A private tour of McLaren Group HQ in Surrey? Don’t mind if I do, says confirmed petrolhead Robin Hague
With its vast expanse of glass and stainless steel, the Norman Foster-designed McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Woking looks more like a glamorous military base than your average car factory. Even the lake in front of the building serves a purpose: not purely an attraction for resident wildlife but for cooling the building and dissipating the heat from the enormous wind tunnels that test aerodynamic set-ups. Ask any car enthusiast lucky enough to have entered its hallowed halls and they’ll tell you the same: this facility is mesmerising, a place where anything seems technologically possible.
From a tour of McLaren’s ‘boulevard’, where the heritage collection of cars is displayed from the first to the latest and you can really see the technology moving forward each year, to a sighting of ‘that car’ - Ayrton Senna’s famous MP4/4 Formula 1 car which drove him to victory in the 1988 championships and is still the most successful race car of all time – this was shaping up to be a visit I wouldn’t forget in a hurry. And that was before we’d even reached the part of the MTC where the road cars are made – a white corridor where the engineers are dressed entirely in black and the floor is so pristine you could perform open-heart surgery on it. This is where they make the McLaren P1, described by Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson as the greatest supercar on earth, and an aesthetic masterpiece from every angle. Everywhere you look there’s a fin there, a bulge there; everything exists to make the P1 drive a little faster. And 750hp, 1000hp with KERS activated, 600kg down force are available before top speed is reached.
Driving home from the MTC, my mind was a jumble of emotions – awe, excitement, amazement. Although I hadn’t got to meet the great man himself, Ron Dennis, CEO, chairman and part owner of the Group, I had certainly been touched by his brilliance. And one thing’s for sure: I’d ticked a biggie off my bucket list.
Image credit: McLaren