The McLarens of today owe much to Gordon Murray’s design concept which was a common one among designers of high-performance cars: low weight and high power. This was achieved through use of high-tech and expensive materials such as carbon fibre, titanium, gold, magnesium and kevlar. The F1 was the first production car to use a carbon-fibre monocoque chassis and in the McLaren cars of today much remains the same. Murray was waiting for a flight home from the Italian Grand Prix in 1988; he drew a sketch of a three-seater sports car and proposed it to Ron Dennis. He pitched the idea of a concept that would be heavily influenced by the company’s F1 racing experience and technology and thus reflect that skill and knowledge through the McLaren F1. The car was first unveiled at a launch in May 1992 at The Sporting Club in Monaco. The production version remained the same as the original prototype (XP1) except for the wing mirror which, on the XP1, was mounted at the top of the A-pillar. This car was deemed not road legal as it had no indicators at the front; McLaren was forced to make changes on the car as a result (some cars, including Ralph Lauren’s, were sent back to McLaren and fitted with the prototype mirrors). The original wing mirrors also incorporated a pair of indicators which other car manufacturers would adopt several years later.
The McLaren F1 GTR was a racing variant of the F1 sports car first produced in 1995 for touring style racing. It is most famous for its overall victory at Le Mans, where it won against faster purpose-built prototypes. F1 GTRs raced internationally until 2005 when the final race chassis was retired. The McLaren win at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1995, had Yannick Dalmas, Masanori Sekiya and JJ Lehto sharing the drive.
Recently the sleepy Cotswolds villages were awakened to a sound more at home on a race track; I was behind the wheel of one of the latest products from McLaren the 570S Spider. Take note in the UK it is spelt with an ‘I’ while in Europe it is Spyder. As the name suggests, at the command of the right foot, 570PS enough to whisk you from rest to 62mph (100kph)in a mere 3.2 seconds, alas my route did allow me to explore the acceleration potential of this McLaren. Find a race track and you might explore even further to discover the top speed, 204mph (328km/h.) The heart of the matter is a 3.8 litre V8 twin turbo engine, mid mounted and driving through the rear wheels. One of the joys behind the wheel is the seven speed Seamless Shift Gearbox or SSG. Of course you can play in the realms of a manual, but in automatic mode a very impressive transmission. With this amount of power to work with, stopping is essential and courtesy of carbon ceramic discs, again another impressive area of this car. An example, 124mph to rest in 130 metres. No surprise in the emissions department, 249g/km and quoting McLaren figures re economy, urban 16.6mpg (17.21/100km.) In cruise you could expect 26.6mpg (10.71/100km.)
There are three qualities with the 570S Spider, performance, handling and comfort. Yes this is a car that you could use and enjoy every day of the week. Is it practical? No, not for the annual holidays, but could cope with a weekend away, luggage capacity, front 150 litres and as regards the tonneau, 521 litres. The carbon fibre turbo is produced in Austria, but plans are well advanced as McLaren will be launching a production facility in the North of England. This McLaren is a real looker and I can see shades of the F1 mentioned earlier with its twin hinged dihedral doors and surprise surprise, access for both driver and passenger is relatively easy. Exterior wise, a dark Palladium finish is applied to the front splitter, aero blades, front air intakes, side air intakes, exterior door insert etc. The retractable hard roof is body coloured and with the Spider in a way you get two cars for the price of one. Driving with the roof down on the first day of November believe me was a rewarding experience thanks to number of aids to keep the wind at bay, however still that wind in the hair feeling.
Sports best describes the well appointed interior, extended leather employed in carbon black and the steering wheel in the same finish. Satin silver bright work is used and blends with the Black Sparkle metallic finish. Infotainment has emerged as something of a buzz word and the IRIS system contains a seven inch screen, digital instrument cluster, voice control, sat nav and brining music and news to the ear courtesy of a McLaren four speaker arrangement. Just like any well appointed set of wheels, DAB radio, iPod/iPhone integration and Bluetooth telephony with USB. Driver assistance technologies abound, no surprise in a McLaren, such as an active dynamics panel with Normal, Sport and Track modes. There is a Traction Control System and Electronic Stability Control with dynamic mode. My test car was finished in Vega Blue and came with an array of options leaving the final bill at £164,750. (N.I.). In a very short history McLaren is a company in profit and the aim is to invest twenty five percent of turnover on R&D.
Now part of the McLaren Group, the road cars are built at Woking on the same site as the F1 challengers. What of the future? By the end of 2022 fifty percent of production will be hybrids and a full EV is for the future. Currently in the planning stage is a three seater code named BP23 and finally if you want to add a McLaren road car to your portfolio, be prepared to wait, it could be two years and even longer.
About Ian Lynas:
Ian Lynas has a wealth of knowledge on motoring and motor sport having worked with various outlets, including UTV, Downtown Radio, Motor Month, Auto Ireland, News Letter, CarSport, Autosport, plus several weekly titles in Northern Ireland.
Ian is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers and a judge on UK Car of the Year.
His passion has been motoring and photography and has travelled widely in his quest for news to the USA, South Korea and South Africa.
When it comes to motorsport he rates amongst his favourite events the Phoenix Park Races and the various street races that used to be held in Ireland.
In his opinion there is no better place for motorsport than Ireland, the craic is mighty and everyone knows everyone and there is a story waiting round every bend.
Hobbies when he gets time, photography, history, watches and collecting diecast models.
Married to Hilary, he has two sons and two daughters and splits his living between Portadown and Killadeas.
Favourite drives in the world and he says you need to look no further than the Wild Atlantic Way, something we should all be very proud of.
Favourite place- County Donegal. Favourite food- anything to do with fish.