A couple of years ago, a McLaren Automotive development engineer explained to me one of the key advantages you benefit from when crash-testing a supercar with a carbonfibre tub.
It was Mark Vinnels, programme director for the 12C, talking on the phone from a hotel inside the Arctic Circle. I remember very clearly some of the detail that he revealed about the crash regime, though – because I couldn’t quite believe it.
The 12C had to go through the same brutal barrage of crashes that any new production car must face face during the prototype phase. Unbelievably, that means more than 350 actual impacts these days, split between sled tests, offset barrier tests and pole tests, all done at various speeds.
Funny thing is the company needed only 12 prototypes to pass them all. On many occasions following a test, the team would simply recover the crashed car, fit new aluminium crash structures and then throw it at the wall all over again. And again. And again.
McLaren’s carbonfibre MonoCell is the reason why that could happen. It is strong enough, for example, to take a pole in the kidneys at urban speeds without cracking, deforming or deteriorating.