There Once Was a Car…

03.14.17 - McLaren F1

As the story goes there are times when some cars offer us the performance we want and other cars let us down. If you start the tale with “once upon a time” but replace it with “there once was a car” you see how this could sound very much like a fairy tale. The reality is, there once was a car that was built so perfect it set top speed records that destroyed the competition by several mph and became one of the best performing cars on the road or track that we’ve ever seen.

What car was it that performed such a feat? That car was the McLaren F1 which somehow became the world’s fastest car but didn’t receive a ton of praise or accolades for the feat. Could it have been the fact that McLaren was a racing company to start with and was expected to build the fastest production car on the market? Is it possible this car was meant to be more than it appeared to be which meant it took a while to gain the respect it deserved? Possibly was the problem the way McLaren went about proving this was the fastest production car on the market?

Our story, which you can find a video of on McLaren’s YouTube channel, takes us back to the early part of the 1990s when the F1 first showed up on the scene. This car had no problem beating out the current record holder in 1993 with a top speed of 231 mph. This record speed was performed at the Nardo ring in Italy and it beat the previous record holder, the Jaguar XJ220. The Jag had held the record with a speed of 217 mph for a few years and now it became the second fiddle to the F1, but the McLaren wasn’t done just yet.

Five years later, in 1998, McLaren recruited Andy Wallace to drive the F1 and prove that it was the world’s fastest production car. Although the car already held the record at the time, McLaren wanted a faster top speed and looked to achieve it by using a longer straight track than before. By setting Wallace up at the 5.4-mile long straight at the Volkswagen Ehra-Lessien Proving Ground in Germany, the stage was set for the McLaren F1 to show what it was made of and just how fast it could go on this impressive track.

With the stage set, Wallace climbed into the XP5 F1, which is the fifth experimental prototype of the F1 for McLaren, which was already five years old. He looked to bring this car to a top speed in each direction and started out with an impressive run that resulted in a speed of 241.1 mph. Feeling the car could go faster, Wallace asked to have the rev limiter removed and when he did this his second run showed up at 242.956 mph. This produced an average of 242 mph making it the fastest production car of its time.

While this top speed has been beaten by several other cars since then, including the Bugatti Veyron, the F1 is still the fastest naturally aspirated production car that’s ever been built. There probably won’t be another production car that’s naturally aspirated to ever beat the F1 which means it’s able to hold this record for a long time. During the run Wallace shifted to sixth gear at 199 mph, to give you an idea of just how insane this car was and what it had to offer when it was on the market. Since this run, McLaren has had impressive success on the road and track, giving us exactly what we want to enjoy.

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