McLaren Automotive reveals details of its P1 ‘supercar’

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McLaren Automotive has unveiled details of its new ‘supercar’, the McLaren P1, focusing on its aerodynamics and driveability over its top speed.

The demonstration vehicle, designed for driving on both the road and racing tracks, was launched to much fanfare yesterday at the Paris Motor Show — the first time the British company has appeared at an international motor show.

‘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,’ Antony Sheriff, McLaren Automotive’s managing director, said in statement.

‘It is the true test of a supercar’s all-round ability and a much more important technical statement.

‘It is designed to be driven to the 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 race cars.’

A production version of the car is scheduled for launch next year and is reported to come with a price tag of £800,000, although McLaren wouldn’t confirm this.

The company said that the P1’s downforce was similar to current sports racing cars and was much higher than any current road car — 600kg well below maximum speed, which is approximately five times as much downforce as a McLaren 12C.

Programme director Paul Mackenzie said that the downforce and aerodynamic design were key to the driver’s experience. ‘They do not just improve stability, handling, roadholding and braking at high speed,’ he said. ‘They also improve agility and driver confidence at much lower speeds.’

Chief design engineer Dan Parry-Williams said that the car was designed and built to be as tightly packed as possible in order to improve the aerodynamics and give a predictable performance at any speed.

‘In the beginning, we produced a “jellymould” model that reflected the initial concept,’ he said. ‘It had to be aerodynamically sound and as tightly packaged as possible around the occupants and the mechanical architecture, giving it a shrink-wrapped-like outer skin surface.

‘It had a more rounded glasshouse, with greater curvature, to improve aerodynamics and visibility and to give the cabin a fighter-jet canopy shape. We wanted the deck of the car to be as low as possible.

‘The teardrop cabin shape also meant you had a lot more air flowing over the cabin to the rear wing. We also tried to minimise tolerances and clearances. There is no “fat” on the McLaren P1.’

As well as an active aerodynamic rear wing (that retracts for road use), the car also has a drag reduction system (DRS) that adjusts the pitch of the rear wing to reduce downforce and increase straight-line speed, in a similar way to the moveable flap in the rear of a Formula One (F1) car.

The aerodynamic performance is further optimised using two flaps mounted under the body ahead of the front wheels that change their angle automatically by up to 60º to boost downforce and aero efficiency.

The car also draws heavily from the 1992 McLaren F1 road car, featuring a similar carbon-fibre monocoque and roof structure safety cage concept, snorkel intake on the roof and gold-leaf heat shield around the exhausts.