Video: McLaren P1's sub-7min Ring run

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IOL mot pic dec9 McLaren P1 Ring Test 1

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Chris Goodwin at full tilt boogie on the Nurburging.

McLaren is first and foremost a racing-car builder, dedicated to creating the fastest four-wheeled vehicles on the planet, and that obsessive focus on every aspect of performance rubs off, perhaps inevitably, on its road cars.

And that brings us to the P1, designed from the outset to be 'simply the best driver's car for road and track'.

But how do you measure that? All the development and testing - in some of the harshest conditions around the world - have proved that the P1 is fast, comfortable and durable.

But that doesn't make it 'simply the best'.

To do that, the Woking Whitecoats set themselves one final target: a lap of the Nurburgring in less than seven minutes - which would be by far the quickest yet by a street-legal car.

That's 20.8 kilometres of twisting, rollercoaster driving, through 154 corners and more than 300 metres of steep elevation changes, with tight technical sections that demand the ultimate in precision roadholding and the 3500-metre Dottinger Hohe straight - where all you need is a car that'll hit 300km/h in less than 17 seconds, with an aero package that's stable up to 330 - in less than 420 seconds, at an average speed of 178km/h.

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This shot of Goodwin walking through the one of the notorious jumps gives some idea of the sheer scale of the Nurburgring.

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Sounds easy when you say it quickly.

Test driver Chris Goodwin drove the silver-painted pre-production P1, codenamed XP2R, the 620km by road from Woking to Nurburg. Then, before pulling out on to the circuit, 'Race' mode extended the active rear wing by 300mm, dropped the ride height by 50mm and stiffened the RaceActive Chassis Control suspension system by 300 percent - converting the P1 into a full-tilt racing car with up to 600kg of downforce at the press of a button.

Goodwin takes up the story: "The circuit is like the rollercoaster from hell, but the car always feels balanced and poised, giving you the confidence to push the performance envelope.

"Acceleration from the Aremberg right hander down the Fuchsrohre is amazing - I've only felt acceleration like this before in a Formula One car.

FLAT OUT

"This downhill snaking section of the track is taken flat out, shifting gears all the way down, and the compression at the base of the valley really loads the tyres, chassis and wing, but all you do is lift slightly off the throttle.

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The Nordschleife has more than 300 metres of elevation changes.

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"The Nordschleife's notorious jumps are an even bigger challenge at these speeds; I take Flugplatz and Pflanzgarten almost flat out but the P1's downforce reduces air-time and keeps the car really stable on landing.

"Through Bergwerk - that's where Niki Lauda had his big crash in 1976 - you have to turn in late to carry as much speed as you can on to the following straight without running wide. Here, the P1's awesome brakes and pin-sharp steering let me get back on the power early through this very quick section - and it feels fantastic when you get it just right!"

Immediately after the Bergwerk there's a particularly bumpy section.

Goodwin continues: "With a car this fast, stability is just as important as ultimate grip, and some of the bumpiest sections of the 'Ring are also the fastest. The long climb up to the Karussell takes just a few spectacular moments as the full combined power of the powertrain chimes in - and right at the top of the hill is one of the fastest corners on the circuit.

"The track is really bumpy here but I go in at about 300km/h, with just a dab on the brakes in fifth gear."

The cornering forces peak at 3.9g as the car drops onto the banked concrete surface of the Karussell, turning through more than 180 degrees, and explodes on to the long final straight, hitting its electronically limited 330km/h top speed on street-legal Pirelli tyres specially developed for the P1.

THE COMPUTER DOESN’T LIE

Telemetry showed that Goodwin averaged a gear-change every six seconds, and he used the DRS button on the steering wheel to re-trim the dual-element rear wing from 29° to 0°, reducing downforce by 60 percent for maximum straight-line speed, seven times on each lap for a total of nine percent of the circuit.

"The Dottinger Hohe straight disappears in no time," he said. "From Galgenkopf the acceleration is brutal, but when you press the DRS button, it ramps up even further as the car slips through the air.

"Then, the car just sits there - 'cruising' - at this surreal speed, with the rough tarmac and Eifel mountain scenery flying by like a video on fast forward."


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