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On this day…

1 year ago

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Dan Prosser | Ti co-founder


31 March 2023

Twenty-five years ago today, at the massive Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany, the McLaren F1 broke the production car top speed record. Actually ‘broke’ isn’t the half of it, because by raising the bar from 217mph (set by the Jaguar XJ220) to 240.1mph, the McLaren took the record and smashed it into a thousand pieces.

Why bother? Because when Ron Dennis’ son received a copy of the Guinness Book of Records one Christmas and the F1 wasn’t recognised as the fastest production car in the world within its pages, the McLaren boss knew something had to be done. ‘It seems the original Autocar test results were not official,’ he said at the time, ‘so we decided to implement this programme.’

McLaren F1 Speed Record

The driver was Le Mans-winner Andy Wallace. He’d gone even faster at Le Mans at the wheel of Group C Jaguars, at least until the chicanes were added along the Mulsanne Straight in 1990, but reaching the far side of 240mph in a road car on road tyres with very little downforce was another matter altogether. This morning we recorded a podcast with Andy, to go out on Monday evening, in which he explains exactly how he did it.

After that record-breaking run, F1 designer Gordon Murray said: ‘I wouldn’t mind making a little wager that this remains the record speed for a true production car for a very long time.’ I suspect everybody would have nodded along sagely as he spoke. As it was, the record fell just seven years later when the Bugatti Veyron recorded a top speed of 253mph at the same facility.

McLaren F1 Speed Record

But records are made to be broken and that one was, and the one after that. It now stands at more than 300mph – a frankly ludicrous speed for a road-certified vehicle – although it isn’t an official record as the good book would recognise it because it was run in one direction only. The driver? One Andy Wallace again. He discusses the Bugatti run in the podcast, sparing no detail.

You’re not going to want to miss this episode. Find The Intercooler podcast on whichever app you use and hit the Follow/Subscribe button if you haven’t already. Question is, which record do you think was the most challenging to set – 240.1mph in the McLaren F1, or 304.77mph in the Bugatti Chiron?

McLaren F1 Speed Record