisions at McLaren may only be separated by – what else? – a pure white corridor, but forging the same race-bred mentality between the two sides has required far more than a shared postcode and a belief that ideas would somehow flow between them during the occasional canteen chat. Many of the P1’s senior technicians have

36 AUTOCAR.CO.UK

F1 backgrounds, including Axel Wendorff, the head of powertrain, who worked in F1 for 14 years, and Richard Hopkirk, the electric drive team leader, who spent seven years in racing, culminating in his time on the pitwall directing Lewis Hamilton’s title campaign. They’ve joined road car specialists such as Carlo Della Casa, technical director at McLaren Automotive, and ex-TWR ace and Aston Martin Vanquish originator Dan ParryWilliams – who have almost 50 years’ working on high-end sports cars between them – to form the superteam behind the supercar. Forging this group of disparately skilled people into a team with an F1 mentality has taken time and effort, says Della Casa, but it has ultimately benefited the P1. “We keep a lot of interaction between the two areas,” he says. “People move between the two sides, which helps the flow, but we also regularly talk to each other about the technology we are using and how it can be applied.”

Della Casa isn’t short of examples. “The F1 car is designed on computer and in the wind tunnel initially,” he says. “Testing is very limited, so our simulation know-how is world class. When we produced the P1, we followed a similar strategy. Saving time and development cost is critical to a bespoke manufacturer like McLaren. When we delivered the P1’s aerodynamics, it was critical that we didn’t have to spend too much time on the road.” Further examples trip from Della Casa’s tongue: vehicle dynamics expertise, aerodynamics know-how, suspension geometry, kinematics, software developments and so on. To highlight his arguments, five specific examples are detailed overleaf. For all this, Della Casa is also at pains to emphasise that you don’t need to have the talent of an F1 driver to exploit the P1’s capabilities. He gives much credit for the P1’s all-round driveability –no matter what your talent – to McLaren’s choice of


INTO THE P1 F

1998

2013

MP4/13

MP4–28

2008

2013

MP4–23

P1

lead development driver, former high-level single-seater and GT racer Chris Goodwin. Some may be surprised that McLaren hasn’t turned to Jenson Button and Sergio Perez for feedback, but the implication is clearly that a lap-time-obsessed racing driver isn’t always best placed to deliver a car that is as thrilling and accessible as it is quick. “Chris has driven F1 cars, raced at a very high level and has extensive knowledge of road cars,” says Della Casa. “He has been with McLaren for many years and knows what the McLaren customer wants. As a racing firm, we are all about lap times. But Chris gives everyone involved in a project with him the right spirit to achieve both sides of the coin. “The P1 is a car that, as soon as you arrive at the track, delivers an amazing level of performance: neutral handling, great power, the aero to help you put this torque down, a consistent but amazing level of downforce and steering feel and so on. Where we’ve worked

‘FortheF1car,testing isverylimited,so oursimulationknowhowisworldclass. Whenweproduced theP1,wefollowed asimilarstrategy’

hardest is to deliver a spirit in the car that allows any driver, no matter what their ability, to enjoy the right spirit of a true driver’s car. Yet, within that, we also have a road car that doesn’t ask you to compromise.” Finally, Della Casa highlights the F1 team’s dedication to stretching boundaries as inspiration for all involved in the P1 project. “We have used our understanding of technology to stretch every parameter. We wanted the best noise and vibration control and yet the best vehicle dynamics. Impossible? No, it turns out it isn’t,” he says. “By keeping at our core the experience we wanted to give the driver, we have been able to deliver both. The systems – the adjustable ride height, the dampers, the suspension set-up, the moveable rear wing – mean we can deliver outstanding performance across a far wider variety and spread of parameters than before. Thanks to F1, we could push boundaries without introducing compromises.” ◊ AUTOCAR.CO.UK 37


McLAREN P1 | THE F1 CONNECTION

F1 TECH FOR THE ROAD

McLAREN MP4/1 (PIONEER IN CARBONFIBRE) The first carbonfibre Formula 1 car was introduced by McLaren in 1981, having been designed by John Barnard with input from the aerospace industry. For a long time, carbonfibre’s cost and complex manufacturing process made it a fringe material on road cars. Today, McLaren has used its F1 know-how on the P1 — and the rest of its road car range — in the areas of ‘pre-preg’ autoclave technology and precision resin transfer moulding. McLaren’s expertise allows the 90kg carbonfibre MonoCage tub to be a single unit, which offers safety and weight benefits.

McLAREN F1 GTR (ULTIMATE ROAD CAR) In line with McLaren’s pioneering use of carbonfibre technology, the F1 road car was the first all-carbon-bodied road car when it was launched in 1993 — and the GTR was the ultimate example of its breed. Originally imagined by its creator, Gordon Murray, as an ultimate road car, it soon morphed into a race car, winning Le Mans in 1995. Like the F1, the P1 has a carbonfibre monocoque, body panels and interior. The P1 and GTR also share an ability to generate downforce via ground-effect suction. On the P1, this is generated by the aero-efficient shape and airflow management, plus the variable ride height, which lowers the car by 50mm in race mode.


McLAREN MP4/13 (BRAKE STEER) In 1998 McLaren’s Formula 1 cars dominated the sport, taking both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles — and one of the reasons for their speed was their innovative brake steer system, which had been introduced the previous year and tucked the nose in tighter to the apex by applying braking force to the inside rear wheel. The system, which was subsequently banned in F1 for offering a clear performance advantage, allowed the drivers to brake later into corners and get on the power earlier on the exit. The P1 uses a similar system, although it is controlled via the Electronic Stability Control system, so it requires no extra components and adds no weight.

McLAREN MP4–23 (DESIGN INSPIRATION) Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 championship-winning car was striking not only for its speed but also the multitude of aerodynamic appendages that adorned it. For the P1’s design director, Frank Stephenson, the car was influential. “We had MP4-23 in the studio for about a year, and we studied every element of the car, which was styled for function, not beauty. However, they still made the car look beautiful,” he says. “The car’s scoops and slats influenced the style of the P1. Every duct and every surface does a job, either in aero or in cooling.”

McLAREN MP4–28 (DRS AND KERS) The P1’s electric boost system was going to be called KERS, as it is in F1. But the P1 system became IPAS (Instant Power Assist System) as it emerged how much more it could do than KERS, freed from the restrictions of the F1 rulebook. As a result, IPAS is more than twice as powerful as KERS, producing a 176bhp boost versus a 2013 F1 car’s 81bhp. It is also deployable for far longer periods, battery charge permitting. The P1 and F1 car also share a drag reduction system (DRS). Both work via the rear wing, but the P1’s has a greater effect; it can alter by 29deg, reducing drag by 23 per cent. AUTOCAR.CO.UK 39


McLAREN P1 | BRUCE McLAREN

RACER ENGINEER CONSTRUCTOR INNOVATOR The new P1 wears the surname of this man, Bruce McLaren, who founded McLaren Racing in 1963. In his heyday, he was the youngest driver to win a Formula 1 race and was a dominant force in Can-Am racing in the US. But he was also a talented engineer and businessman who could bring in sponsorship and build race-winning cars that commanded the attention and respect of the world. Steve Cropley looks at the man who created the foundations on which the modern McLaren Group is built


WINNER


McLAREN P1 | BRUCE McLAREN

n McLaren racing a McLaren: those nosecone ‘nostrils’ were his clever idea

T

hree years ago, on the 40th anniversary of the death of Bruce McLaren – the one and only 1960s grand prix driver whose name continues to grace the nosecone of a contemporary F1 car – the employees of the McLaren Group gathered respectfully in their swish Technology Centre near Woking to observe a minute’s silence. When it was done, they did something that most at McLaren reckoned was even more appropriate. They fired up the 7.5-litre V8 engine in one of the mighty McLaren Can-Am sportscars that today’s team continues to maintain and filled the place with a minute’s worth of ear-splitting, race-bred thunder – on the assumption that wherever he is now, the mild-mannered New Zealander who lent his name to the company and died at Goodwood in summer 1970 cannot fail to have heard. Modern McLaren has always been

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scrupulous about honouring the memory of the man it regards as its founder, even though he and Ron Dennis, who has done by far the most to shape the modern McLaren company since 1980, narrowly missed having any direct work connection. For a few years, they worked in the same race paddocks and on the same starting grids and must have known one another. But Bruce McLaren left his job as a works driver for Cooper to run his own team at the end of 1965, the year before 18-year-old Ron Dennis joined Cooper. By the time that Dennis was established as a team owner with Rondel Racing five years later, McLaren was dead, killed instantly in the aerodynamic mayhem that resulted when bodywork detached from his experimental M8D Can-Am sportscar at Goodwood, causing the car to hit a concrete barrier sideways at 100mph. In an era when race

deaths were far more common than they are now, McLaren’s demise at 32 caused the same widespread consternation that Jim Clark’s had done a couple of years before, mainly because, as biographer David Tremayne puts it, “the amiable New Zealander was one of the safest of drivers, least likely to overstep that fine line between success and disaster”. The McLaren team prospered for a while, picking up more Can-Am wins and several F1 championships, but it fell on hard times in the late 1970s as race performances and finances flagged. The decline revealed the true value of the abilities of Bruce McLaren, who always delivered with a light touch, as manager, engineer and finder and schmoozer of sponsors. As the 1980s began, the failing team was absorbed, via a reverse takeover, into Dennis’s burgeoning business. Bruce McLaren, refreshingly, has never


n Co-operative spirit: McLaren with Dan Gurney (in car) in 1967

n Success had its perks (left), but McLaren’s main focus was always the racing and his record in his own Can-Am cars (below) was remarkable

been tagged ‘a genius’, as so often happens with high-achieving racing characters in past eras, especially once they’re dead. McLaren’s greatness – and the reason they continue to venerate him in the modern McLaren organisation – results from his normality, from a balance of human qualities that created an unusual but highly effective leadership style. Journalist Eoin Young, McLaren’s friend and private secretary, summarised him thus: “He never seemed to have any bad points. It didn’t seem possible that anyone in his line of business could be so cheerful all the time, but when things weren’t going right, he just smiled a little less often.” Denny Hulme, his compatriot, fellow racer and lifelong friend, who won the Can-Am championship in his memory the year Bruce died, once reckoned “the reason this team is successful is that we have a better time than anyone else”.

Bruce McLaren always delivered with a light touch, as a manager, engineer and finder and schmoozer of sponsors

n The ever-smiling McLaren with chief designer Robin Herd

Photographs of McLaren, even at the height of his Can-Am pomp, show not a typically lean and hungry racing driver but a small, somewhat porky figure, usually smiling, with a notably relaxed stance and an unpretentious air. He looks very young; visitors at the factory often remarked that it was difficult to know who was boss because everyone was the same age. Adding to the confusion, people who knew him say that McLaren didn’t give lots of orders, either. In an industry stuffed with egotists and autocrats, he had the kind of inclusive personality that attracted good people and inspired them to do their best. The son of a garage owner in the Auckland suburbs, McLaren was only nine when he was rushed to hospital with Perthe’s disease, the softening of a hip joint. It looked as if he’d never walk again, let alone drive a racing car. He spent two years in traction, doing his ◊ AUTOCAR.CO.UK 45


McLAREN P1 | BRUCE McLAREN

n Bruce McLaren was not only competitive in a star-studded era of F1 but also versatile; his first F1 car made its debut at 1966 Monaco GP

∆ schoolwork in hospital and generally demonstrating the stoicism that was later to be his trademark, before making a full recovery, although one leg was always considerably shorter than the other. By the early 1950s, aged 14, McLaren was racing his father’s restored 1929 Austin Seven Ulster in hillclimbs and beach races and doing rather well. Through his teens, McLaren progressed via a Ford 10 special and an Austin-Healey 100 to an F2 Cooper-Climax. At 19, he was runner-up in New Zealand’s open-wheeler championship, racing so well in the 1958 NZ Grand Prix that he caught the eye of Cooper’s Aussie works driver, Jack Brabham. He also won his country’s ‘Driver to Europe’ award and moved to the UK to follow the dream. In those days, an excess of young colonials struggled to establish themselves in European racing, but things went remarkably well for 46 AUTOCAR.CO.UK

McLaren. He raced a works F2 Cooper in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring and so impressed the team with a fifth place that they invited him to join Brabham in an F1 car the following year. He didn’t disappoint, winning the 1959 US Grand Prix in his first season, at the age of 22 years and 80 days, to become F1’s then-youngest winner. At that stage he was still sharing a bedsit, around the corner from the Cooper factory in Surbiton, and his car was a Morris Minor bought from Brabham’s wife. Star status wasn’t on the agenda. That he was to have a respectable F1 career was confirmed by his win in the next season’s first race, in Argentina, although experts at the time felt that McLaren raced in the shadow of Brabham, who was world champion for Cooper in 1959 and 1960. His modest results – just two further wins in a career that ran until his death in 1970 – rather confirm it. Journalist

He won the 1959 US GP in his first season, at the age of 22 years and 80 days, to become F1’s then-youngest winner


n Engineering and testing were as much a part of Bruce McLaren’s talent as racing

Alan Henry’s book, Top 100 Drivers Of All Time, lists McLaren at 74 – 56 places behind Brabham and 22 behind Hulme. “McLaren was not as fast or as tough in a fight as Jack,” is the assessment of French F1 journalist Xavier Chimits in L’Automobile, “but he was much more far-sighted. To pay for his F1 racing, he competed in the North American Can-Am series, where he found rich pickings. He also knew how to attract sponsors and how to delegate.” McLaren’s F1 win record contrasts with his performance in North America’s big-power sportscar series, soon to be dubbed ‘The Bruce & Denny Show’. In three seasons, from 1967 to 1969, the pair won 20 of 23 races, and McLaren’s own haul was nine. Those who recall those now-distant days believe that McLaren’s management and engineering strengths are the true reason his

name has endured. Running through press reports of the time are numerous allusions to his “excellent technical understanding” mixed with his “essential practicality”, which together created a powerful can-do culture. One tale illustrating these qualities occurred while McLaren was testing a new racing car. He noticed with annoyance that the fuel filler flap in the nose appeared to have been left open, but soon realised that the pressure of passing air was failing to force it closed, an indication that the pressure was higher inside the radiator intake than outside. Back in the pits, he attacked the car’s skin with tin-snips. The episode soon led to the inclusion of exit ‘nostrils’ on the upper surface of many a racing car’s body to equalise pressure, thus lowering drag and more easily exhausting cooling air. Today’s McLaren Racing could hardly be more different in size and scale from the

one founded in 1963 by Bruce McLaren. His original move into business was a way of improving his racing chances, but it was so tentative that he remained at Cooper for another two years. Yet when he finally gave the team his full attention, it turned rapidly into a can-do outfit, reminiscent in this key respect of today’s Woking outfit. And it soon grew as news of its cars’ excellence spread, something today’s McLaren bosses especially respect. When the team commemorated the 40th anniversary of McLaren’s death at the Turkish Grand Prix in 2010, team principal Martin Whitmarsh declared that it “gave us the opportunity to reflect on his legacy and appreciate just how much of it lives on in our team”. And a film featuring the founder, which played all weekend, carried a caption that said it all: “Racer, engineer, constructor, innovator, winner.” L AUTOCAR.CO.UK 47


Teddy Mayer and Tyler Alexander bow out. Mansour Ojjeh buys a stake in the team. The McLaren-TAG makes its debut towards the end of the season

The ground-breaking MP4/1, the work of Project Four design guru John Barnard, appears. It is F1’s first carbonfibre car and wins the British GP in the hands of John Watson

After a long and controversial fight with Niki Lauda’s Ferrari, James Hunt lifts McLaren’s second world crown 48 AUTOCAR.CO.UK

McLaren successfully defends its constructors’ world championship and Prost triumphs in the drivers’ competition

Despite a new era of normally aspirated engines, the McLarenHonda V10 package remains unstoppable and Prost is champion for the third time

Prost wins his second title. John Barnard sells his stake in the team

Lauda is joined by Alain Prost. Together, they win 12 out of 16 races. Lauda takes his third title and the team wins the constructors’ title

The Honda-powered MP4/4 becomes the most successful grand prix car in a single season, winning 15 out of 16 races. Senna takes his first title. Dennis and Gordon Murray quietly discuss a road car project

More glory for Senna, as the team sets a new benchmark of four consecutive constructors’ titles

Senna and McLaren win their respective world titles and Gordon Murray starts work on the McLaren F1

1995

McLaren leaves for England to compete in Formula 2 for Cooper

1991

1989

1988

1986

1985

1984

1983

1981

1980

1976

McLaren has been racing at the top of the sport for half a century and its road car lineage dates back to 1969. Matt Burt charts its history

1990

Bruce Leslie McLaren is born on 30 November in Auckland, New Zealand

A young McLaren makes his hillclimb debut in an Austin at Muriwai Beach

1993

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

An uncompetitive McLaren, under pressure from sponsor Marlboro, merges with Project Four Racing, run by Ron Dennis

1952

1937

50 YEARS

1958

McLAREN P1 | HISTORY

McLaren F1 GTR wins Le Mans 24 Hours at the manufacturer’s first attempt. F1 team forges a relationship with Mercedes-Benz engineering

The McLaren F1 goes into production, setting new standards for road car performance and engineering


Limited-edition (and superquick) F1 LM road car is unveiled

Lewis Hamilton’s debut year in Formula 1; finishes second in the drivers’ championship

Official opening of the McLaren Technology Centre by HM The Queen.

Work starts on the McLaren Production Centre, adjacent to the MTC

1974

Emerson Fittipaldi joins the team from Lotus and takes a revised M23 to McLaren’s first drivers’ and constructors’ world championships

2013

2012

Gordon Coppuck’s M23 turns McLaren into a consistent front-runner in F1

2011

2010

McLaren Automotive launched; Daimler’s shares in McLaren Group reacquired

Ron Dennis steps down as McLaren Racing’s team principal, leaving Martin Whitmarsh in charge

1973

1972

1970

1969

Lewis Hamilton lifts the drivers’ world championship

Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is launched

Daimler purchases 40 per cent of the TAG McLaren Group. Dennis and Ojjeh retain 30 per cent each

2009

2004

2003

2000

1999

1996

1998

The first McLaren F1 car, the M2B, makes its debut at Monaco

Work starts on the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Woking, Surrey

1968

McLaren wins the Belgian GP at Spa in a car bearing his name

Denny Hulme takes McLaren’s first F1 win for two and a half years, Mark Donohue claims the squad’s first Indy 500 victory and the factory team calls time on its Can-Am campaign

Bruce McLaren is killed in an accident during a testing session with his M8D Can-Am car at Goodwood. Close friend and team lawyer Teddy Mayer and chief engineer Tyler Alexander guide the team through the aftermath

2008

McLaren quits Cooper and starts his own grand prix team

Founds Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Limited to compete in the Tasman Series

Monstrous 527bhp M6A Can-Am is unleashed, with much success

Prototype road car, the M6GT, is built with the aim of developing the fastest street-legal car on sale. Tech partner Trojan builds a small number

2007

The Feltham-based team produces its first racing car, the V8-powered M1A

1967

1966

1965

1964

1963

1959

Joins Cooper’s F1 team alongside Jack Brabham and wins US Grand Prix

McLaren 12C Spider launched

The build of the MPC is completed and the McLaren 12C is launched

McLaren P1 hypercar enters production

Mika Häkkinen scoops the first of two world titles as the McLaren-Mercedes partnership hits full pace AUTOCAR.CO.UK 49


McLAREN P1 | THE PEOPLE

THE MEN BEHIND THE MACHINE The P1 has been created not by computers but by talented people focused on achieving excellence. Colin Goodwin and Mark Tisshaw meet some of them PHOTOGRAPHY MIKE DODD/BEADYEYE

52 AUTOCAR.CO.UK


BARNEY KING MANUFACTURING ENGINEER Once the design and engineering are sorted and the supply chain is in place, it’s time to build the car. For the P1, the responsibility for “making sure we can build the vehicle” falls to Barney King. “The P1 is a car where aerodynamics and style have driven it to such an extent that we need to be innovative and creative with the production process,” he says. “Whatever you design needs to be controllable and repeatable for the guys building the car.”

King’s role includes devising the layout for the factory in which the P1 is built, the McLaren Production Centre, where it gets its own area, with glass walls for added drama. The P1 is built at 10 stations, and it stays in each one for 375 minutes before moving on to the next. By contrast, the 12C spends 45 minutes at each of its 25 to 30 stations. “The content is higher for the P1,” says King, “so there is more time to produce the right quality and control.”

AUTOCAR.CO.UK 53


McLAREN P1 | THE PEOPLE

STUART CLARK FUNCTION GROUP LEADER, INTERIOR Everything you see inside the P1 from bulkhead to bulkhead is the responsibility of Stuart Clark. He works from, as he puts it, “cradle to grave” on the interior, to ensure that it looks good, weighs little and works. “The stylists make the shape. We then tweak and massage the design to make it production feasible, lightweight and structurally sound,” he says. “They know how to make it look good. We know how it can be made.”

The burning desire for the P1’s weight loss can be seen as much as anywhere in the interior, and the philosophy for the design of any part is to “take another five per cent off the weight of it”. The P1’s carpets, for instance, are just a third of the weight of a normal carpet. “The whole interior weighs less than a person, at 69kg,” Clark says. “A normal car’s interior would weigh at least twice that. The seats alone of most cars would weigh that.”

METIN AFIYA

JULIEN BRUNEL

IAIN MORRISON

PILOT TEAM MANAGER

SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGER

SENIOR DEVELOPMENT ENGINEER

Reading the Autocar classified jobs section in 1996, former Tyrrell Formula 1 and West Surrey Racing Formula 3 engineer Metin Afiya spotted an opportunity to work at McLaren as a technician on its Le Mans team. He applied, got it, was promoted to chief mechanic three weeks later and has continued to rack up an impressive CV on McLaren’s road and race programmes ever since. He played a key role on the P1, managing the development and production teams in a newly created position. “We needed to join the two up so that everything we did in development could be turned into a production reality, rather than be a Willy Wonka product,” he says. “Development like to do whatever they want; production are very process driven. Yet they still share similar goals. It was a big challenge to get them aligned, but now it’s nice to be able to only develop products we can produce.”

Ensuring that the formula of parts that makes up the P1 can go from designers’ and engineers’ notebooks to production reality is Julien Brunel. “Engineers design parts. We make it happen,” he says. “We find the suppliers and make sure the parts work and are of the right quality. There’s stuff on this car that only a few suppliers can make, and I’ve had some impossible — or rather improbable — requests that we’ve managed to make work. On this car, we’ve never said ‘no’. We’ve always made it happen.” And Brunel’s job doesn’t end when the first P1 rolls off the production line. He says: “We have to follow up for 18 years after production ends to ensure the customers always have access to parts and a car that works.”

“I thought I’d walked into the set of Men in Black,” says Iain Morrison. That was four years ago, right at the beginning of the P1 project, which, says Morrison, he will have followed from start to finish. His current responsibility is for the P1 test fleet. Some fleet. “We have 14 experimental or XP cars, around eight pre-production cars and five mules,” he says. Vehicle testing requires an analytical mind and a person with a sense of order and process. Morrison, who also has experience of working at Lotus in the UK and Tesla in the US, is that man. “My parents once told me that before I started playing and constructing things with my Lego set, I would spend the previous day carefully planning out with drawings and notes what I was going to build the next day. I think that probably says something about me.”

54 AUTOCAR.CO.UK


GREG LEVINE DIRECTOR OF WORLDWIDE SALES AND MARKETING By any objective measurement, the McLaren P1 is simply one of the most spectacular cars the industry has ever seen. But any technological tour-de-force still needs a heart, still needs to feel special. That trickiest of briefs, one of many in his in-tray, falls to McLaren Automotive’s sales and marketing chief, Greg Levine. Has he succeeded? “We have ended up with an incredible car and I have no doubt that it will thrill and delight anyone who drives it,” he says. Sounds like a fairly emphatic yes, then. Levine lists three reasons why the P1 is so special and will be such a visceral driving experience for customers. “First, the transformation from road to track is more dramatic than in any other road car,” he says. “It’s comfortable and usable on the road, but completely transforms on the track. “Second, I always knew the P1 would be fast, but this is on another level. It is incredibly fast.

“Third, the ability to drive a supercar in e-mode is quite surreal… the interesting sound, the overall feeling and the futuristic nature of the experience make it really special.” The P1 is being used as a halo for the McLaren Automotive business. Marketed under the strapline ‘Everything we’ve ever done’, the P1’s appeal is already proving wide-reaching, and the car is quickly becoming a poster child for a new generation. “Since the birth of the 12C, the brand has continued to grow in strength and structure,” says Levine. “We have now rolled out 50 dealerships in 28 countries in two years. The P1 is the next step in the brand journey. “The look, feel and overall styling will be a leading influence for the brand,” he continues. “The P1 is a very distinctive car, and that’s key for our brand development. With our future products, customers will be able to identify common themes with the P1 and say, ‘Wow, that’s a McLaren’.”

MARK DARBY PROJECT CO-ORDINATOR

ALAN FOSTER OPERATIONS DIRECTOR

In his own words, Mark Darby has been “involved in everything and nothing” with the P1. “As project co-ordinator, my role is to make sure everyone does their role on time,” he says. “I spend a lot of time sitting on people’s desks, making sure all the different departments are talking to ensure the plan is maintained at a high level.” There is no single part of the P1 that Darby has influenced. His role is too wideranging for that. “The part of the car I’ve influenced is the whole thing,” he says. “In the early days, I organise benchmarking activities to find out what sort of car we want to make and what else is out there.

Then I work with the styling guys to find out their needs, and liaise with the engineers to find out if the things they’ve come up with are production feasible. “Then I get in the tooling, work on safety, devise an order form for the car, develop the configurator, check the production parts for size, quality and fit, work with sales… There’s not one bit I’ve influenced. I just make sure we make the car better overall.” Darby’s role today is quite different from one he nearly took up. “I applied to join the fire brigade six years ago, and while waiting for that, I got a temporary job at McLaren. I loved it so much that I’ve stayed ever since.”

Alan Foster has an extremely interesting CV and is clearly a man who has never wilted in the face of a challenge. Still, it is surprising to hear that the 53-year-old is playing at Twickenham a few weeks after our interview. He’s not playing rugby, though. “I play drums in a Brazilian samba band,” he says, “and we’re booked to play at the event.” Foster’s role in the P1 is “like the conductor in an orchestra”, he explains. “I’m not expert in all the various areas, but I know enough about them to carry out the job.” Foster’s initial task was to set up the P1 production line and make sure that everyone on it was well trained. “Today, my role is to make sure that the P1 meets McLaren’s targets and the customers’ expectations,” he says. “I’m totally focused on delivery, and that means ensuring that the supply chains are in place, quality targets are met and cars are delivered on time.” AUTOCAR.CO.UK 55


McLAREN P1 | EXTREME TESTING

56 AUTOCAR.CO.UK


McLAREN P1 VERSUS

THE HOTTEST PLACE ON EARTH Much of the P1’s tech has been forged in the white heat of competition, but it also has to work flawlessly in sweltering real-world temperatures. Matt Burt joins McLaren’s engineers for a punishing test in the Mojave Desert PHOTOGRAPHY PATRICK GOSLING

AUTOCAR.CO.UK 57


McLAREN P1 | EXTREME TESTING

T

he tanned, middle-aged man clad in board shorts, flip-flops and a oncewhite T-shirt looks unsteady on his feet as he surveys the McLaren P1 parked in a dusty back road behind a filling station. We could blame his lack of dexterity on years of living in the unyieldingly fierce heat of Trona, a desert mining town in eastern California. That, however, would be overly charitable, because it’s evident that his afternoon has involved some refreshment of the alcoholic variety. Now, as he stumbles home, he’s confronted by a gloss black P1 that stands out like a sore thumb among the weathered wooden houses and battered pickup trucks. Our new friend is wearing an expression that suggests he’d be less shocked if little green men landed their flying saucer in his back yard. Given that we’re not a million miles from Area 51, the secretive military location that’s rich in UFO folklore, that is a distinct possibility. Tomorrow, he’ll recount this close encounter of the automotive kind to his disbelieving buddies, who’ll receive his story with a laugh and a wink, before ordering up another round of beers. Right now, however, he wants details to add credibility to his bar room tale. “What kind of car is it?” he drawls. It’s a McLaren, we say. He looks impressed. “How much does it cost?” About $1.4 million in your currency, he’s told, which elicits a crude response. “Does it have a parachute?” Er, no, it doesn’t, although McLaren Special Operations, the Woking firm’s whatever-you-desire bespoke division, might fashion one if you ask nicely. Our friend can be forgiven for being confused. After all, it’s early July and the P1 in front of him is a work in progress. Why on earth would a British-built hypercar be parked in a nondescript town in the Greater Mojave Desert? The answer is the stifling, punch-inthe-chest heat that confronts anyone crazy enough to venture out of range of an air-con unit. McLaren’s development team has come here to put a prototype P1 through punishing hot environment testing in one of the most hostile landscapes on the planet. Today’s test is a 540-mile road trip from Arizona to California via Nevada, and Autocar has hitched a ride in one of the support vehicles. The long drive marks the beginning of the end of a three-week stint for the five-strong test team, led by vehicle development engineer Rob Thompson. Most of that time has been spent at a proving ground near Yucca in Arizona, but now the car and team need to travel to Willow Springs Raceway in California for road course tests.

58 AUTOCAR.CO.UK

n ‘XP7’ identifies it as one of the eXperimental Prototypes. This car’s role includes gathering thermal info, so visiting Furnace Creek is a must

McLaren is working through the validation stage of the P1’s test programme, putting it through extreme tests to ensure that it can cope with the kind of demands that it could be subjected to by an enthusiastic owner. It sounds harsh, but it’s necessary when the brief is to create the best driver’s car in the world on both road and track. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) capabilities are put to the test. Data is accrued on how the hypercar copes with high-speed running in extreme conditions and how it is affected by heat soak when parked up in hot ambient temperatures. Thanks to exhaustive simulation work, the development team already has an idea of how the car should behave. This test puts those theories into practice, so the development engineers can sign off systems that work as expected. When an unexpected result is thrown up, the team has to unravel the data to determine why. A three-week test can involve up to six months of planning. The team requires some certainties over the weather, and the Mojave Desert is one of the few locations around the world that can consistently provide extreme temperatures. The P1 has discreet ‘XP7’ badging to denote its status as one of several ‘eXperimental Prototypes’. As this test progresses, another

prototype, XP2, is pounding around the Nardo test track in Italy. Although this P1 prototype looks the part to the untrained eye, under the skin there are many differences from the finished article and, indeed, from the other test cars. “XP7 is set up to gather powertrain and thermal information, so it hasn’t got the latest dynamics kit or brakes, steering and chassis developments,” says Thompson. The car is hooked up to approximately 960 sensors. In the cabin, behind the low-slung bucket seats, is a whole mess of telemetry wires. Our road trip starts outside the gates of the Yucca proving ground. It’s just after 8am in the height of summer and the temperature is 33deg C, with some high cloud cover providing respite. The radio suggests that the mercury might peak at 43deg C today. “Easy,” jokes Thompson, more acclimatised to the temperatures after the gruelling 50deg-plus days that the team endured earlier in the test. Ahead of our vehicle, Thompson, laptop on his knees and hooked up to the car’s sensors, has climbed into the passenger seat of the P1 alongside McLaren’s development driver, Phil Quaife. The team doesn’t waste any opportunity to gather data, and how the car deals with the practicalities of public roads on this long trip will provide useful insight. “It is a good idea to drive it through a hot ◊


Although this P1 prototype looks the part to the untrained eye, under the skin there are many differences from the finished article and from the other test cars AUTOCAR.CO.UK [[2R]]


McLAREN P1 | EXTREME TESTING

n Rob Thompson leads this test and data accrued on the laptop is sent to Woking at night. Keeping fluid levels topped up is vital — for car and testers

∆ climate which is extreme to the point that it is way outside of our spec book. Plus, it is an opportunity to carry out platform validation on all of the electronics and controls by getting Phil’s opinion on how the car interacts with him,” says Thompson. “Everything is logged, so we can assess how the suspension works in extreme ambient conditions, how the car deals with altitudes, how the brakes are affected and how things like the intake pressure and turbo speeds change.” Heads turn as Quaife fires up the P1’s engine and the V8 emits its raw, visceral bark. We set off north-west on Highway 40, then swing north into Nevada on Route 95 towards Las Vegas. The pancake-flat road runs arrowstraight to the mountains on the horizon, the vast expanses of barren desert scrubland punctuated only by rest stops, small towns, Joshua trees and hardy bushes. Each day of testing produces reams of data that’s collated and beamed back to the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Woking. One track session can generate about 1GB of information and a full day’s work tops 5GB. The eight-hour time difference between this part of the US and the UK means that, as the test team finishes its daily work, the engineers at MTC can begin sifting through the information. Then, when the test team wakes up the next morning, there’s a whole load of data that has been processed and interpreted. “It gets spread between a team of 30 to 40 people and they pick out the strands of data they’re interested in and how it interacts with somebody else. I’ll raise a full report at the end of each day, flag up specific points of interest and put any subjective comments in,” says Thompson. We pass the occasional relic of mining activity, a legacy of the brave pioneers who tried to scratch a living from this uncompromising landscape in the late 19th century before moving on, leaving empty shacks in their wake. Then, suddenly, we reach the fringes of

Las Vegas. The traffic-clogged freeways, fast food joints and garish casino adverts are a shock to the senses after the isolation of the desert, just as the sight of the P1 cruising through the city limits is a surprise to other road users. The change in terrain poses another challenge for the car. “You have to think of every scenario and put the car through it,” says Quaife. “Traffic jams are going to happen; you can’t avoid them. We have the opportunity to perfect the calibration of the throttle. When you’re in traffic, does it jolt forward or is it quite progressive? All of that is so important, because if an owner wants to drive his car every day, it must be usable.” Despite a few suggestions that the P1 would be in its element parked outside of the Bellagio or MGM Grand, we don’t venture to the Strip, instead heading west on Highway 160. The road climbs into the mountains and the cloud cover dissolves. Off to the north, we can see lingering smoke from recently extinguished forest fires. We stop for fuel and snacks at the Winery Super-Mart in Pahrump, where the two middle-aged ladies behind the counter peer out at the car at the pumps. “I think me and Brenda would look just swell in that car,” says one, smiling at her colleague with a mock-conspiratorial wink. “Can it fly?” She’s joking, we think. We press on past a swirling dust storm and a sign that reads ‘rough road for 55 miles’. Quaife offers his opinions to Thompson as he drives. Later, I ask him what they’re chatting about. “Whenever I’m sitting in the car, I’m constantly thinking how we could improve things,” he tells me. “Even to the detail of the HMI [human-machine interface]. When the car goes from E-mode to normal mode, how does that transition appear on the screen? How quick is it? What messages appear? “How the P1 interacts with the customer is so important. When the customer sits in the car and they know what’s happening ◊

n The unpredictability of real-world driving enables the team to validate — or not — the expectations drawn from their extensive simulation testing 60 AUTOCAR.CO.UK


We press on past a swirling dust storm and a sign that reads ‘rough road for 55 miles’

AUTOCAR.CO.UK [[2R]]


McLAREN P1 | EXTREME TESTING

n Halts are few and far between in this terrain. A day of data gathering from the car’s 960 or so sensors produces more than 5GB of information

n Cooling the P1’s powertrain is one of the biggest challenges; the heat that comes out is incredible

‘It just felt epic, going through the desert in battery mode. We had the feeling of an amazing sports car, but we were whistling through the wind with no engine noise’ 62 AUTOCAR.CO.UK


∆ and what mode it is in, it’s a good feeling. If they don’t know, the display is not doing the right thing.” The temperature is soaring as we approach Furnace Creek. It’s officially the hottest place on earth and tomorrow, 10 July, is the 100th anniversary of its highest recorded temperature, 56.7deg C. Today, the thermometer at the bottom of Death Valley reads 126deg F – a ‘mere’ 52deg C. We’re below sea level. In the distance, we can see the shimmering salt flats at Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. Would a P1 owner seriously consider a road trip through this fierce landscape? Maybe not, but the engineers are encouraged by the way the car is behaving. After a break for lunch, Quaife briefly vacates the P1 and takes a rest in our support vehicle, while one of the engineers, Jason Faulkner, drives the test car. During the three weeks of testing, most of the team members take a turn behind the wheel. Working on the P1 is a particularly exciting opportunity for Faulkner, whose father, Duncan, was involved in the development of this car’s legendary forebear, the McLaren F1. We press on via some fabulously fast roads. For a couple of hours, we rarely see another

soul. We climb 3000 feet into the Panamint Mountains and then descend again, crossing the state line into California. It’s 9pm and the temperature dips to 35deg C. As the sky turns pinkish-orange, the mountains cast imposing shadows over the desert floor. Now we get treated to the P1’s party trick, as an insistent press of the throttle prompts a burst of blue-tinged flame from the exhaust, to the delight of everyone in our support vehicle. After Trona, where we meet our inquisitive friend, we swing south on Highway 14 towards our final destination, Rosamond. On the horizon, I see a constellation of red lights warning low-flying aircraft about the 126 turbines that make up the massive Manzana wind farm. California is particularly receptive to renewable energy, and I briefly think about how well suited the P1, with its emissions and noise-free electric mode, could be to this part of the US. Later, Quaife explains how he was using the P1’s E-mode prodigiously through this stage of the journey. “It just felt epic, going through the desert in battery mode,” he says. “We had the feeling of an amazing sports car, but we were whistling through the wind with no engine noise.

“One of the things the hybrid department has been really working on is the transition from hybrid to engine. You have 10km of electric range. When that runs out, you don’t have to do anything inside the cockpit; it just bounces back into engine mode, recharges the battery and then pops back into E-mode again. On that section of the route, we did 120 miles and only used a quarter of a tank of fuel, which is pretty special.” We reach Willow Springs Raceway, where the P1 is stowed in a pit garage in readiness for tomorrow’s circuit work. It has been a long but instructive day, and the lessons learned will be applied to the pre-production prototype P1 taking shape back in Woking. “Amazingly, we’ve achieved everything that was on our job list,” says Thompson, reflecting on the three-week test. “We weren’t expecting temperatures as high as we got, and the car has handled it well, so we’ve exceeded our targets. The learning we have gained by coming here will prove invaluable.” Apart from a tapestry of stars and the orange glow of civilisation on the horizon, it is dark as the engineers pull the shutters down on the garage. The P1 has earned its rest, and so have the engineers who are shaping one of the most significant cars of the year. L

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McLAREN P1 | VITAL STATISTICS

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McLaren P1  
McLaren P1