McLaren's new supercar â€¨is to be called the P1. That’s appropriate, reflecting its maker’s desire to take pole position on the hypercar grid while acknowledging the heritage of the legendary F1.
Officially, McLaren will tell you that the P1 is a concept car. It’s not. McLaren will unveil the production version next year at Geneva, disclosing those all-important powertrain details and performance figures. It’s already talking to potential customers, and has confirmed that deliveries will begin late in 2013.
Its highly aerodynamic shrink-wrapped body is far more than just a stylist’s dream. It will clothe a state-of-the-art hypercar structure and drivetrain that reintroduce McLaren into a market sector dominated by the Bugatti Veyron for almost a decade. In creating its new flagship, McLaren is putting everything it knows into what boss Ron Dennis has described as ‘the world’s most technically advanced supercar’.
According to McLaren, it’s fractionally longer than the 911, but only when the rear wing is raised. The design process took a circular course. â€¨The P1’s basic shape, which clothes that yet-to-â€¨be-revealed drivetrain and new ‘MonoCage’ structure (a development of the 12C’s already advanced ‘MonoCell’), was initially formed in the wind tunnel.
Chief technical designer Dan Parry-Williams started with the 12C's carbonfibre MonoCage but otherwise he had a clean sheet. His mission was to create the ultimate car for road and track. As Sheriff says: ‘It is designed to be driven to the circuit, with great comfort and refinement, and then to be used on the circuit, where it will offer an experience matched only by purpose-built race cars.’
While Parry-Williams wasn’t interested in ‘Top Trumps’ figures (the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport’s 268mph maximum won’t be challenged by the P1), there was one definite goal. ‘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,’ says Sheriff. It will develop 600kg of downforce at 170mph.
McLaren fans will spot the gold exhaust surround – another nod to the F1. But where are the rear lights? Only when illuminated do they make sense: a slim strip of LEDs that follows the edge of the rear panel, rather like those of the bespoke, 12C-based X-1.Â
The P1’s glasshouse is almost a pure revisit of the F1’s. This is good not only for the P1’s marque identity, but it bodes well for visibility and cabin ambience: the windscreen is panoramic, and the roof has glass panels that flank a central spine, which leads to an air intake. Again, this is redolent of the F1’s cooling intake, although we suspect the function of the P1’s is more to do with aerodynamics.
The bodyside cut-outs, finished on the show car in glossy carbonfibre, feed generous radiators, while subsidiary air intakes nestling on the P1’s shoulder-line directly above channel air to the active rear diffuser.
McLaren has focused its expertise on creating the world’s most advanced car and, as a Formula 1 constructor, carrying over as much motor sport technology to the road as possible. The P1’s active aero is particularly exciting. â€¨A company so intimately involved in this â€¨science, and possessing its own state-of-the-art development facility, is undoubtedly going to move the game on significantly