A lot of paperwork and a seven-hour cargo flight later, the MP4-22 touches down at Dubai airport, where Keith Holland’s McLaren logistics colleagues are on hand to meet it and cut through the necessary red tape. Once that’s completed, it’s taken to the firm’s storage facility while Keith flies out to meet it. First though, he has to scope out the venue. The Dubai McLaren dealership is on the ground floor of a residential tower block directly opposite the world’s tallest building. It’s on a busy six-lane road, and there are no big trucks allowed. Not that the official race transporters are on hand anyway; they were used for European deliveries, but the Middle East is a long way to bring a 16-wheeler.
Exactly how the MP4-22 arrived at the showroom remains unclear, as McLaren is extremely sensitive about image and wouldn’t let us see it turn up. The first thing we saw of it, it was sitting in the underground car park behind the showrooms, sans nose, with tape around it. Even in this less-than-salubrious setting, it’s clearly endured its journey very well, looking as gleaming and flawless as when it left Woking.
But now it faces its greatest challenge yet; a small step between the car park and the showroom floor. Formula 1 cars aren’t exactly known for their ground clearance, so manoeuvring the car into position follows a committee meeting and a series of wooden planks arranged to ease the big tyres’ way onto level ground. The entire process has to wait until the still-in-progress showroom is tidy (we’re not allowed to take pictures otherwise), so shifting it 20 feet takes the best part of two hours. It’s amusing that after the incredibly intricate and careful planning that’s got the car to Dubai, it’s position within the showroom is adjusted with a couple of good shoves to the rear tyre by the men charged with installing it (both resplendent in Hugo Boss-designed McLaren wear).
After a bit of fiddling and no small amount of sweat, the nose is bolted back on and work begins on cleaning every nook and cranny. Keith has prepared a list of dos and don’ts for the showroom staff (don’t push the carbon fibre, it breaks; don’t let anyone sit in it, etc etc). After all that work, it would be a shame if the car was inadvertently damaged; just a broken wing mirror would mean the whole car has to go back to England for repairs.
A day later and the cleaners are gone. The floor is sparkling, the information signs are dusted and the great and the good of Dubai are crammed into the Downtown showroom amidst canapes and an assortment of fruit juices. And everyone’s looking at the gleaming silver Formula 1 car in the centre of the room, all exposed carbon fibre and undulating aerodynamics. Before long, Lewis Hamilton himself arrives, in an MP4-12C, to officially inaugurate the showroom and be reunited with his car. Somewhere, Keith Holland is smiling with satisfaction with a job well done. Not here though. He’s already left Dubai on his way to the next installation >>>