McLaren Automotive used its first appearance at an international motor show to preview its next supercar – the McLaren P1. It was previewed as a design study at the Paris Motor Show drawing large crowds to the stand.
The McLaren P1 is the long awaited successor to the McLaren F1 that broke the record for the fastest road car in the world in 1998.
A production version is set to come out next year with deliveries of the £700,000 (before tax) supercar taking place towards the latter part of 2013.
A spokesperson for the company said that orders are already coming in as the rich refuse to see a slowdown in spending power.
However, those expecting the P1, which was codenamed P12 by the McLaren design team in Woking, Surrey, to become the fastest road car in the world like its ancestor the F1 may be disappointed as the company played down the importance of 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,” says McLaren Automotive managing director Antony Sheriff.
A spokesperson for McLaren told The Manufacturer that the car is expected to hit a top speed of around 260mph. However, don’t rule out the famously secretive McLaren having a trick up its sleeve and trumping the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport’s top speed of 267mph and following in the tyre marks of the F1 to become the fastest road car in the world.
Production of the McLaren P1 at the company’s base in Woking, Surrey, will coincide with its 50th anniversary. Attaching the supercar to its history in Formula One, P1 means first place and there is also heritage in the name as the McLaren F1, McLaren’s first foray into road cars, was initially known as Project 1, or P1.
There will be 394 more P1s produced then F1, which had production limited at 106.
A core focus in the design stage was to prioritise aerodynamic performance with many hours spent in the wind tunnel it shares with the Racing division of McLaren and use of CFD (computational fluid dynamics), a virtual simulation program that measures air flow.
The new McLaren P1 has much higher levels of downforce than any current road car, with an ability to achieve 600kg well below maximum speed. That is approximately five times as much downforce as a McLaren MP4-12C, the last range of McLaren supercar which sells for £168,500.
“It is designed to be driven to the racing circuit, with great levels of comfort and refinement and then used on the racing circuit, where it will offer an experience matched only by purpose-built race cars,” says Sheriff.
“The priority was high speed performance matched with tremendous composure, which would come mostly from the state-of-the-art aerodynamics. We wanted a car that was benign and predictable at any speed,” said chief design engineer Dan Parry-Williams.
He explains: “We produced a “jellymould” model that reflected the initial concept. 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.”
Every body panel, air intake, and air exhaust was designed to guide in air from the most efficient places and to maximise cooling. That’s partly why the body is so compact, and looks so “shrink wrapped”.
“It had a more rounded glasshouse, with greater curvature, to improve aerodynamics and visibility, and 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. There is no fat on the McLaren P1.”
The unusual door ducts, from the initial styling sketches, draw air into the cooling circuit. That low body helps air get to the rear wing. The rear deck is extraordinarily low, just like a sports racing car. The extreme teardrop shape of the glasshouse guides more air more efficiently to the rear wing.
The large rear wing adjusts automatically to boost downforce and optimize 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.
In addition to the adjustable ‘active’ rear wing, the McLaren P1’s aerodynamic performance is optimized using two flaps mounted under the body ahead of the front wheels. These are also actively controlled, and change angle automatically to optimize performance, boosting downforce and aero efficiency, increasing both speed and driver confidence. The flaps operate through a range of 0-60 degrees.
The rear wing and front flaps work together to boost handling, braking and straight line performance. The active aerodynamics ensures totally consistent handling and driving behaviour. The rear wing can also act as an airbrake when deployed.
Lightweight carbon ‘multi-purpose’ body panels
As with the 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 MP4-12C and MP4-12C Spider upgrade that came out earlier this year.
The large carbon panels on the supercar are multi-functional, with integrated scoops and ducts to boost aero performance and cooling. If one component can do the work of two, or more, it replaces the need for separate components and therefore reduces weight.
“This approach is more weight efficient, but it does require more complex structures, with fewer parts but more design time,” notes chief design engineer Dan Parry-Williams.
“Everything is there for a reason – true form improves function. Every duct, every surface, does a job, either in aero or in cooling,” he adds.
Designers wanted a car that was striking yet functional. “I wanted a genuinely beautiful and dramatically honest “supersports” car in keeping with McLaren’s heritage but also at the forefront of automotive design,” commented design director Frank Stephenson.
Another new McLaren is designed is currently being designed and will be the lowest priced sports car ever produced by the company. A spokesperson for McLaren told The Manufacturer that it will cost between £60,000 to 80,000 and is set to be revealed at the Geneva Car Show 2013.