On 23 August 2013 my son Alex and I were extremely fortunate to have a VIP tour of the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC), where all the McLaren Group companies are based.
There is much to learn from organisations such as the McLaren Group in terms of project management, marketing, innovation, processes and quality just to name a few.
This blog describes more what it is like as a visitor to experience rather than the technical aspects of the site.
What we first noticed was the incredible tidiness and neatness of everything I saw as we were driven down the VIP access road along the lake front, and the sheer scale of the site itself. As you can imagine, McLaren do things right.
Our tour kicked off in the theatre with Danielle our guide, showing some films about Formula 1 (F1) and McLaren. We could also hear a live update from Belgium broadcast through-out the building describing how the first practise session went for the grand prix that weekend.
The cars are the stars so we moved on to the main boulevard. The first car we are shown is the Austin that Bruce McLaren himself drove as a teenager. Across from the Austin is last years’ MP4/27 F1 car driven by Jenson Button.
Other cars included Emerson Fittipaldi’s world championship car, another raced by Dennis Hulme, the awesome M8 CanAm car, three McLaren F1 cars including the Le Mans winner, Mika Hakkinen’s two world championship winning cars from 1998 and 1999, Lewis Hamilton’s championship winning car from 2008, with all its intricate aero body work that is not easy to see on television. The last car Ayrton Senna drove to victory was also on display.
The McLaren Automotive MP4-12C and 12C Spider were on show and while we walked past some of the F1 cars we heard an engine fire up nearby. It was their latest sports car, the McLaren P1, being prepared for filming. We managed to get a good up close look at this incredible looking machine and Alex was fortunately allowed to sit behind the wheel while the people in charge answered my questions. At the time Alex is the youngest person to have sat in a McLaren P1; in fact hardly anyone has done so as the car is so new.
From there it was on to the wind tunnel which is in the heart of the building and cooled in part by the lake. After a quick tour of the design area and machine shop it was on to the race bays where the test car was being worked on as was the car driven by James Hunt in 1976 and featured in the new film “Rush” by Ron Howard. The most successful F1 car, MP4/4, driven by Senna with rear body work removed was nearby. This is the car that a lot of the current F1 drivers and fans seem to like the most. The trophy cabinet is nearby containing the first trophy Bruce McLaren won.
There is a race bay setup with a race car and full pit stop setup so the mechanics can practice pit stops to improve tire changes and maintain their sharpness. The race team must also go the gym at least three times a week for fitness which emphasises just how much of a team sport motor racing is.
As a bonus we got to see the production facility for the sports cars. We were able to see MP4-12C and the first P1 cars being assembled. It is an unbelievably quiet and clean place. Think hospital but cleaner.
After an excellent lunch (even Alex ate the vegetables) with Danielle in the Lauda room and the tour concluded with a final walk above the boulevard looking down on the amazing cars. Danielle also presented us with some nice books, caps and a copy of Tooned for Alex.
Aside from what we saw (and tasted), there was also a positive vibe within the building. McLaren are not having a very good season in terms of F1 results. The team knows what needs to be done and are fully focused on getting the best from this year’s car while developing a better car for next year.
The tour was a fantastic experience for us and I recommend anyone (even those odd ones not into cars) who gets the opportunity to visit an F1 team HQ. There is so much to see and learn from that is not available anywhere else.
Thank you to Stephanie and Sarah and the rest of McLaren for making this excellent tour possible, and Danielle our guide for her excellent knowledge.
Since our visit McLaren has had its 50th birthday which is an amazing accomplishment.
Here are some links about McLaren that explain things in more detail.
Official McLaren Group information
Excellent tour Video by Driven:
Main McLaren site with links to all companies in the group.
McLaren P1 at Goodwood
If you are interested in going on your own tour of the MTC then you will need to join Team McLaren