This is the McLaren P1, the company’s all-new “ultimate supercar”. McLaren says the project has one simple goal: “To be the best driver’s car in the world on road and track.” Sources say the new model is likely to produce around 960bhp with the help of a Formula 1-style kinetic energy recovery system (KERS). The P1 is not designed to outrun a Bugatti Veyron, say insiders; it is more about exceptional lap times.

The P1 is expected to cost £800,000, but with production limited to 500 models, the P1 production run may be sold out to existing McLaren clients and high-profile collectors without going on general public sale.

The car will be unveiled at the Paris motor show — McLaren Automotive’s first appearance at an international show — officially as a design study. The final production version will be shown next year, but it is expected to look almost identical to the car shown here. Its arrival will coincide with the 50th anniversary of McLaren.

The P1 is described as taking much of its “technological and spiritual inspiration from the company’s racing division”. McLaren Automotive executive chairman Ron Dennis says: “The P1 will be the result of 50 years of racing and road car heritage. Twenty years ago, we raised the supercar performance bar with the McLaren F1 and our goal with P1 is to redefine it once again.”

Antony Sheriff, managing director of the operation, says outright pace is not the objective of the new model. “Our aim is not necessarily to be the fastest in absolute top speed but to be the quickest and most rewarding series-production road car on a circuit. It is the true test of a supercar’s all-around ability and a much more important technical statement. It will be the most exciting, most capable, most technologically advanced and most dynamically accomplished supercar ever made.”

Ahead of the public unveiling, McLaren is refusing to give any more details about the car. However, Autocar has managed to uncover some of the P1’s secrets. Despite the car’s dramatic exterior, it has a very similar footprint to the MP4-12C. McLaren sources say the P1 retains the “everyday usability” of the MP4-12C, with the same deep windscreen, narrow A-pillars and relatively slim width. In fact, the P1 is shorter than a current Porsche 911. The interior will be different from the 12C’s, with bespoke switchgear, but it is unclear whether the basic architecture of the cabin will remain unchanged.

The dramatic styling — a deliberate move by McLaren styling boss Frank Stephenson — is said to express the deeply technical nature of the car. The aerodynamically significant areas of the exterior — sculpted by McLaren’s wind tunnel experts — are exposed in matt black and the surfaces that have been styled are body coloured. The new headlamp design hints at the McLaren logo and is tipped for the facelifted version of the 12C.

There are also stylistic nods to the McLaren F1 in the roof’s air scoop, the single ridge running through the door skin (although it tilts in the opposite direction on the P1) and the fighter-plane-style cockpit sitting proud of the rear deck.

The P1 uses a modified version of the MP4-12C’s carbonfibre Monocell. The same basic door frame and mechanism is also used on the P1, although the door skin now extends on to the front wing. The outer panels are made from carbonfibre and the P1 is said to weigh less than 1300kg. The rest of the understructure is thought to be significantly different from the 12C’s.

The front and rear aluminium subframes and suspension systems are believed to have undergone substantial redesigns. This is partly to accommodate a more advanced chassis, which is thought to incorporate cutting-edge active damping and active roll control, with the latter possibly hydraulically operated, working to effectively lock out the anti-roll bars and eliminate body lean.

Active aerodynamics are also tipped to be fitted to the car, which could mean a number of different systems. The concept’s pronounced (and flat-bottomed) side skirts could mean that the P1 can lower its ride height when it is on the track, which would significantly increase downforce.

The side skirts will certainly work in tandem with the P1’s fearsome rear diffuser. Other potential active aerodynamic systems could include air pumps (which pump air over crucial sections of the bodywork) and electronically controlled spoilers and flaps.

Judging by the shape of the P1, the engine and transmission could be sitting much lower in the rear of the car. It looks as though the centre of the rear deck is rather lower than it is on the 12C. It seems likely that the intake manifold has been redesigned to sit lower on top of the engine and the exhaust system redesigned and rerouted.

Also, judging by the huge air intakes feeding the P1’s engine compartment, there is a need to manage the high temperatures generated by the big hike in power. As well as the deep side intakes, there are also forward-facing vents mounted over the rear wheels, matched by large exhaust ports over the rear LED light strips.

The P1’s engine will not be a V10 or V12, and the latest information is that it will be a modified version of the 12C’s twin-turbo V8. Power will jump from just over 600bhp to about 800bhp at 9000rpm. This significant potential is supplemented by a KERS system — a pair of flywheels that can deliver up to 160bhp in short bursts.

As well as giving the car assistance out of corners on the track, the flywheels may also help to get the P1 away from standstill on the road. Fuel economy is said to be notably impressive for a hypercar, too.

Rumours suggest that the P1 will have a top speed of 239mph and a 0-60mph time of under three seconds. It is also said to have completely shattered the best lap time for a road-legal car at the Silverstone circuit.

One of the more interesting leaks from potential buyers who are said to have seen the car at the recent Pebble Beach gathering in California is that the P1 will be fitted with a new kind of acrylic windows, replacing conventional glass. Apparently, water rolls off this material, eliminating the need for windscreen wipers.

The arrival of the P1 next year is consistent with  McLaren’s promise that it will launch a new car every year until 2020. It is also likely to be an investment for buyers. Just 108 F1s were made, originally costing £540,000 two decades ago; they now fetch up to £3.8 million at auction.