THE NISSAN CONNECTION
The unexpected origins of McLaren’s modern V8
WHAT DO modern McLarens have in common with the Nissan R390 Le Mans racer? Their engines. Sort of. The twin-turbo V8 powering every McLaren on sale today has its roots in this ’90s Nissan racing engine. Known as the VRH35L, the 3.5litre DOHC twin-turbo V8 was the final step in the VRH lineage and developed by Nissan and Tom Walkinshaw Racing for the R390 GT1. It competed in GT racing and the Le Mans 24 Hour in 1996, ’97 and ’98, but ceased when the R390 adopted LMP rules. McLaren and Ricardo engineering bought the rights to its design during the MP4-12C’s development, then heavily reworked it into its 3.8litre M838T form. Continually evolving since, in 4.0-litre guise in the Senna makes an insane 588kW/800Nm. The VRH35L made “over” 478kW/706Nm in race trim, according to Nissan.