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McLaren P1 Goes to Extremes to Save Weight, Boost Performance

Sections: Chassis

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McLaren Automotive's P1 prototype supercar

McLaren said it is going to great lengths– and lots of carbon fiber, of course– to reduce weight and thus improve performance of its P1 prototype supercar. A production-ready version of the car is said to be in the automaker’s plans for the Geneva Auto Show. (Photo courtesy McLaren)

McLaren Automotive has had the world on a steady drip-feed of news about its P1 prototype, dubbed the “Ultimate Supercar” in the automaker’s press releases. Now we’re learning a little bit about the measures McLaren is taking to make sure the car lives up to that moniker.

It’s no secret McLaren’s engineers have had a love affair with carbon fiber. Ever since the 1981 MP4/1 and later the iconic F1 of 1993, the automaker has used as much of the stuff as possible. This both strengthens and lightens the cars.

In the P1’s case, carbon fiber is everywhere. The seats are encased in carbon fiber shells and feature a minimum amount of foam. The car’s “MonoCage” chassis and body panels are carbon fiber. Even the dashboard, floor, headliner, doors, rocker panels, and central control unit are made of carbon fiber.

Taking the weight-saving approach of carbon fiber use even further, McLaren elected to remove the top layer of resin on the carbon fiber, which gives it a “more natural look,” in the words of a McLaren press release, and saves a whopping 1.5 kilograms of weight. Like the headline said, they’re going to extremes for the sake of low weight and high performance.

A number of everyday features aren’t standard on the P1, according to the release:

The amount of trim covering within the cabin has been minimised, leaving as many parts as exposed as possible, and there is no interior sound deadening in order to optimise weight saving even further. Carpet is offered, as an option, but when chosen, it is fitted with a special lightweight backing.

Despite that minimalist attitude, the release said the P1 will still come with modern conveniences such as a navigation system, full climate control, and a bespoke sound system. With no sound deadening, no carpet, and what is sure to be a screaming engine, in keeping with McLaren tradition, let’s hope the nav unit’s voice guidance has a “yell” option and that bespoke sound system be speakin’ loudly.

Full details on the P1 will be revealed in March at the 83rd Annual International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland. We’ll be watching out for the debut of what McLaren says will be a produciton-ready version of the car.

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