DE­MAND­ING & RE­WARD­ING

2019 Mclaren Senna

Calgary Sun - Autonet - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID BOOTH

AUTÓDROMO DO ESTORIL, Por­tu­gal — I’ve got a tip for all you bil­lion­aires who have al­ready put de­posits down on the US$958,966 Senna that McLaren claims is the most ex­treme, re­spon­sive and en­gag­ing road car it has ever pro­duced, not to men­tion light­est and fastest around a race­track. Get to a gym! No mat­ter how fit you think you are, you’re go­ing to need to be stronger. That’s be­cause when your driv­ing in­struc­tor tells you, as you flash by the 200 brake marker at say 280 kilo­me­tres an hour go­ing into Estoril’s tight first corner hair­pin, to “stand” on the brakes, you re­ally will need to stand on said brakes.

The rea­son for all this ef­fort is twofold. For one thing, the Senna’s brakes are car­bon ceramic, re­quir­ing mu­cho heat be­fore they start op­er­at­ing cor­rectly.

As well, be­ing so track-fo­cused, the brake pedal’s lever­age ra­tio is set to full race car firm. But the real rea­son you’ll need that Sch­warzeneg­ger-like prod on the brake pedal is that gar­gan­tuan — some might say gar­ish — rear wing out back. You see, be­tween that and the ef­fec­tive, com­puter con­trolled split­ters in the front grille, the Senna pro­duces a whop­ping 800 kilo­grams of aero­dy­namic down­force at 255 km/h. For those need­ing Im­pe­rial mea­sure to fully com­pre­hend the in­cred­i­ble in­vis­i­ble hand of wind that guides the Senna through cor­ners, that’s a whop­ping 1,763.7 pounds. The Senna, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic re­la­tions chief Paul Chad­der­ton, only weighs 1,198 kilo­grams.

That means — in very sim­plis­tic terms — that, at speed, the al­ready su­per-sticky Pirelli PZero Tro­feo Rs have the trac­tion of 1,998 kg forc­ing their grippy rub­ber into tar­mac but only have to ac­tu­ally stop 1,198 kg. Hence the rea­son I was hump­ing on the left pedal like I was try­ing to set a record in the seated leg press.

Ac­cord­ing to Andy Palmer, McLaren’s ve­hi­cle line di­rec­tor for the Ul­ti­mate Se­ries (i.e. the Senna and the stupidly fast P1), this means the Senna is ca­pa­ble of “over 2.0 gs” in high-speed cor­ners, more than enough, to chal­lenge the core mus­cles I’m ad­vis­ing you to beef up.

Yes, like all track cars, the Senna gets some one-piece (car­bon fi­bre, natch) form-fit­ting seats, but de­spite the tight squeeze, you’re still get­ting flung around enough that, af­ter six or eight laps, you re­ally will wish you’d done more sit-ups be­fore hit­ting the track. Even the (elec­tro-hy­draulic) steer­ing the quick­est McLaren has ap­plied to a road-le­gal car is a chal­lenge be­cause ev­ery­thing is hap­pen­ing so quickly. Yes, as McLaren points out, the Senna is road le­gal, but its pri­mary pur­pose, de­spite all the poseurs who will al­most as­suredly use it oth­er­wise, is as a track weapon.

You’ll no­tice I have not men­tioned the engine. Like the ba­sic frame, the Senna’s twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 is based on the 720 S’s pow­er­train, al­beit with tweaks to boost the en­tire af­fair some 80 horses to 789 brake horse­power. That, says McLaren, will scoot the Senna to 100 km/h in just 2.8 sec­onds (same as the hy­bridized P1) and to 200 in but 6.8 s (ditto). Af­ter that, it’s a lit­tle slower than the P1, which means it’s just a tad be­hind the (re­put­edly) fastest car on the planet.

It’s im­pres­sive stuff. Pins you in your seat, as the say. And it will cer­tainly light up the rear Pirellis even though they mea­sure some 315 mm across (of­fi­cial des­ig­na­tion of the rear tires is 315/30ZR20; the fronts are 245/35ZR19s) and are made of rub­ber only slightly less sticky than glue.

It also makes big noise. This in­ter­nal com­bus­tion sym­phony is aided by McLaren’s de­ci­sion to ditch all the in­ter­nal sound-dead­en­ing ma­te­rial — you didn’t think get­ting a car this pow­er­ful down to 1,198 kg with street-le­gal head­lights would be easy, did you? — so those eight fast-spin­ning pis­tons sound like they’re blast­ing right in your ear.

McLaren

McLaren Senna.

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