McLaren’s Mad ‘Senna’

Woking’s ‘most extreme road car ever’ dedicated to F1 legend

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THE BOLDEST thing about McLaren’s latest release, the first ‘Ultimate Series’ model since the hybrid P1, isn’t its outrageous looks, the performance of its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 or its neckstraining downforce – it’s the name.

It’s called the Senna, which is a bit like Slazenger releasing a bat called the Bradman or Wilson a racquet called the Federer – you’re going to want it to be really, really good.

As mentioned, outright performance won’t be an issue, the M840T from the 720S wicked up to 588kW/800Nm, for which it gains an ‘R’ on the end of its engine code (M840TR). It’s tasked with pushing just 1198kg (dry), a drop of 124kg over the 720S, for a startling power-to-weight ratio of 491kW/ tonne, a figure that bests even the P1 (464kW/tonne) by a serious amount.

No performance figures have been claimed, but given the Senna’s increased power, lighter weight and greater traction we’d expect 0-100km/h to take a traction-limited 2.7-2.8sec and the quarter mile time to be in the region of 10sec dead.

McLaren claims intake noise is increased by the new roof-mounted snorkel intake while unique engine mounts and the Inconel and titanium exhausts are intended to make it “seem almost as if the V8 is sitting alongside the driver”. A seven-speed dual-clutch is the only available transmission and the Senna remains rear-wheel drive.

Shedding kilos from the Senna is the revised carbon-fibre chassis – dubbed Monocage III – while every body panel is also made from the lightweight black weave, as is the engine’s intake plenum. As you’d expect of a track-biased car, the interior has been stripped to its bare essentials, with an unadorned threespoke steering wheel and all driver information is imparted by the folding driver display.

Suspending the Senna is McLaren’s trademark Active Chassis Control, which uses double wishbones at both ends with hydraulically interconnected dampers to eradicate the need for anti-roll bars, saving weight and improving ride. For this hardcore track car McLaren has included a Race mode with a groundscraping ride height and super-stiff damping rates to harness the power of its active aerodynamics.

Key to the Senna’s racetrack ability – as well as its challenging looks – is its comprehensive aerodynamic addenda. McLaren’s designers went mad with the Stanley knife, slashing vents and inlets into every possible surface in an attempt to guide the air to where it’s needed most in terms of cooling or generating downforce, while the towering rear wing is active, constantly adjusting to optimise the aerodynamic load.

While heavily focused on racetrack ability, the Senna will still be roadlegal (in the UK at least) using Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres. Just 500 examples will be built at a cost of AUD$1.33m (£750,000) each and all 500 have been pre-sold.