So I just got back from driving McLaren’s astonishing new 650S in southern Spain, and once I’d filed the first drive for the magazine, then rewritten it for our website, then scripted and storyboarded the video, and then finally put my head on a pillow, I woke up the next day and started wondering – however much does a launch event like that cost?
And, more to the point, is it actually worth it as far as the manufacturer is concerned – in this case McLaren, obviously – in terms of the extra publicity it will generate?
We’ll come to the second question in a moment, but as for the costs involved they probably go something like this. The launch itself is a full house international jobbie that will be going on for the next month, and the base is the not-especially-cheap Finca Cortesin hotel near Estepona on the Costa Del Sol.
A room at the Finca costs anything between £600 and £1500 a night, and each night McLaren will be hosting between 10-20 guests, each of whom will be being flown in from various locations around the globe.
So let’s say 15 times £600 a night for the hotel, which by my maths equals £270,000 on hotel costs alone over 30 days. Inevitably, McLaren will have done a deal for a block booking such as this, but even so let’s call it £200,000 for hotel bills and move on.
Except we can’t, because also on the launch is a small army of McLaren support staff – media relations staff, tech public relations staff, tech support, travel media support, pro drivers, photographic crew and, at various stages, all sorts of McLaren top brass who will drift in and out of the program as it rumbles along – all of whom will also need putting up somewhere.
In this case, most of the behind-the-scenes staff were staying in a rather less posh hotel around the corner, but even then you’re still talking about rooms for at least a further 30 people per night. For one month. So call that another £100k – and only then can we move on to the other costs. Such as air fares – my guess would be at least another £150k if the average fare is, say, £400 and there are 300 guests in total to fly in and out, plus all the McLaren staff to get there and back.
So already we’re up to £450,000 and counting, and that’s before you so much as mention the fuel that will be burned by the fleet of 12 650S test cars and 10 support vehicles that will be down there during the three weeks, or the hiring of the Ascari Race resort at 15 grand a day, or the potential repairs to said test cars and support vehicles, or the palming of notes to the local constabulary should a 650S go through a speed trap at Mach 6...
I’m guessing the fuel bill alone would be somewhere between 20 and 25 grand. And although McLaren wasn’t due to be using the Ascari circuit on every single day of the event, the total amount of money making its way into circuit owner Klaas Zwart’s bank account for the duration would have to be north of £150k, even if they only use it every other day.
And as for the sweetening of the local feds, the test car repairs, the 200 or so new Pirelli P-Zero tyres, the 5000 rolls of toilet paper and heaven knows however many other intangible costs that might be involved, you’d have to throw another £50k at the final bill – and then hope, maybe, that there would be some small change left with which to pay the motorway tolls on the way back to the airport once the whole shebang was finally done and dusted.
Which, purely by coincidence, means at least £650,000 and counting. I’m sure there would be a whole heap of other extraneous costs involved in an international launch event, costs that the likes of us happy guests would be blissfully unaware of when in attendance. Call it the oiling of the machine behind closed doors, if you like.
But either way you’re looking at not a great deal of change out of at least three quarters of a million pounds – to show the world just how super your latest supercar is.
Would we think anything less of the 650S if McLaren just invited us to the factory, tossed us the keys at 8am and asked us to bring it back by the close of play the following day? I know I wouldn’t. In fact, in many ways I’d prefer it.
But then again, the palming of notes to the average Surrey police officer to get them to ignore a 650S traveling at 135mph along the M3 is not an especially realistic notion to consider. And the weather is pretty much guaranteed in southern Spain at this time of year, and the hotel rooms WERE very nice, as was the food at the Japanese restaurant, and the roads down there are always quiet, and…
Oh I dunno. Maybe it’s worth that kind of spend for McLaren in the end. You’re only talking about the combined cost of four, maybe five shiny new 650S models, after all. Personally, though, I still think I’d prefer to take my chances with the weather back here and nab one from the factory for a day, with no frills attached, and drive it on roads I know backwards.
But then who on earth am I to complain?