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Mega Mac stars at Geneva

0503 McLaren P1 1

Many a manufacturer has promised “Formula One for the road”, or “The best driver’s car ever”. Well, McLaren is making those promises with its P1 hypercar, which was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, only this time it looks like those promises might actually be true..

It’s got all the right credentials to keep that promise: a 3,8-litre twin-turbo V8 combines with hybrid electric power for a total output of 673 kW, lightweight construction to make all that grunt even more impactful and, of course, the pricetag that goes with these sorts of machines… Yup, it’ll set you back north of 12 bar…

But what really makes the P1 special is not its potent V8, or even its hybrid technology, or anything that’s just been mentioned. Nope, it’s its high-tech active aerodynamics that sets it apart. At its most slippery, it boasts a drag coefficient of 0,34, but when called upon, it will deploy a rear wing and two flaps in front of the front wheels that give it a level of downforce never before seen on a road-going car. The downforce is so high, in fact, that McLaren says, to drive, it “actually gets easier as the car goes faster”. To put that in perspective: the P1 boasts a top speed of just over 350 km/h, but well before it reaches that speed, it will be developing 600 kg of downforce. That’s that same as most Le Mans racecars… It’s also five times the maximum downforce generated by its little brother, the MP4-12C.

According to Antony Sheriff, managing director of McLAren Automotive, “The P1 is designed to be driven to a racing circuit with great levels of comfort and refinement, and then to be used on the racing circuit where it will offer an experience matched only by purpose-built racing cars.” This experience is, no doubt, in part thanks to the use of the all-carbon chassis tub used in the MP4-12C, as well as certain components’ ‘secret recipes’. Some of the composite components that form its core body and chassis are claimed to be twice as stiff as steel thanks to Formula One technology. More mindblowing is the fact that the structure weighs just 90 kg – that’s less than any other road car out there according to McLaren, yet it delivers F1 levels of rigidity and, of course, safety.

But how does the MP4-12C stack up against its well-known little brother? Well, it’s just 83 mm longer (300 mm longer than 1993’s F1), 37 mm wider and 29 mm lower, but McLaren does say that it has a much smaller frontal area than the MP4-12C. The firm goes so far as to claim it has the smallest area of any production sports car, and in the age of sports cars getting bigger and bigger (think new 911), that’s quite something. It’s also remarkably light, tipping the scales at just 1 400 kg.

Like one of the cars it will rival, the Porsche 918, the P1 makes use of a hybrid powertrain. Conventional power comes from a highly tuned version of McLaren’s 3,8-litre twin-turbo V8, which produces 542 kW on its own, while the hybrid part of the system is a 131 kW electric motor. That makes for total power of 673 kW, with a hefty torque figure of 900 Nm to match it. All this grant is transferred to the road via a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission.

So what of the P1’s performance? Well, although engineers are still deciding on the final figures, we can tell you that it is almost half a second quicker to 100 km/h than the 12C and at least 2,5 seconds faster to 200 km/h. The 300 km/h mark will be realised about eight seconds faster. Interestingly, its 350 km/h top speed is significantly less than that of its predecessor, the F1, which could hit 372. However, the P1 is not all about top speed.

“Our aim is not necessarily to be the fastest in absolute top speed, but to be the quickest and most rewarding series production road car on a circuit,” noted Sheriff. “This is the true test of a supercar’s all-round ability and a much more important technical statement.”

McLaren will build just 375 P1s, but Ron Dennis says his promise to launch a new model or derivative every year is still on track. More importantly, though, Dennis confirmed that the car lapped the Nürburgring in less than seven minutes. Sure, it may not have the highest top speed, but McLaren’s goal was on-track performance and Dennis said, “This, I promise, is the world’s fastest car.”

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