Chatting with Amanda McLaren
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At the recent launch of McLaren’s potent new 675LT at Silverstone, CarAdvice was granted an exclusive interview with Amanda McLaren, brand ambassador and daughter of company founder Bruce McLaren. Amanda was just four years old when her father was tragically killed while testing the McLaren M8D at Goodwood in 1970. Today, she talks to us about the company founded by her late father and his aspirations to build a series of McLaren road cars 45 years ago.
Why didn’t someone else pick that project up? After all, Ferrari and Jaguar were already producing highly desirable road-legal sports cars.
“There were a number of reasons; the homologation rules actually changed and the number of cars Bruce McLaren Racing would have had to produce in order to meet the regulations was going to stretch a fairly small company too much, so that’s the main reason why the project was shelved. However, Trojan made quite a few customer race cars, one of which is here at the McLaren Technology Centre, in Woking."
What was Trojan?
"Trojan was a company that Bruce McLaren Racing had a technology partnership with that built both the customer racing cars and the prototypes, known as the M12GT.
McLaren’s sports car business seems to be moving along at decent rate of knots these days, but it took a while to get there, didn't it?
"Well, yes, it did take a while, but in 1992 we launched the amazing F1, which at the time, was the fastest road car in the world with a top speed of 372km/h (with the rev limiter enabled).
Is the road car business part of the Formula 1 business?
“No, its called McLaren Automotive, which is a sister company to the McLaren Group companies, like the McLaren Technology Group. So, it’s quite independent from other McLaren companies, but of course, shares the name, shares the brand and draws heavily on the research and development from Formula 1 through the years.”
How much of McLaren’s Formula 1 technology goes into the road cars, and is there any crossover from your F1 team to the road car business?
“There are no crossover engineers as such, but some of the original McLaren Automotive employees came from the race team. The most obvious piece of technology that came from Formula 1 was the carbonfibre chassis; MP4/1 being the first F1 car that had such a chassis. McLaren pioneered that.
Any other process from the racecars that have been carried across to the road cars?
“We’ve also taken a number of other technologies like ‘brake steer’ from MP4/13 that Mika and David raced, which is the ability to defeat understeer by braking the inside rear wheel to turn the car into the corner. It meant that the drivers could carry so much more speed through the corners, as you’ll see when you drive our road cars on track – the cornering ability of a car like the 675LT is simply phenomenal.”
“So, lets start with MP4. After the merger in 1980 with Ron Dennis, the chassis design prior to that was M1, M2, M23 – Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt Championship winning car – M30 was the last car that Bruce Mclaren Racing ever produced.
We then moved to MP4/1, originally Marlborough Project 4 to signify the merger that Marlborough engineered between McLaren’s and Ron Dennis’ Formula 2 team. So the first racecar was MP4/1 and the first road car that McLaren Automotive, as it is now, produced was MP4/12C – the ‘12’ being an internal index for the co-efficient of drag and some mathematical formula that’s a little beyond me – and ‘C’ for our carbonfibre technology that we’re renowned for.
The 540C is mainly for the Asia-Pacific market. For taxation purposes there’s less horsepower with slightly detuned engine. What McLaren Automotive has done with the Sports Series is bring in a supercar at the sports car level, and that’s really important. We now have a McLaren car with a carbonfibre chassis and all that McLaren technology in a much more affordable package geared to appeal to a very new market, which is exciting.
So, Amanda, does the 570S replace the 12C and what are the future plans for McLaren Automotive – are there more models on the way?
“Not really, the 650S replaced the 12C. Absolutely, the business plan stretches out into the distant future.”
Is McLaren planning to build an SUV like some of your sports car rivals?
“Absolutely not. Mike Flewitt, our CEO has already said ‘no SUVs’. We are a sports car company and we’re never going to be a high-volume car producer. We pride ourselves on the quality and craftsmanship of our cars."
The opportunity to work for such an incredible company at such an exciting time in its growth, as well as making the connection between my father and the McLaren Group is fantastic.
I really believe he’d be proud of what the group company has become, and especially what McLaren Automotive is doing. He really wanted to build road cars, but unfortunately, that never really happened. So I see new McLaren Automotive fulfilling my father’s dream." Thanks to Amanda McLaren and her family for the use of photographs.