McLaren’s Long Drift: A new tail retold

This morning, the 26th October 2018, McLaren released photographs and details of their new ‘Hyper GT’, the Speedtail. There’s more to it than meets the eye however.

Codenamed BP23, it’s the spiritual successor to the McLaren F1 released in 1993 that was for a long time the fastest road car in the world with a speed ceiling of 240mph.

Whilst the Speedtail is limited to 250mph with its hybrid powertrain producing 1036 bhp, figures that though impressive, put it below its competitor the Bugatti Chiron that produces 1479bh, McLaren say that this isn’t the point.

Unlike Bugatti they are not shooting for top speed bragging rights, they are creating the ultimate Hyper GT, a car that will get you from London to Monte Carlo quickly, quietly and elegantly. You can tell, just by looking at the photo of the new car above, that it’s not trying to force its way through the air but gently ask it to move aside.

To help achieve this aerodynamically, it has a single piece clamshell that stretches from just behind the cockpit to the very end of the car. Complete with active aerodynamics and cameras instead of door mirrors the Speedtail is not just elegant from an engineering perspective but an aesthetically pleasing object in its own right.

It is however symptomatic of a company that is going through a Jekyll and Hyde period.

On the road, McLaren road cars are sweeping all before them. The 720s is only half a second to a second off McLaren’s monstrous P1, the 570 and its derivatives the S and the GT are successfully going toe to toe with Porsche and Aston Martin in the sportscar market. Let us not forget also the recently released Senna that is challenging aesthetics as well as road car physics. You would think then that all was rosy on the racing team too.

Well in sports cars the 650S GT3 and 570 GT4 are competitive both but in Formula One McLaren are, in the nicest way possible, not quite cutting it.

Ask yourself, ‘When was their last victory?’. Ask yourself, “when was their last podium?’. Go on, have a think because its further back than you think for a team that, after the 1993 Australian Grand Prix, was the most successful F1 team in history.

Time however, has moved on. Their last podium was at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix with Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button. Their last race win was the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix also with Button.

Adding salt to the statistical wound is the fact that their last constructors title was 1998 and last drivers title was with Lewis Hamilton in 2008.

They are not alone though in being a racing team whose road-cars better their racing cars. Ferrari had the same problem. Between 1983 and 1999 their Formula One cars didn’t produce a single Constructors Title, but their road cars were beautiful in their execution. To name a few greatest hits would be to include the F40, Testarossa, 288 GTO and F355.

McLaren fans may despair, and rightly so, at their lack of impressive results in recent years but their situation is not new and because of this not an impossible one.


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