And Why the Target Might Not Be Ferrari
MT: It does, but lets focus on one of Dennis specifics comments. He claims the P1 will deliver 600 kilos [1322 pounds] of downforce at 150 mph, which will equate to greater than 2g cornering. I just interviewed [McLaren design chief] Frank Stephenson, and he said, waaay over 2g! but in a discussion with one of our technical editors, we struggled to come up with how such high g cornering would be useful, even on racetracks.
PM: So one of our targets was that we want to have great downforce. But there is no point in having a car that has downforce at v-max because you dont go around a corner at v-max you dont go around a corner at 217 mph. So what weve tried to do is we spoke to our racing drivers, and said, right, OK, what is a speed where downforce actually helps you. And what they actually said is 130-140 mph there are corners on tracks where actually good levels of downforce is what you want. And so what we said was OK, what we want is 600 kilos of downforce, but we want that downforce at relatively slow speeds. Yeah? So its at 140 that kind of miles an hour. What we then do is, the rear wing then backs off. The rear wing goes up 400mm its got a pitch on it and then as you go faster, what happens is the rear wing backs off. Actually to reduce the downforce because if we kept the downforce, what would happen is the downforce would go up and up and up and youd end up with a ton of downforce 1000 kilos of downforce at v-max. What youre then doing is adding a huge amount of drag to the car but also putting a huge amount of load into the system, which means youd have to have much heavier suspension, have much heavier wheels, tires, everything goes up. So what we tried to be is very sensible in having downforce at speeds which make sense but then backing it off so were
MT: So Im trying to think of a racetrack where downforce at 140 would come in handyhmmm...oh, maybe the Nurburgring? [Dennis said the P1 would lap the Rings north loop in under 7 minutes.]PM: [laughs] Clearly the Nurburgring is a circuit that people internationally recognize as a data point and also the Top Gear [magazine] circuit at Dunsfold. Its got worldwide coverage; everybody now knows the Top Gear circuit. But also, weve used other circuits but you have to have data points, so yeah, we will have a sub-7 minute Nordschleife lap time. It will achieve that. It will be right up there at the top with the Dunsfold laptime.MT: For a car that is as pure of purpose as the P1, are the McLaren speed mark shaped vents an affectation?PM: Actually, its interesting, the vents on the front of the car, if youve seen the pictures of the development car, and youll actually see that the vents are different on the development car. And it was one of the latest changes, because people didnt like it [laughs].MT: They didnt like the shape?PM: They didnt like the shape of them, so it was actually quite a late change. Whats important is that we have a gap between the two which enables you to have clear air going up over the windscreen into the engine intake. That is the important thing, that they are actually split. The speed mark works from a aerodynamic point of view from a CFD [computational fluid dynamics] point of view. So its not as if we on purposely said, OK, weve got to have speed marks there. What we found was actually, the headlamp is a speed mark; there were other features there, and we thought actually the speed mark would like quite good there. What we then do is put it into the computer-aided simulation to see whether it is an efficient shape. What we found was actually it worked. And so we were able to keep on the styling theme of our McLaren speed mark in those areas as well.
MT: So an example of how function follows form?PM: Function follows form[laughs] Form followed function and just happened to look good!MT: Weve seen front splitters and rear diffusers on super sports cars in the past, but were seeing more F1-inspired aero on the sides, things like winglets and barge boards. What youre doing on the sides of the P1 is unique. Can you talk about it?
PM: To achieve the performance targets of our car we had to be very mindful of aerodynamics, drag, also cooling powertrain cooling. Weve got 900hp there is a lot of energy, we have to manage the temperature. And so cooling becomes as big an issue as aerodynamics and other things. And so the shape of the car is all about the management of air.Right from the word go, we had the aerodynamicists and engineers sitting with Frank Stephensons designers. We didnt just give Franks team a free hand; we said, Right, you lot have got to work together. Because what we cant have is a car a beautiful car which is designed, but it doesnt work functionally. Its actually got to work together. Form follows function its that philosophy. And so what we found was one of the big drag areas of the car is the wake coming from the front wheel you get a lot of dirty air coming from the front wheel. So a lot of those blades behind the front wheel is all about trying to smooth out that air. What happens is were now talking about ultimate ultimate performance. And so every detail counts. And so clearly for a normal, run-of-the-mill family car, its not really that critical, because the performance limits arent that critical. For us, where we are looking for that second, that extra point of a second, it becomes critical.MT: Why should somebody who has the means choose the P1 over something from Ferrari or Lamborghini?
PM: Ahh, its a good question. I think 2013 is a really interesting year. Weve got the P1. Ferrari have now launched their car. Porsche got the 918. Its the new era of the super sports car. Weve all used a similar format, in as much as theyre all petrol engines and electric motors in combination. The architecture is slightly different on all three of them, but the same sort of concepts there. All of them are going to be absolutely awesome in terms of performance figures. I personally believe the P1 is the best of the three. I think ours is by far the most beautiful. I think it really is a blend of technology and beauty.I personally havent seen the Ferrari yet; Ive been on the stand. I want to go and see it later on today. Im sure that car that, from a performance point of view, will be phenomenal. I actually think that the whole thing becomes more exciting because all three manufacturers are out at the same time. Yeah? I mean Im sure the marketing and sales people would say no, no, it would be nice to have just our car there, but from an engineering point of view, the competition drives innovation drives technology and moves the plot forward. We have been very conscious whilst developing the P1 that Ferrari are doing something, that Porsche are doing something. And we havent compromised. There is no compromise in this car because we know there is someone else out there trying to do the same thing.MT: Its not your wheelhouse, but can you comment on the 12C? Since launch, the 12C has been continually tweaked and upgraded. Is it done?PM: McLaren is always looking for perfection and so well continue working on the 12C, but fundamentally its done.MT: And what about the car below the 12C? Can you comment on that?
PM: McLaren are well-documented as saying we are doing three vehicles. We have said that we will launch a vehicle every year. Two years ago it was the MP4-12C; last year it was the Spyder; this year its the P1.We are kicking off a new program, the P13. It will be an entry-level McLaren, so it will be top-end 911-type territory. It will be higher volume but a lower price point. That program has started. That car will not be the 2014 car [laughs] I can tell you that [laughs]. So that program has started.McLaren Automotive is a new automotive company and we cant stand still. We have to keep developing to move the plot forward. So, yeah, P13 is there; its started.What is evident from our time with Mackenzie is that McLaren is intent on recalibrating our sense of supercar performance, chiefly by utilizing core competencies from the other, more well-known side of the housethe McLaren Formula 1 racing team. We wont know until we drive and test a P1, but it appears its combination of advanced aerodynamics and horsepower will redefine what it means to go fastespecially around corners.
Regarding the competition, that Mackenzie did not acknowledge Lamborghinis contributions to the supercar space isnt as compelling as his mention of the Porsche 918 as a chief rival. His observation that three high-performance supercar manufacturers with storied racing histories at the highest levels have all arrived at the same formula when it comes to the next generation of supercars is also very interestingand a direction we will continue to track. (Though not mentioned by Mackenzie, its curious to note that Honda, another company with serious F1/racing credentials, arrived at the same conclusion with the next-generation NSX).And lastly, since the announcement of McLaren Automotive, the breech birth of the MP4-12C line, and now the flagship P1, there have been constant comparisons to Ferrari. But what seems to surface from Mackenzies responses, especially in light of the 918 Spyder and entry-level P13 project, is that McLaren Automotive might not be targeting Modena, but Weissach. Stay tuned.