McLaren – a Formula One giant for well over four decades – now has a road car. A serious road car. The MP4-12C is a supercar, McLaren’s first since the F1 of the 1990s. But this new machine is a very different proposition. Where the F1 was a super exclusive, low-volume car, the MP4-12C is going into full production, and heralds the start of a continuous, expanding sports car venture for McLaren. It’s not an occasional one off, it’s the announcement to the world of McLaren Automotive’s arrival into the high performance sector. And its aim is firmly fixed on Ferrari.
The challenge for McLaren is that some of the markets where a Ferrari-like supercar would be appreciated are not necessarily the same markets that watch Formula 1. Which could be an issue for a firm trading largely on its Formula 1 heritage. To try and remedy this, McLaren has raided its archives. Not for old dusty books, but for racing cars. Each showroom in the McLaren dealer network will host a bona fide piece of racing history; a machine that’s raced under the McLaren banner, contributing towards its superb record of 175 wins from 702 Formula 1 races.
We recently visited McLaren’s astounding, futuristic headquarters in the English town of Woking to follow one such racing car from the warehouse to its destination somewhat closer to home. The MP4-22 in which Lewis Hamilton wowed the world back in 2007 will be heading out of retirement and going on tour to Dubai, to take a starring role in a brand new McLaren showroom in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa.
This is no mean undertaking. It’s a good 5500km between Woking and Dubai, and between start and finish is a plethora of logistical challenges. It begins with the removal of the MP4-22 from the McLaren storage facility. This is where all the cars that McLaren has raced live once their life on track is over. Well, almost all. It was only when current McLaren CEO Ron Dennis joined the firm in 1980 that the policy of keeping cars began; prior to that, they were sold off. Dennis and his colleagues worked hard during the 1980s and 90s to buy back old McLarens, to ensure that the firm kept a firm eye on its history.