Formula 1

McLaren Names Latest Production Car After Ayrton Senna

TORONTO, Ontario — The Canadian International Auto Show gives car enthusiasts the ability to get up-close to the latest production models, including vehicles that some can only dream of owning.

The 2019 edition features the Canadian unveil of the brand-new McLaren Senna, which was named in honor of famous Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna. Senna’s connection goes deep with the manufacture, as he won all of his championships with them.

“He’s such a legend,” Mark Roberts, Head of Design Operations for McLaren Automotive Ltd, told POPULAR OPEN WHEEL. “I met him a few times. I was lucky enough to meet him when we were doing the F1 road car, and he was such a lovely, mild-mannered guy, but one of the best naturally gifted drivers.

“He could feed back to the team exactly what was going on with the car. So he’d go out for a couple laps, and he’d come back in and say you need to lighten up on this a little, change this, change that – and he would give such precise, specific instructions to the team, and they loved working with him because of that. They’d make those changes and he’d go out and the car would be point-whatever of a second quicker the next lap.

“He was an absolute genius, but such a lovely guy as well. So he’s a really special person to McLaren.”

The car carrying the name is by no accident, as it’s essentially meant to be the ultimate street legal racing career from the manufacture.

“You only have to look at it to so see it shouts racecar,” Roberts commented. “It’s just all about no compromise, extreme performance which was what Senna was about. Even though we called all of our other cars by a numeric name, we decided to call this car Senna to have a more emotional connection.”

When the car was initially unveiled, they paid sentiment back to Senna by agreeing to auction off the first car built at the winter ball the factory hosts for the customers who had put down deposits and other VIPs, with the proceeds going to the Ayrton Senna foundation. While the car is worth approximately $975,000 US, they were able to raise and donate $2 million to the foundation.

“It’s great because we have his name on the car, the dash, and so forth, and it’s a very special car for us,” Roberts continued. “Bruno Senna does all of the testing for us so he helped develop this car as well. He was a big part of the story – and that’s lovely again due to the family connection. It’s pretty spooky as well because when Bruno has his crash helmet on and you can just see his eyes, he looks just like Ayrton. It’s very kind of spooky. Not surprising because of the family connection.”

For Roberts and his production team, they are always focused on creating “the ultimate driving experience, without any compromise,” and the Senna showcases that fully.

“The design language is about sucking in the maximum air so the car can breathe, it’s about managing airflow over and through the car so it sticks to the world. It’s absolutely no compromise,” Roberts said. “We really focus on delivering the ultimate driving experience, and to us, that means no compromise. This is the absolute expression of that. We want the driver to feel the hairs on their neck standing up, and they’re really attached to the car and they feel every essence of the driving experience.

“My boss links cars to athletes and if you look at the Senna, you could say it’s like a 100-meter sprinter, where it’s all muscle and power; it’s about that explosion of power off the line. Compared to P1, where it was a much more elegant, more beautiful in the design language of the car – closer to a middle-distance swimmer. Even when you’re doing like 20 or 40 mph, you feel like you’re doing 120 mph because of the lower glass in the doors and you see the road whizzing by.”

Beyond the simple design features, the car also has the best weight to power ratio for the super cars. Although it weighs 2,641 pounds, it will get you up and going in a hurry with a V8 Twin-Turbo McLaren M840TR under the hood that produces 789 horsepower. With 590 pounds of torque, you can go zero to 62 mph in just 2.8 seconds. Alternatively, you can be at 186 mph in 17.5 seconds.

“We are completely obsessed with light weight,” Roberts noted. “That goes right back to 1981 with the original MP4-1 Formula 1. We were the first to make a composite carbon fiber car for the track. So we genuinely are the engineers of carbon fiber. By the end of that season, everybody has always switched or was planning to switch from the old school construction to composite.

“That mindset has gone through to this car today. Every car since then has been made of a carbon fiber monocoque. It’s originally a complete mindset for us to deliver on. If you focus on the light weight, then you get good fuel consumption, agility, performance times – that all follows with the light-weight mindset.”

Until Sunday, February 24, the car will be on display at the show as part of the Auto Exotica exhibit which is meant to showcase some of the best super cars from around the world.


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