They have been together before of course, most notably and recently at the Goodwood Members’ Meeting in the spring, but never for a purpose like this. We have them and this track, including its near-two-mile runway, for the day. They are ours.
Despite the P1 being worth £5 million (it’s a prototype and the most filmed and famous P1 in existence) and the F1 valued at five times more than that, no one is saying ‘don’t go there, don’t do that’ with any of them. McLaren people are everywhere, appearing more than anything else pleased that we’ve been able to make this thing happen.
So, at the risk of repeating myself: F1, P1, Senna. Which would you take first? If I didn’t have a story to write afterwards, I’d have left the F1 until last. Of course you would. It’s a McLaren F1 for goodness sake, and the number of those in anything approaching regular use in the world can be counted on the fingers of one hand, probably without needing the thumb. But it’s the benchmark, the inspiration, the one without which the others might have existed but surely not as they are. It is the origin. It has to go first.
It seems hardly believable that the car is 25 years old, but the truth is that age manifests itself in primarily positive ways: the car’s compactness, its manual gearbox, analogue dials, normally aspirated engine and so on. For those of us who love the simple business of driving, the transition of such one-time staples from rule to exception is not something that is necessarily to be celebrated.
There is that central driving position, so mad in theory but so effective in practice. It needs zero acclimatisation for it feels natural at once. I’m glad it’s coming back on McLaren’s Speedtail. Visibility all round is sensational, the antithesis of the Lamborghini letterbox approach to cockpit design. Confidence grows.
The V12 is smooth, the gearbox on this 58,000-mile car loose and easy to operate. So because there is time, you can tootle about for a bit. My goodness, it rides well. No anti-roll bars here or ‘anti-traction devices’ as they used to be called at McLaren. The unassisted steering communicates like that of a Lotus and no wonder: there are Exiges you can buy that weigh more than this.