McLaren claims star billing in Paris

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cLaren claims star billing in Paris

The 2012 Paris Motorshow should be remembered for being the most ‘real’ show we have seen in a long time. From the new Renault Clio to the new Volkswagen Golf, past the Peugeot 208GTI and an excellent closeto-production concept of BMW’s new three-cylinder, front-drive hatch, the halls were full of interesting cars you or I might actually go out and buy.

And yet, unsurprisingly, even a few short weeks after it threw open its doors, all anyone seems able to talk about is the McLaren. Some 18 years after officially revealing the F1, McLaren has shown its replacement, the P1 (right). And if it’s as good to drive as it is at setting journalists’ tongues wagging McLaren will have a runaway success on its hands.

There are three reasons for this. First, any car that seeks to follow in the footsteps of a machine that defined the parameters of what a road car can do is naturally going to attract a lot of attention. Secondly, there is the styling. I will reserve judgement until I’ve actually seen one in a natural environment, because its shape is so complex and different it’s impossible to gain a proper sense of the car’s proportions when it sits by itself under bright and artificial light. Those I’ve spoken to seem equally split roughly between lovers and loathers but if McLaren’s aim was to ensure that no one called it boring as they did the MP4-12C, it has succeeded.

The final reason it seems likely to retain our interest for the year or more that will pass before anyone is allowed to drive it is that we still don’t know that much about the machine. McLaren is learning the road car PR game fast and at the motorshow decided that all it would talk about for the time being was aerodynamics.

So what we know is that at some unspecified velocity well short of a top speed likely to near the 240mph of the F1, its deployable wings will generate up to 600kg of downforce. It’s possible something like a Dauer 962 might do the same, but in the realm of what we recognise as standard production cars (McLaren says that it will build up to 500), this is unprecedented. Quite what value it will have remains to be seen. McLaren’s stated aim with the P1 is to make ‘the best driver’s car in the world on road and track’ though what it means by ‘best’ has yet to be revealed. It will surely be the quickest, if not in absolute straight-line terms, then at least round a track. With that much downforce, a weight of around 1300kg and at least 750bhp, I’m expecting it not just to break the production road car Niirburgring record, but reduce it to atoms. I expect it easily to go under seven minutes and some way

into times hitherto set primarily by Group C cars.

Quite what will transpire when some owner with perhaps more money than sense decides to discover what happens when you deploy over half a tonne of downforce to enter a corner on the public road is perhaps best not dwelt upon.

While McLaren showed off the PI, Ferrari was content to reveal just the tub of the successor to the Enzo, due out next year. It uses four different carbon fibre weaves according to the load requirements of their location in the chassis. The result is a structure that at 70kg weighs 20kg less than the Enzo tub yet is 27 per cent more torsionally rigid. No wonder they prised Rory Byrne out of retirement to mastermind its design.

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