MOUNTAIN HIGH
evo India|August 2020
When the McLaren P1 was launched in 2013 it mesmerised with its freakish abilities. Seven years on, has time, and progress, dulled that brilliance? We find out on the twisting roads of the Pyrenees
JETHRO BOVINGDON

NINE HUNDRED AND THREE.’ I’VE lost count of the number of times I’ve said it in the past 24 hours. There will be dozens more in the next couple of days. But for some reason right now, at a tiny Repsol station in La Molina, it dawns on me just how outrageous the McLaren P1 remains. The station is one of those strange petrol station/ café/workshop/community centre/off licences you only get in small-town Spain. When I arrived there were two people sitting outside, smoking and drinking coffee. Or maybe something stronger. Now – less than five minutes later – there must be 15 or 20 and nearly as many scooters and beaten-up SEATs crammed into the forecourt. ‘How much horsepower?’ somebody asks. ‘Nine hundred and three.’ His eyes almost pop out of his skull before his friend repeats it back, shaking his head, laughing and pointing his phone at the P1 with its door raised to the sky. I’m standing next to him doing exactly the same.

The run down from the peak of Puigllançada, in northeastern Spain, had been slow and easy, the P1 on fumes and the last dregs of battery power and its driver pretty much spent, too. But the run-up the preceding spectacular ridge demonstrated what 903bhp was all about. A frantic few minutes that crystallised why we came all the way to Spain in the first place with little more than a rough plan to drive from Barcelona on the north-eastern coast all the way to Bilbao. A haphazard road trip taking in the best roads of the blissfully empty Pyrenees to investigate whether McLaren’s first Ultimate Series car still feels as insanely potent and laser precise as it did back in 2013. To chart the trajectory of the supercar and hypercar and ponder what’s left behind when similar performance is now available in a car as ‘normal’ as the new 992 Turbo. Annoyingly, we’re only two hours into our journey and I’m pretty much sold on the P1. In short, it is completely and utterly unhinged.

Of course, the raw numbers – 903bhp, 900Nm, 1490kg – say that it has to be… but casting my mind back to 2013 and all the hype surrounding the ‘Holy Trinity’ (wow, that sounds cringeworthy now, doesn’t it?), the real excitement around the P1 centred on its track performance and unprecedented downforce in Race mode. You know the script: Select Race and the P1 drops 50mm and the spring rate increases by 300 per cent. Simultaneously the hydraulics do their shape-shifting magic, rear wing extending 300mm and adjusting its angle for maximum downforce.

Thus configured, McLaren claimed 600kg of load at 260kmph, at which point the P1 starts trimming its aero devices to ‘spill’ downforce away so as not to overload the suspension. How cool does that sound? It seemed almost by the by that the P1 would hit 350kmph and do 0-200kmph in 6.8sec. You got a whole heap of tech and aero harnessed to deliver incredible track performance. The three new hypercars each had its own distinct personality. The 918 Spyder was stunningly well resolved, the LaFerrari used hybrid technology to elevate the V12’s intensity to a new plane, and the P1 was all about celebrating McLaren’s motorsport pedigree. We had them all worked out.

Only maybe we didn’t. Whilst the petrol station crowd continues to take selfies, all I can think about is how crazed and industrial the P1 felt back on that amazing climb. Laser-guided? Only if the beam fires out as thick as a tree trunk from a gnarly old pump-action shotgun and the kickback nearly rips your shoulder from its socket. As supercar owners seem to be so fond of wraps, I’d suggest a Millennium Falcon theme would suit the P1 nicely. It’s a spaceship hot-rod.

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