Strap yourself in for six intense, brain-scrambling laps of Silverstone in a production-spec prototype of McLaren’s ultimate road-legal track car.
THE FIRST SERIOUS MOTOR RACE I went to at Silverstone, ‘our’ track when growing up, was the then WEC equivalent World Sportscar Championship round of 1988. The era of Group C. Big cars, He-Man aero, even bigger power. Given I was a car-mad youngster, my life was never the same again after that day.
Today, as the McLaren Senna’s butterfly door clicks shut above my head, and the thud of the V8’s baritone exhaust blare instantly switches to a deep hum down the ear canals and a tingle in the back, that bitterly cold spring day in 1988 flashes across my mind: here I am, in a brutish, mid-engined machine, wraparound screen and pared-back pod of a cockpit, 789bhp under my right foot, bespoke Trofeo R tyres that, in spite of tread, must surely give a 30-year-old design of slick a run for its money, and an almost weightless carbon rear wing to rival the one on an AEG-sponsored Sauber-Mercedes C9. Gulp.
You’ve probably already read plenty about the Senna – McLaren’s ultimate road-legal track car. Like most of us, you may have gasped, perhaps in horror, at the initial pictures, and shared a collective scepticism when those who had seen the car in the carbon seemed infatuated by it. I am of that camp: bemused on first acquaintance, but besotted having walked around it, understood the crazy shapes, and felt its presence. The Senna has stellar presence, just like its namesake had when he walked into a room.
We’re at Silverstone – the International circuit to be precise – to have a first ‘go’ in the Senna. This is not the main launch event, simply half a dozen laps in the car, but there are no cone chicanes, and while I have WEC GTE pro Euan Hankey sitting beside me, he’s there to advise, not to limit rev usage or top speed.
Having suspended myself in mid-air across the sill and then fallen with as much grace as I can muster into the 8kg moulded carbonfibre seat – with cushioned pads in strategic places – I’m clamped in place, notably across the shoulders, and I clip in the four-point harness â€‹that the McLaren tech then pulls tight over the HANS device.
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