Experience the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, England

By Kimatni D. Rawlins

I was feeling quite festive in London earlier this month while admiring its historic buildings, visiting theaters for classic performances, shopping at Harrods and Kensington Gardens, jogging through Holland and Hyde Park, and most importantly, partaking in McLaren Automotive’s 60th Anniversary by touring the avantgarde McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, England. The British sports car maker continues to rejuvenate its racing heritage and memorable accomplishments to fuel a progressive future.

Achievements are not measured in years alone.” Bruce McLaren

The aesthetically stellar McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) is an architectural wonder in the heart of Woking, not too far from London Heathrow Airport. Designed by distinguished British architect Lord Norman Foster, the environmentally-conscious building was completed in 2003 and opened by the Queen in 2004. Today, every vehicle is hand-built with a carbon-fiber monocoque at the McLaren Production Centre (MPC) adjacent to MTC. McLaren also builds upon its success with stellar partners such as Bowers & Wilkins, Dell Technologies, Gulf, Pirelli, and Tumi. Specifically, the high-end luggage manufacturer from New Jersey creates prestigious McLaren sets that embody the design principles of the vehicles.

Automotive Rhythms publisher Kimatni Rawlins posing with Bruce McLaren at MTC

Form and Function

After entering the security gates and driving up to the futuristic and sustainable building, you will pass by a lake that has a symbiotic relationship with the facility for both heating and cooling it. A natural way of preserving the recycled water is from the koi carp fish that reside there since they are bottom feeders. The campus is lush and refreshing, surrounded by omnipresent trees and inhabited by birds, foxes, rabbits, insects, etc. Effectively, the building echoes McLaren’s accomplishments in motorsports and sports car engineering; everything has a form and a function.

Welcome to the BLVD!

Enter the scene to receive a  warm welcome from a collection of historical and new McLarens that sit prominently on the BLVD. The well-informed Olly Hughes was my MTC tour guide and took me through the series of vehicles and features of the MTC and PMC. If you are a connoisseur of motorsports or supercars, then irresistible impulses will immediately run down your spine. In grand fashion, a Mantis Green McLaren 750S greets you when entering the VIP lounge where the PR team prepared British biscuits, cookies, and English tea for my arrival. You will also find a selection of color options for your new McLaren order and a trophy case to highlight the company’s racing success.

Further down the BLVD is an extended set of cases hosting over 670 original motorsports trophies. It’s the corporate culture for all McLaren drivers who win a race to hand their original trophies to the company. Yet, they will receive a replica, which is the opposite of motorsports tradition for other teams.

Mantis Green McLaren 750S

McLaren’s Decorated History

Founded by engineer and race car driver Bruce McLaren, who captured his first victory at age 15 in an Austin 7 and secured his first major race at just 22 years of age (the 1959 US Grand Prix), McLaren has modeled its current production vehicles from the DNA and formula of its storied past including the first true McLaren sports car in the 1964-built M1A. From 1967 to 1971 Bruce and team won 37 of the 43 races in the Can-Am Series, three times more than its next competitor Porsche. Papaya Orange livery was Bruce’s trademark hue and lives on as McLaren Orange. McLaren would win 12 F1 World Championships with elite drivers Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen, and Lewis Hamilton. Lando Norris is next in line. Sadly, Bruce died in a tragic crash at Goodwood Circuit in 1970 at just 32.

LEGO and McLaren Senna Collaboration

Racing legend and Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna was so prolific behind the wheel that the McLaren Senna was conceived in his honor. His charismatic persona and legacy continue to resonate with the British automaker and its fans, and this is partly why Ayrton’s nephew Bruno Senna is a McLaren brand ambassador. On the BLVD, you will witness the full-scale LEGO McLaren Senna, which is sure to impress any first-time attendee. As a LEGO builder myself, I was in awe of this spectacle that represents the second of three McLaren collaborations with the LEGO Group.

During my visit to MTC I learned that you can sit in the 2019 track-focused Hypercar, flash the lights, and start and rev the engine since it’s connected to an amplified sound system. Replicating the brand’s latest LEGO Speed Champions set, the fully interactive build consists of over 468,000 LEGO bricks tied together by a steel structure. It took a 30-person crew over 2,700 hours to meticulously craft this masterpiece. Additionally, the LEGO variant features specific Pirelli P Zero Color Edition tires with orange sidewall graphics.

Designed for the Track, Developed for the Road

Whether you are walking through MTC admiring the stellar F1 XP5, a roofless Elva, the staggering 250 mph Speedtail ultimate road car, or the all-electric Odyssey 21 Extreme E off-road racecar designed by Spark Racing Technology, you will see that innovation and precision are the company’s focus. The 4-wheel-steer dune buggy is built from sustainable materials and requires a male and female operator (Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust) who split the driving 50/50 in the Extreme E Championships.

Once you move along and enter the MPC, you will find no automation or traditional conveyor belts. Focused, hand-assembled craftsmanship from automotive artisans is the objective for the 22 McLarens that emerge daily from MPC. For example, the central seated hybrid Speedtail is McLaren’s fastest production car, with only 106 built to honor the 106 F1 vehicles created. Its paint scheme also incorporates genuine diamonds for a sparkle effect. On the other hand, the XP5 was the fastest car from 1998 for 14 years and set the auto land speed record. It also represented the first million-dollar car in history. The supercar’s chassis required 350 hours to craft back then (today, an electrified Artura hybrid necessitates just three hours), and to manage the excessive amount of rear heat emanating from the naturally aspirated BMW M V12, McLaren lined the engine bay with 24K gold.

Enthusiasts Expressions from Modern McLarens

McLaren Automotive’s global launch took place in 2010, and following in 2011 came the groundbreaking 12C. Next was the 12C Spider in 2012 and the limited-run McLaren P1 which went into production in 2013. McLarens are unique, expressive, hypnotically gorgeous, and magnetically attract crowds, as I have experienced multiple times during test-drive evaluations. With highly touted British sprinters such as the 750S, 765LT, Senna GTR, Solus GT, and GTS on McLaren’s Olympic relay team, each formidable runner can rip any leg of the 4×100 and perform admirably for the creator of luxury high-performance sportscars and supercars. Enthusiasts will certainly bask in the glory of the latest McLaren GTS which personifies the McLaren mantra of beautiful yet functional design.

“When you want a true supercar driving experience, the GTS delivers that; when you want to relax on a longer journey or with luggage for a weekend away, the GTS is an ideal companion. This is a car that is true to McLaren’s racing DNA but with multiple layers of ability.”  – McLaren CEO Michael Leiters.

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