McLaren P1

McLaren Automotive is using its first ever international motor show appearance to preview its next generation ultimate supercar – the McLaren P1 – which takes much of its technological and spiritual inspiration from the company’s Racing division.

At the Paris Motor Show, Mondial de l’Automobile 2012, the McLaren P1 is previewed as a design study. Next year a production version, which the company aims to put on sale within 12 months, will be revealed.

‘The McLaren P1 will be the result of 50 years of racing and road car heritage,’ says McLaren Automotive Executive Chairman Ron Dennis. ‘Twenty years ago we raised the supercar performance bar with the McLaren F1 and our goal with the McLaren P1 is to redefine it once again.’

The new McLaren P1 has much higher levels of downforce than any current road car – 600kg is achieved well below maximum speed. That is approximately five times as much downforce as a McLaren 12C. Its margin over most other high performance supercars is even greater. The McLaren P1’s downforce is similar to current sports racing cars, including the 12C GT3 racer.

Frontal area is substantially less than the (already small) 12C, and smaller than any series production super-sports car. Cd is 0.34 – very low considering the enormous levels of downforce.

The former Head of Aerodynamics for the McLaren Racing, and now Head of Vehicle Technology for McLaren Automotive, Simon Lacey, was responsible for the aero performance: ‘The astonishing downforce actually makes driving easier as well as faster,’ says Lacey. ‘As you go faster, you actually feel more in control.’

The large rear wing adjusts automatically to boost downforce and optimise aerodynamics. It can extend rearwards by up to 300mm on a racetrack, and by up to 120mm on the road. The pitch of the rear wing can increase by up to 29 degrees. The double element rear wing profile has been developed using exactly the same methods and software as the current McLaren Formula 1 car.

The McLaren P1 also has a DRS (drag reduction system) function, like a Grand Prix car, to reduce downforce and increase straight line speed. But while a Formula 1 car has a moveable flap in the rear wing, the McLaren P1’s rear wing’s pitch is adjusted.

As with the legendary McLaren F1 road car of 1992, the McLaren P1 is a mid-engine design that uses a carbon fibre monocoque and roof structure safety cage concept called MonoCage which is a development of the MonoCell used in the current 12C and 12C Spider. The structure of the MonoCage, unlike the 12C’s MonoCell, also serves to guide air into the engine through an integral roof snorkel and air intake ducts, saving further weight. All the body panels are carbon fibre to reduce weight. This carries on a McLaren innovation: it was the first company to offer a full carbon body Grand Prix car (in 1981) and the first to offer a full carbon body road car (the F1).

The lights are a signature part of the car. The LED headlights, with their speed marque DRL, are extremely small in size meaning more frontal area can be devoted to cooling. Whilst at the back, the low rear deck and pronounced wheelarches, give the evocatively simple rear end a powerful graphic. The concept being that the rear lamps are literally the trailing edge of the bodywork, framing the diffuser and allowing more heat to exit from the engine bay.

The McLaren P1 follows in the footsteps of the classic McLaren F1 as the ‘ultimate car’ offering. The name ties in with Grand Prix racing. P1 means first place – and McLaren has 180 GP victories in its 46 year Formula One history – or position one on the grid (McLaren has scored 153 pole positions). There is also heritage in that name: the McLaren F1 was initially known as Project 1, or P1

Last updated: Friday, 28th Sep 2012, 10:27