Donington Park’s paddock is awash with supercars. I don’t mean the impressive selection that you would find at a typical Goodwood Festival of Speed but industrial volumes that after 20 minutes of wandering around make you think that this is somehow normal. (Oh, there’s another Bugatti Chiron…) But this is five levels above normality. It’s known as the Michelin Secret Supercar Meet, although, judging by the crowds of smartphone-wielding teenagers at every junction between the M1 and the circuit, secret it is not.
I’m here to meet the team from McMurtry Automotive and learn more about its unique Spéirling (pronounced ‘spearling’) prototype race car, which presently occupies half of pit garage 22 and is making the Ferrari 250 GT SWB parked next to it look obese. At 3200mm long and 1500mm wide, it’s around 30% smaller than the common Chiron, and with 1000bhp and less than 1000kg, its power to weight is 40% greater. No wonder McMurtry is bullish about a claimed 0-186mph (300kph) sprint time of less than 9.0sec.
We first saw the Spéirling when it made its debut on the hill at this summer’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. In concept, it’s a fully electric, single-seat, closed-cockpit competition car, designed around LMP1 safety standards, with carbonfibre monocoque/body construction and a cleverly integrated battery pack.
What sets the Spéirling apart, however, is its lack of downforce addenda, meaning that it can spear through the air without the need to counter the drag from a conventional rear wing. Instead, downforce is applied only when required, via an underbody fan that quite literally sucks the car to the track’s surface while generating a very un-EV 120dB of jet-like noise. If you feel electrified motorsport lacks that all-important aural drama, you need to hear the Spéirling’s fan at full chat.
This is the kind of innovation that you would expect from the likes of McLaren or Ferrari, but in fact McMurtry was formed only five years ago. The brainchild of Sir David McMurtry, the prolific Irish inventor and businessman who was a key player in the development of Concorde’s Rolls-Royce Olympus engine, it now has a small but highly skilled workforce based in rural Gloucestershire.
Tom Yates, formerly of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (the UK-based firm behind Mercedes’ seven consecutive Formula 1 titles) and now McMurtry’s managing director, shows me around the Spéirling before its star turn on track in the command of test and development driver and hillclimb supremo Alex Summers.