GROWING UP IN AUSTRALIA MEANS CERTAIN THINGS WILL BE HARDWIRED INTO YOUR DNA FROM A VERY YOUNG AGE. A HIGH TOLERANCE AND STRANGE ATTACHMENT TO SALT-INFUSED YEAST SPREADS, FOR EXAMPLE. AND A BLASE ATTITUDE TOWARDS HIGHLY VENOMOUS SNAKES AND SPIDERS. ANOTHER IS A DEEP, AND SOMETIMES IRRATIONAL, RIVALRY WITH ĎTHE MOTHERLANDí, ENGLAND.
For many, Ďrivalryí is too weak a word, especially if you have a keen interest in sport. Beating the wretched Poms is one of lifeís sweetest pleasures, while losing, particularly in rugby or cricket (as we are right now) almost verges on unbearable.
Imagine my surprise then, at feeling a strange pang of jealousy for the Brits at a recent launch in Portugal. I was there to drive the McLaren Senna, which youíll read about next month (this mag already has its McLaren quota with our night drive in the 720S on p72), and the pitlane was swarming with clipped accents and stiff upper lips. Nearly every staff member was marching about with a puffed-out chest, and rightly so. The Senna, despite looking like a 720S that has been stung by a prehistoric wasp and hit with an axe while having an enormous ironing board stuck across its bottom, is a gobsmackingly accomplished piece of engineering.
And then thereís the confidence that comes from working for a company that has achieved astonishing success in an incredibly short period of time. Just seven years since launching the strangely named MP4-12C, McLaren now has the credibility and the product to rival Ferrari and Porsche Ė iconic brands that have been continuously building cars for 10 times as long.
Demand is at fever pitch. McLaren sales doubled in 2016 to 3286 units, with 5000-6000 the goal by 2020, and customer hunger for models like the A$1.6m Senna is so savage that they sell out instantly, even before the car has turned a wheel. Jokingly, I asked one McLaren exec if thereís a price they could charge that customers wouldnít pay and he didnít even blink before answering ďnopeĒ.
McLaren isnít the only Brit enjoying a purple patch. Aston Martin has embarked on a similar model boom and is reaping the rewards of its broadest ever line-up (sales were up 58 percent year-on-year in 2017; manufacturing was at a nine-year high), and thatís before it adds its DBX SUV and the F1-rivalling, Adrian Newey-designed Valkyrie hypercar.
Thereís plenty of mainstream success too. Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Mini and Jaguar Land Rover all build cars in the UK (total volume is around 1.6 million vehicles), with Britainís automotive industry estimated to employ more than 800,000 people. Admittedly, the whole Brexit thing has thrown a spanner in the works, with investment down and jobs lost, but seen through the dismal context of our own extinct industry, itís hard not to be envious.
There are also some potentially encouraging parallels. Back in the 1980s, the British car industry was on its knees, with production numbers cut in half. More recently, the GFC hit hard, knocking confidence and volumes to new lows. And yet, from those brinks, the UK is now responsible for some of the worldís leading brands.
Yes, itís folly to draw a direct comparison with Australia, but the recent, and unexpected, announcement that Brabham is building all 70 of its BT62 track cars in Adelaide shows a revival of sorts isnít impossible. After all, our expertise at building world-class cars hasnít disappeared. And if the Brits can do it, why canít we?
Itís interesting to note that every story in this monthís news section, bar one, covers electrifi ed drivetrains. Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and the boffi ns at Affalterbach are all poised to deploy electrons in their future product, with the technology focused not on effi ciency gains, but rather weaponised for performance. You only have to consider the prospect of a 450kW+ Alfa Romeo Giulia coupe to appreciate the electric revolution holds plenty of interest for enthusiasts. Our fi rst tastes of the Jaguar I-Pace (p50) and Mercedes-Benz EQC (p18) SUVs both offer plenty for keen drivers too, so is boosting the minute demand for EVs, especially in Australia, simply a case of build it and they will come?