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McLaren reveals 'world's quickest' car

Date

Greg Kable

720kW hybrid V8, near $2 million price tag for McLaren's much anticipated new P1 supercar.

What was once the world's fastest road car has gained a spiritual successor in the McLaren P1.

But don't expect to see the near-$2 million supercar on Australian roads.

Twenty years after McLaren first entered the supercar ranks with the mighty 461kW 6.1-litre V12-powered F1, the British Formula One team has revealed the P1.

To be officially unveiled at the 2012 Paris motor show, the flamboyant new P1, as the new range topping McLaren supercar is currently known, is planned to crown the British car maker’s line-up when it is launched in 2013, joining the MP4-12C and MP4-12C Roadster in a three strong line-up of road cars aimed at netting McLaren up to 4000 sales worldwide by the middle of the decade.

McLaren, which aims to challenge the likes of Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche as a maker of the world’s most sought after supercars on the back of an illustrious history in Formula One racing, says the P1 has but one goal: “To be the best driver’s car in the world on road and track”.

The McLaren P1 is expected to sell for about 800,000 pounds worldwide. Convert that to Australian dollars, add 5 per cent stamp duty, 33 per cent luxury car tax (on all but the first $59,000) and 10 per cent GST and the price would be close to $2 million at today's exchange rate.

But Australian buyers would be best to hold off on placing an order soon, with McLaren not committing to building the P1 with the steering wheel on the right, meaning it won't be able to be registered here.

"It won't be right-hand drive unfortunately," said McLaren Sydney sales manager Chris Crea.

Rumours suggest the new two seater, whose P1 working title is expected to give way to a definitive production name carrying the famed MP4 designation used on all of McLaren’s Formula One cars since 1981, has already established lofty new road car lap records at various circuits where it has undergone preliminary testing, including Britain’s revered Silverstone track. But with a good deal of development work still to be completed, company officials say it will be over a year before independent testers get a chance can to verify these claims.

Official details pertaining to the P1’s mechanical package remain scarce ahead of its debut at the end of September. However, sources close to McLaren suggest it will pack up to 720kW with the help of a Formula One style kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) using pair of flywheels mated to a modified version of the twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 engine used by the MP4-12C.

In standard road going mode the hi-tech petrol-electric driveline is said to push out some 600kW at a dizzying 9100rpm. This will be boosted by a further 120kW in track mode though the addition of KERS, which is likely to be activated via a steering wheel mounted switch. The engine, developed in co-operation with Ricardo which will also produce it at a plant in Shoreham, England, is mounted longitudinally in a low position behind the two-seat cabin, with drive sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed double clutch gearbox.

Yet despite the new McLaren P1's high power output, a reported curb weight of less than 1300kg and what these first official pictures portray as a race grade active aerodynamic package that includes a giant rear wing that appears to be retracted into the rear bodywork, McLaren is keen to ensure the P1 is not measured on its top speed alone, suggesting it should not be compared to the current holder of the world’s fastest car title, the Bugatti EB16.4 Veyron SuperSport.

“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 managing director, Antony Sheriff.

"It is the true test of a supercar’s all round ability and a much more important technical statement. It will be the most exciting, most capable, most technologically advanced and most dynamically accomplished supercar ever made.”

Sporting a highly contemporary design penned by Frank Stephenson, formerly with Mini, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, the P1 is far more individual in appearance than the MP4-12C. Its overall shape has been heavily dictated by extensive work carried out in McLaren’s wind tunnel and the need to provide sufficient cooling air to the engine compartment at the rear. 

The curvy headlamp graphic has clearly been inspired by McLaren’s corporate logo and is expected to appear on a facelifted version of the MP4-12C. Stephenson has also paid homage to the F1 in the shape of the air scoop atop the roof.

McLaren describes the P1 as taking much of its “technological and spiritual inspiration from the company’s racing division”. McLaren boss Ron Dennis says, “The P1 will be the result of 50 years of racing and road car heritage. Twenty years ago we raised the supercar performance bar with the McLaren F1 and our goal with P1 is to redefine it once again.”

The new car based around a modified version of the MP4-12C’s carbon fibre monocoque with unique front and rear sub-frames supporting an advanced chassis which along with exotic materials to reduce weight is thought to include such state-of-the-art features as active damping and active roll control designed to provide the best possible set-up on both the road and track.

The chassis has been conceived to work in conjunction with an active aerodynamic package that could conceivably allow a reduction in ride height in track mode to lower the car’s crucial centre of gravity while increasing downforce provide by a giant diffuser element, the hidden rear wing and what appear to electronically adjustable flaps for the engine bay. To help smooth air flow underneath the car and reduce heat build up, the exhaust exits directly behind the engine through a large central tailpipe.

The P1 will be assembled alongside the MP4-12C and MP4-12C roadster at McLaren’s headquarters in Woking, England.

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