Car Club McLaren visit

“Life is measured in achievement not in years alone”  
  Bruce McLaren 1937 – 1970

Fifteen Livery members, their partners and guests were very privileged to visit McLaren Technology to see and hear about the extraordinary developments of this hugely successful, divers and innovative company. The HQ is situated in central Woking, though you would never know it. A semi-circular glass-walled building designed by the architect Norman Foster, it comprises of two main buildings overlooking a series of artificial lakes. Inside it is spacious, clean, warm, and welcoming. We all commented about the wonderful working environment.

McLaren Racing Ltd is best known as an F1 constructor. Founded in 1963 by New Zealand racing and engineering legend Bruce McLaren, their success started in 1968 with a first win at the Belgium Grand Prix. A combination of Porsche and Honda engines and an outstanding team of talented drivers from Niki Lauda, James Hunt, John Watson, Emerson Fittipaldi, Alain Prost and Ayton Senna, and in more recent times, Mika Hakkinen, Jenson Button, David Coultard, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, has made McLaren into one of the most successful teams in F1, with 182 races, 12 drivers’ Championships, and eight constructor Championships.

The Woking HQ just oozes and inspires their work ethic of efficiency, success, and innovation. Walking down the spotless “Boulevard” of historic racing cars from Bruce McLaren’s early 1928 Austin 7 Ulster to Ayton Senna’s 1994 winning Marlborough McLaren, the span of their successes was very apparent, not only in Grand Prix’s, but also Indy, and Can-Am.

This being the first practice day of the Australian Grand Prix, we were shown the race HQ where the race strategy is decided and won, where lightening and instantaneous fast banwidth telemetry communicates directly through the 700 employees tasked with managing two cars and drivers, with hopefully a podium finish, 12,000 miles away? Quite an IT technological challenge! But McLaren takes this in their stride.  

As we walked through sparkling hallways on our way to the McLaren sports car factory, we were struck by the frenzy of very youthful employees on their way to enjoy lunch in the spacious dining room overlooking the lake. One of our members commented, “Not a bad place to work is it?”. McLaren supercars are legendary from the first Gordon Murray designed F1 road car in 1988 to todays outrageously fast sports cars. The factory produces 20 cars a day, 4000 a year from the 600LT Spider at £200,000 to the McLaren Senna at £850,000. At these prices even Liveryman Steve Wilson had his hand firmly on his wallet! All the cars are hand built with just one very small robot in place, all hugely impressive.

As we ended our tour we were very fortunate to spend some time with Jonathan Neale, Chief Operating Officer of McLaren Technology. He briefly explained about the Companies strategy, the issues and opportunities facing the Company, and in particular the importance of battery powered technology over the next five years. (McLaren’s cutting edge innovation in this area provides all the batteries for the current Formula E). He also spoke about the very big changes about to happen in F1 over the next couple of years, which will set a spending cap for all teams, create a more level playing field, thus reducing the huge imbalance of F1 costs, investment, and stress on working capital for the smaller teams. Currently the top works teams have budgets in excess of £500m a year in F1 and are outspending the lower teams by 2 to 1. This change has to be good for the sport and for the future of McLaren as an iconic brand in F1 racing, and who will without doubt return to the podium.

Our sincere thanks go to Hannah Lambert, and Tom and Danielle who guided our tour with such friendliness and professionalism; there wasn’t a question they could not answer. To Barrie Anderson, Finance Director of McLaren Technology, who together with past master Richard Watling and our hard working secretary, Nick Carr made this tour possible, and to Jonathan Neale, for giving us some inspirational insights about the future of McLaren. What a great day.