Chassis no. SBM12ABA2FW000220
Variously known in the worlds of education, music and sport as the sophomore slump, second-album syndrome and second-season syndrome respectively, the notion of a subsequent endeavour failing to live up to the exalted standards of the first is a familiar one. This paradigm is of course equally applicable to the manufacturing industry, particularly so when that first endeavor happens to be the McLaren F1; a car so revered as to be perhaps the only one considered the spiritual successor to the immortal Ferrari 250 GTO. In short, how does a company -- even one with McLaren's vast collective resources -- avoid its second top-line supercar being a relative disappointment compared to the first?
Remarkably, 2022 represents the 30th anniversary of F1 production commencing, while next year will mark a quarter century since it ceased. However, barely had the final F1 left the Woking factory before speculation started to mount as to the specification and timing of its possible replacement. In 2010, after carrying out predictably exhaustive feasibility studies and having revived the formerly dormant McLaren Cars concern as McLaren Automotive, the Group made the decision to return to road-car production with their new MP4/12C model.
Although hugely capable, and assembled with the customary McLaren attention to detail, the 12C was aimed at a very different market to its illustrious predecessor. Rather than being an ultimate specification, ultra-low volume model in the same vein as the F1, it would be produced in significant numbers and marketed via a global network of McLaren dealerships. Moreover, McLaren aimed to challenge the hegemony of Ferrari and Porsche in the production supercar sector; their intention being that the 12C would form the basis of an entire generation of derivatives.
Buoyed by promising early commercial success for the 12C, McLaren formally announced their long-awaited F1 successor, the P1, in May 2012 -- a car which assuredly would subscribe to the F1's original principles and appeal to a similar, rarefied demographic. The new car's secretive development went back as far as 2009, when it was decided that -- rather than use a conventional normally-aspirated V12 engine, as in the F1 -- a relatively compact V8 turbo unit would be employed. Significantly, and in common with direct competitors Porsche and Ferrari with their respective 918 Spyder and La Ferrari models, this would operate in conjunction with an electric motor to form the company's first foray into hybrid supercar territory.
Based around a development of the 12C's carbon fiber “MonoCell” tub -- dubbed the “MonoCage” -- the P1 also featured a revised version of the former's 3.8 litre twin-turbocharged M838T engine. However, the “Q” specification unit used in the P1 incorporated a revised flat-plane crankshaft, modified engine block -- suitably adapted to accommodate the hybrid hardware -- and enhanced cooling to cope with its increased loading; the resulting power output of the petrol engine increasing to some 727 horsepower.
However, central to the car's function was its standard-setting braking system, designed by established Formula One team technical partner Akebono. Giant silicon carbide-coated carbon-ceramic discs operated in conjunction with six-pot front calipers and four-pot rears --and an F1-inspired KERS system--thereby enabling friction to be harvested under heavy braking and stored in an on-board lithium-ion battery pack. This energy could then be deployed when required via an integrated electric motor; the resulting electrical power boost pushing the combined maximum output of the two power sources to a prodigious 903 horsepower.
Ingeniously, the electrical energy could be deployed either manually by the driver, or automatically. In the case of the latter, the car's ECU would constantly monitor the performance of the petrol engine and, in situations where a “torque fill” shortfall was detected -- such as under hard acceleration where turbo lag might otherwise occur - -summon energy from the electric motor to fill any such “gaps”. The result was near-instant throttle response more akin to that of a normally aspirated rather than a turbocharged car. Furthermore, if sufficiently charged, the car was able to operate solely on electrical energy, albeit only for short journeys of up to six miles.
Predictably, technology abounded elsewhere on the car. A seven-speed dual clutch gearbox could operate in both semi- and fully automatic modes, while a highly advanced brake-steer system - initially developed in Formula One but subsequently banned -- was employed to improve turn in when approaching a corner, and traction when exiting. Meanwhile, an intelligent suspension system, dubbed Race Chassis Control, was developed to constantly monitor spring and damper rates on all four corners of the car; the engagement of “Race” mode also lowering the car by 50 mm and stiffening spring torsion by some 300%.
Aerodynamics were naturally a considerable focus of attention on the P1, with the car boasting a maximum downforce loading of 600 kilograms -- the highest figure ever recorded for a road car at the time of launch. Both front and rear wings operated actively according to driving scenarios, while the car's retractable rear wing could be trimmed to limit drag via its Drag Reduction System, and via the press of a button if desired.
Needless to say, the combination of such power and technology made for an astonishing set of performance figures: 0-60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds, 0-100 in 4.8 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 217 miles per hour. Yet it is arguably the 0-186 miles per hour time of 16.5 seconds which puts the P1's huge performance capability into context; usurping as it does the figure recorded by the legendary F1 by more than five seconds! Despite this breath-taking performance, the P1 is also highly prized for the quality and comfort of its GT-worthy interior – and its flexibility to be both dominant on track days, yet perfectly suitable, and comfortable, for more relaxed touring.
Believed to be one of just 36 P1s delivered worldwide in the striking body color of Volcano Orange, this particular chassis -- number 220 of the 375 constructed -- was delivered new to the US in 2015, but remained in the original ownership only briefly prior to its acquisition by the current owner later that year. Having covered a mere 281 miles from new, unsurprisingly chassis 220 presents in “as new” condition throughout. Indeed, such is the car's originality that it still retains the airbag warning decal on the passenger side of the dashboard; an item usually removed in the early stages of P1 ownership as a matter of course. In February 2022, the car was subjected to a thorough technical overhaul and five-year service at McLaren Greenwich of Stamford, Connecticut, at a cost of some $49,000; the vehicle having covered just three test miles since.
Inevitably -- and perhaps fittingly -- the span of more than 20 years between the F1 and P1 makes a direct, objective comparison between the two all but impossible. Both are assuredly products of their time: the F1 arguably the last of the true “analog era” supercars, unapologetically offering the visceral back-to-basics driving experience intended by designer Gordon Murray; the P1 every inch the 21st century supercar bristling with ground-breaking technology, outrageous performance, and impressively sophisticated yet utterly seamless and brilliant driver aids. Thus, it is the way in which the new car makes this performance so accessible -- not to mention the competition-bred spirit with which it is imbued -- that renders it a more than worthy successor to its illustrious forebear.
With a total production of just 375 units—and just north of 100 examples built for the U.S. -- the P1 remains the rarest of the so-called “Holy Trinity” of hybrid supercars; a fact which -- when allied to its dynamic abilities, racing heritage and show-stopping looks -- all but guarantees its place in the pantheon of supercar greats. Given the market's long-standing preference for ultra low-mileage cars with impeccable provenance, it is unlikely that this sub-300 mile, two-owners-from-new example will ever be surpassed in this respect. As such it offers virtually limitless collector-grade potential, as well as a similarly boundless capacity to entertain and excite in equal measure.