Set to launch in production form sometime late next year to coincide with the firm's 50th anniversary celebration, the McLaren P1 made its world debut at the 2012 Paris Auto Show as a technical "Design Study" that closely previews the automaker's next-generation supercar. With its overriding stated goal of being "the best driver's car in the world on road and track," it's hardly surprising to find this striking 2-seat coupe draws much of its technological and spiritual inspiration from the company's world-renowned racing division as well as from the firm's first mid-engined exotic, the iconic Mclaren F1 introduced in 1992.
"Our goal is to make the McLaren P1 the most exciting, most capable, most technologically advanced and most dynamically accomplished supercar ever made," notes McLaren Automotive Managing Director Antony Sheriff. Based on this preliminary first look, it appears that daunting mission is well on its way to being fully realized.
Although styling of the car has not been completely finalized, it's expected to retain virtually every key aspect as this well-crafted and aggressively edgy concept. That includes the double bubble contours of its roof and the top-mounted air scoop, both features also of the original McLaren F1 super coupe. Like the current MP4-12C, the P1's aero-optimized bodywork is rendered in lightweight carbon fiber composite, as is its central MonoCage tub structure -- an enhanced version of the MonoCell design used in the current MP4-12C Coupe and Spider.
However, as the P1's Chief Design Engineer, Dan Parry-Williams observes, the P1's compact and boldly contoured shape -- carefully honed in the McLaren Racing wind tunnel - "prioritizes function over pure style." Both the front and rear main body elements are large, single piece components that help trim weight and provide a cleaner look while the P1's relatively small frontal area and ultra-aggressive rear diffuser further helps the aero cause.
"Every body panel, air intake, and air exhaust was designed to guide in air from the most efficient places and to maximize cooling," notes Simon Lacey, former Head of Aerodynamics for the McLaren Racing, and now Head of Vehicle Technology for McLaren Automotive. "The unusual door ducts, from the initial styling sketches, draw air into the cooling circuit. That low body helps air get to the rear wing. The rear deck is extraordinarily low, just like a sports racing car. The extreme teardrop shape of the glasshouse guides more air more efficiently to the rear wing."
And when it comes to rear wings, this new McLaren supercar also goes boldly beyond any of its peers. The double-element profile was developed using the same methods and software as the McLaren Formula One team and adjusts automatically to increase the P1's stick in corners and optimize high-speed aerodynamics. Functioning much like the DRS (drag reduction system) used in the current strain of F1 racers, it's capable of extending up to 11.8 inches on the track and 4.7 inches on the street while increasing its pitch angle by 29 degrees.
This active rear wing works in concert with a pair of articulated flaps located on P1's underbody the ahead of the front wheels. Also auto adjusting, they're capable of moving though a 60-degree arc to further fine-tune the car's wind-cheating prowess. McLaren says the P1 can produce over 1,300 pounds of downforce at "well below maximum speed" - five times the amount generated by a road going MP4-12C and virtually on par with the firm's 12C GT3 competition variant. "On the race track, the McLaren P1 would display similar levels of performance to a Le Mans sports racer, adds Lacey. "It would have a level of racetrack performance never before seen in a series production road car."