20 May 2004

The Queen seems to be more interested than ever in what’s new in British automotive engineering. Earlier this month she had a private audience with Land Rover’s new Discovery; last week, while the first customer cars were being delivered, she was introduced to the 600bhp Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren.

She opened McLaren’s new headquarters, the McLaren Technology Centre, just outside Woking in Surrey, last Wednesday, where she met motor industry bigwigs such as DaimlerChrysler chairman Jürgen Schrempp. Designed by Lord Foster, and six years in the making, McLaren’s new facility includes studios, laboratories and research facilities, as well as housing most of the group’s 900 employees. The £300,000 SLR supercar is being assembled there.

The new McLaren HQ has until now been known as Paragon and includes a separate learning centre, due to open at a later date, where the public will be able to explore the McLaren brand and browse through some of the team’s F1 memorabilia. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were given a tour of the site and met McLaren drivers Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard, before visiting the SLR’s production line. It’s understood that Her Majesty approved of the car.

McLaren’s new baby supercar, conceived to tackle the Lamborghini Gallardo and Ferrari 360 Modena, and first revealed by Autocar, is also being developed at the site. Expect the 6.3-litre V8 to be launched in late 2007.

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