THE BIG PIC­TURE

MCLAREN AND SENNA TO­GETHER AGAIN, FOR THE FIRST TIME

Motor Trend (USA) - - Contents - An­gus Macken­zie

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.

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