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2018 McLaren Senna
2018 McLaren Senna Photo: Supplied
2018 McLaren Senna
2018 McLaren Senna Photo: Supplied
2018 McLaren Senna
2018 McLaren Senna Photo: Supplied
2018 McLaren Senna
2018 McLaren Senna Photo: Supplied
2018 McLaren Senna
2018 McLaren Senna Photo: Supplied
2018 McLaren Senna
2018 McLaren Senna Photo: Supplied
 
2018 McLaren Senna
2018 McLaren Senna
2018 McLaren Senna
2018 McLaren Senna
2018 McLaren Senna
2018 McLaren Senna
 
Toby Hagon | May, 03 2018 | 0 Comments

Driving on the famous Silverstone circuit north of London in the British built McLaren 720S supercar is a special experience, but this is just the warm up act for what’s to come. It’s a bit like rolling up to a rock concert to find AC/DC as the support act.

But the car at the end of this four-wheeled honey pot is no ordinary machine. The name conveys that: Senna.

Vehicle Style: Hypercar

Price: $1,700,000 (approximately)

Engine/trans: 597kW/800Nm 4.0 litre 8cyl twin-turbo petrol | 7sp dual-clutch automatic

OVERVIEW

Anyone with a passing interest in Formula 1 will know Ayrton Senna was one of the greatest drivers in history, notching up three world championships and mountains of respect before being killed in a crash when he was just 34. He was leading the race at the time.

The McLaren Senna is a tribute to the legend.

Authorised by the Senna family – it was nephew Bruno’s idea to name it Senna – it is the fastest, most focused car ever produced by the brand best known for its F1 success.

“The Senna is as close to a racing car that is still street legal,” explains McLaren’s chief engineer for the Ultimate Series cars, Andy Palmer.

He adds that every flap and fin, every shape, is there for a reason – all pointing steadfastly towards that unerring goal to go fast.

At the Senna’s heart is the most powerful engine to ever grace a McLaren, a 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 amassing 597kW and 800Nm. It’s also the most powerful engine in any production car in Australia today, the Ferrari 812 Superfast the only thing coming close, with 588kW.

 

THE INTERIOR

Despite the race car focus, there’s a road-friendly McLaren flavour inside. Head room is great and space OK for two. Sure, it won’t pamper like a luxury car, but it’s no worse than any of McLarens other road cars, each of which comfortably accommodates two people (of all shapes and sizes).

The quest to focus on major driving controls and lower weight – at times shortening wiring or relocating brackets to allow them to be downsized – has repositioned some controls. Don’t go looking for a starter button on the steering wheel or console - it’s in the roof. It’s all part of an intense focus on saving weight.

The claimed dry weight – without fuel or fluids – is 1198kg. Add those vital fluids and it’s around 1300kg, about the same as a Corolla.

As well as the carbon fibre tub that gives the car its immense structural strength, each panel is hand crafted from carbon fibre.

The side windows include a fixed piece running flush with those carbon fibre surrounds, an effort to reduce aerodynamic drag at what would normally be a seal joining the two.

The tiny retracting window – maybe just enough to slide a Big Mac into the Big Mac – in turn allows for a smaller mechanism and electric motor, shaving valuable grams.

ON THE ROAD

Accelerating out of the pits – where Senna won during his dominant 1988 championship-winning season – the engine thrusts you hard into the lightweight carbon fibre seats.

The car I’m in is one of a handful of validation prototypes being used to fine tune and evaluate the finer details before the first of 500 (sold out) customer cars begins its meticulous hand built process. Its code is VP-736 P15, the P15 denoting the model code for the Senna series.

Light switch-like gear changes are at the flick of a paddle, jolting purposefully on shifts before furiously rushing back towards the redline (technically a blue line, the fast-illuminating LEDs taking a cue from the shift lights used in F1).

Yet the Senna never feels untamed, its sticky Pirelli Trofeo track-ready rubber helping with that. There’s no wiggling of the tail and acceleration is crisp and controlled.

The numbers tell a potent story. Topping 200km/h takes just 6.8 seconds. Top speed is somewhere north of 340km/h.

But it’s the braking that gives the clearest indication of the Senna’s ability. Stand on the pedal hard and there’s brutal deceleration. The brake is surprisingly firm, requiring plenty of pressure, which is all about giving better feel on a track.

It’s not just the new carbon brakes retarding the wheels, but also air brakes reducing the stopping distance and adding crucial stability, ensuring the car tracks straight and consistently.

It’s clinically accurate and planted, a rare glimpse into the world of racing, the G forces unlike any car that can legally wear numberplates. The faster you go, the more brutal the sensation.

But that cornering talent doesn’t come through traditional means. It’s the result of an intricate assortment of wings, fins and ribs to ensure air pushes the car to the ground, feeds front- and rear-mounted radiators and forces enough cool air into the engine snorkel proudly planted on the top of the roof.

Like recent era F1 cars, the Senna is not aesthetically beautiful, instead putting function well ahead of form.

Product manager Ian Howshall offers no apologies.

“This car had a very, very clear brief: It needed to be the most engaging car to drive, the fastest around any race track of any McLaren,” says Howshall. “How the car looked was secondary to that. It is very, very much aero driven, this car.”

Every last corner of the Senna has been sculpted for a purpose, at times compromising road-friendly features – such as a boot (there isn’t one).

Those active aerodynamics aren’t popping up and down according to just speed or brake force. They’re constantly monitoring the forces on each wheel and working to balance the car in microseconds. It’s all part of McLaren’s Race Active Chassis Control II, the latest iteration of one of the most advanced chassis systems on any car, road or track.

It may involve peeling some downforce off the nose as you transition from the brake to the throttle, in turn helping keep the car flat. Or stiffening one corner of the suspension to allow the wings to do their thing.

The speed – and power – of the computer processing is phenomenal, calculations being made in microseconds. McLaren develops its own software with a team comprising about 30 people, something that allows things like a separate control unit for the gearbox, all with the aim of separating computing tasks.

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

As is the sensation behind the wheel. My two brief drives amount to about 25 minutes, enough to realise the Senna is a car of enormous talents.

Stepping out, its long front overhang, cartoon-like wings and myriad shapes and curves look more endearing. 

For now, the Senna is almost certainly the fastest road car around a track.

Like the complex and captivating man it’s named after, it’s focused and supremely fast.

Little wonder McLaren had no problems selling the entire allocation with a price tag that translates to $1.7 million.

If only Ayrton could have experienced what is set to go down as one of the most exciting hypercars created.

 
Filed under hypercar McLaren senna supercar
 
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