THE BIG PICTURE
MCLAREN AND SENNA TOGETHER AGAIN, FOR THE FIRST TIME
Mclaren and Senna together again for the first time.
Mclaren Senna. Magic, right there. Ayrton Senna became a three-time world champion at the wheel of a Mclaren Formula 1 car in just four years. Now, almost a quarter century later, the two names are reunited.
One of the greatest F1 drivers of all time, Senna’s understanding of vehicle dynamics was the stuff of legend along pit lane. He could talk for an hour about a single lap of Monaco, insiders recall, describing everything that the car was doing, what was happening, and why.
Senna dabbled in road car development while at Mclaren, working with Honda (then the Mclaren F1 team’s engine supplier) on the final chassis tune of the original NSX. Had he not been tragically killed in the 1994 San Marino GP at Imola (after he’d left Mclaren to drive for rival team Williams), the experience might have spurred involvement in other road car projects.
“It was Ayrton’s dream to have a car with his name on it,” says nephew Bruno Senna, himself a former F1 driver. And now he has.
The Mclaren Senna is not pretty. But if you believe form should follow function, it’s beautiful. Every dramatic curve, every nuanced surface, every tiny detail has earned its place on this car for one simple reason, says Mclaren: to make the Senna the most exciting road car you can drive on a racetrack.
That’s quite a mission statement in an era of impressive track-focused road cars like Porsche’s 911 GT2 RS, Lamborghini’s Huracán Performante, and the Mercedes-amg GT R. But the Mclaren Senna’s got game.
The Senna’s mid-mounted 4.0-liter twinturbo V-8 develops 789 hp at 7,250 rpm and 590 lb-ft from 5,500 to 6,700 rpm. Mclaren claims it will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds, but as we’ve just had a Mclaren 720S post a stunning 0–60 time of 2.5 seconds in our instrumented testing, that Senna estimate might be on the conservative side. Even so, spec-sheet mavens—who’ll also note the Senna’s 211-mph top speed is identical to that of the 720S, the car it’s based upon—will ask the question: Why spend more than three times the 720S’ sticker price—an eye-watering $958,966, to be precise—for a car that seems no quicker? Two reasons: low weight and high downforce.
Mclaren claims the lightest version of the Senna weighs a feathery 2,641 pounds without fluids. Call it about 2,900 pounds gassed and ready to go, and the Senna is at least 200 pounds lighter than a 720S. Simple physics suggests that weight advantage, combined with its grippier, specially developed Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires and latest-generation CCM-R carbon-ceramic brakes, means it should be significantly quicker into, through, and out of corners than the 720S.
But wait, there’s more. The active aero blades tucked in the gaping apertures under the headlights and the giant active rear wing towering over the Senna’s low-slung hindquarters help deliver a staggering 1,764 pounds of downforce at 155 mph. The computercontrolled aero blades and wing also automatically trim themselves to maintain that level of downforce right through to 211 mph. Under brakes the aero blades bleed off downforce at the front of the car while the rear wing moves to increase downforce on the rear axle, ensuring balance and stability.
Mclaren engineers claim the Senna generates the highest downforce of any road car in the company’s history—40 percent more than a P1—and delivers 30 percent more lateral grip through corners.
We’ll know for sure if the Mclaren Senna is the ultimate track rat when we get our hands on one next year for our annual Best Driver’s Car test at Laguna Seca.
For now, though, ponder this: Porsche’s stunning 911 GT2 RS holds the Nürburgring Nordschleife road car record with a blistering 6:47.3 lap, but the alpha dog 911 has almost 100 fewer horses than the Senna, weighs at least 200 pounds more, and generates 43 percent less downforce at top speed.
You don’t have to be Ayrton to do the math. n
BEASTLY BEAUTY The wing weighs just 10.7 pounds yet delivers 1,100 pounds of downforce.