Inside the McLaren Technology Centre

The McLaren Technology Centre

The McLaren Technology Centre

Last week I had my first chance to visit the McLaren Technology Centre.

I met Communications and PR head Matt Bishop (also former F1 Racing editor) for lunch and a tour of the factory – he pointed out some of its most extraordinary features and little-known facts.

The first thing I can report is yes, true to the word of the teams’ agreement, the mechanics had downed tools for two weeks and were on compulsory vacation.

I caught of a glimpse of a partly-dismantled MP4-24 where the mechanics had apparently stopped mid-work, tidied everything away, and headed out the door for the mandatory two-week break all the teams are sticking to.

Hamilton’s next car

At the entryway to the building sits an example of every Ron Dennis-era McLaren that has won a world championship (with one notable exception – the MP4-20 – I’m sure you can guess why in the comments!)

There’s also a carefully restored example of the first car raced by company founder Bruce McLaren. Behind it sits a bright orange beast that one Lewis Hamilton makes a beeline for every time he visits the factory.

A McLaren F1 is rare enough but this is an F1 LM – based on the car that won the 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours. The price tag in currency isn’t fixed but Hamilton has been told what he needs to do to get his hands on it – win three world championships. One down…

“What a lot of people forget about Lewis is he lives and breathes McLaren,” says Matt. “He’s been with the team since he was 11.”

“He goes up and has a look at the car whenever he comes here. He cups his hand against the window and peers inside.”

Pacific carp

The building itself is as stunning a construction as the cars inside it. The wind tunnel is out of action because of the shutdown – “but even if it wasn’t you couldn’t hear it from outside”, Matt explains.

Wind tunnels produce enormous heat and the vast lake that borders the MTC is used to keep it cool. This means the lake is 3-4 degrees warmer than other nearby bodies of water.

Anyone who has a pond in their garden knows the curse that is algae, and that is a particular problem for McLaren’s warm lake. Ron Dennis’s solution was to import a variety of pacific carp that eats the algae, which are shipped in from time to time to keep the green weed down.

Details like that – like the lowered air pressure in in the canteen to keep food smells escaping into the rest of the building – are McLarenesque solutions to practical problems.

The same lake water flows around the lower levels of the building down elegant steps. When the wind tunnel is being used regularly, the flow gets quicker.

“What was the flow like when they were working on a fix for the 24?” I ask Matt.

“Niagra Falls,” he replies.

McLaren Technology Centre pictures

NB. The images above were supplied by www.mclaren.com and were not taken on the day of my visit.

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99 comments on Inside the McLaren Technology Centre

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  1. Flying Wombat said on 10th August 2009, 12:07

    People always go on about Ferrari being the most passionate team, but I think McLaren staff clearly have a deep love for their sport and their team.

    And can I just say how cool their factory is? I know that not everyone liked Ron Dennis, but you can’t deny his vision of what a factory should look like is amazing.

    • David A said on 10th August 2009, 19:30

      Yeah, i’d say that they have the equally deep passion for this wonderful sport.

    • Cridland [Cridcomment @ gmail] said on 10th August 2009, 22:08

      not everyone liked Ron Dennis, but you can’t deny his vision

      Agreed! I don’t think he gets anywhere near the credit he deserves for what he’s done for the sport. Seeing how Hamilton seemed to turn his back on Dennis during his own moral crisis this year is always going to give me an uncomfortable feeling about the brilliant driver…. No matter how talented he is, none of it wouldn’t have happened without risky investment from Ron Dennis.

      I loves me some Dennis, and I loves me some McLaren, OK? I grew up in a town that had some futuristic and remarkable buildings… Things that required public money to build. So don’t take what follows the wrong way!

      But -

      > And can I just say how cool
      > their factory is?

      It’s not really fair to call that a “factory”. The volume and types of materials that flow through there are disproportionate to almost every other place that you could describe as manufacturing center.

      There are probably men reading this blog who have personal garages with more engines coming in-&-out the door in one year than does the McLaren F1 team.

      It’s a stunning, elegant, and rarefied facility, and its product is handcrafted for a very small number of tremendously wealthy people. As we admire the place, we shouldn’t imagine that one day, every ‘factory’ will be like this.

      • Flying Wombat said on 10th August 2009, 22:35

        It’s a stunning, elegant, and rarefied facility, and its product is handcrafted for a very small number of tremendously wealthy people. As we admire the place, we shouldn’t imagine that one day, every ‘factory’ will be like this.

        Thats a fair point ;-) Poor choice of words on my part. Whatever you want to call it though, it is undenyably slick. When I launch my plans for world domination, I want my HQ to look something like this!

        • Cridland [Cridcomment @ gmail] said on 10th August 2009, 23:05

          When I launch my plans for world domination

          Can I have an application form to be one of your henchmen? I only drink on weekends.

          Also, to appreciate the buildings in my hometown, you need to consider a few interiors.

          Also, those hallways are very reminiscent of the laboratories of the 1971 film “Andromeda Strain.”

          The building looks clean, but it doesn’t look warm…

          I still wanna work there!

  2. Robert said on 10th August 2009, 12:18

    Is the reason that there is every world championship winning Ron Dennis era McLaren exept the MP4 20 because the MP4 20 never won a championship?

  3. neracer said on 10th August 2009, 12:18

    I live not far away from another norman foster building but Mclaren’s factory looks amazing, especially the aerial shots.

  4. amazing, no doubt they’ve the best facility!!!

  5. Stephen said on 10th August 2009, 13:45

    wow… Just wow…

    That’s not all dedicated to just running a Formula One team… Is it?

    • Chris said on 10th August 2009, 13:49

      The vast majority is running the F1 team however they do make the Mclaran SLR’s there as you can see from the pic they also have the catering and sell eletronics but that is mainly F1 related anyway

      • nothing like the vast majority….no more than a 3rd only…which is why contary to a post up there somewhere, it most certainly is properly defined as a factory. Stand on the roundabout one day and see the streasm of deliveries coming and going if you doubt that.

  6. LC Coelho said on 10th August 2009, 13:47

    this post is amazing!
    don’t you also have a contact from maranello? heheheh

    • Gman said on 11th August 2009, 6:53

      I know they had a delegation from ferrari come and tour certain parts of the place as a goodwill gesture last year…it was featured in McLaren’s in-house magazine “Racing Line”

  7. Chris said on 10th August 2009, 13:48

    It sure is a great building.

    I think if we did a comparision of team buildings this would be clearly on top!

  8. danny said on 10th August 2009, 13:52

    So, i read it a couple of times, but don’t get the fact why the 4/20 isn’t in the building.

  9. Hi Keith, just a few thoughts as I’m reading.

    When I first found your site, it was very informative but I kind of thought, that this maybe just started as a hobby, (correct me if I’m wrong as I don’t mean to make little of your site, it’s brilliant!)

    It seems as though your “hobby”, again correct me, has brought you to some of the coolest places ever. You have met some people that most of us may never have a chance to and you get to be on the telly! And you get to chat to a few characters in us fanatics aswell!

    I just want to know, how does it feel to have the greatest hobby ever!

    Regards,
    Spud.

  10. S Hughes said on 10th August 2009, 13:58

    What a truly amazing place – it must be fantastic to work there. It’s really pristine and futuristic.
    What I notice is how much more communicative McLaren are than the other teams, or is it that people just comment on their videos, etc, more than other teams? I’ve never heard of people visiting the Ferrari centre, or the Brawn centre (whereas McLaren seem quite open about inviting people to theirs) and McLaren are always posting videos about the races and the technology on their website. I really like that open approach they have.

  11. S Hughes said on 10th August 2009, 13:59

    Must add, the pictures are incredible, and thanks for posting this Keith. You are so lucky to have gone there.

  12. F1Fan said on 10th August 2009, 14:12

    Keith,

    why is it being said that Valencia is the perfect track for KERS ? How is that more so there than, say, Budapest ?

    • Jonathan said on 10th August 2009, 22:10

      I’m not Keith, but I can hazard an answer… there is more track from the grid to turn 1, allowing the KERS cars more time to shoot into the lead.

  13. Beautiful building. Too bad theres no money in F1. :-)
    Dedication…Devotion…turnin all the night time into the day.

  14. Prisoner Monkeys said on 10th August 2009, 14:29

    As much as I don’t like Hamilton, I kind of hope he gets the car. He sounds like the world’s biggest kid when he’s in eyeshot of it. I guess Michael Schumacher really dampened the idea of multiple World Championships for me, probably because he won them so early in the season; if all of Hamilton’s championships would be like last year’s, I wouldn’t be bothered by it too much, even if I think he’s a tool.

    • S Hughes said on 10th August 2009, 14:48

      Why do you think it’s okay to be so offensive all the time about Hamilton? It’s really unpleasant and repetitive.

      • Nirupam said on 10th August 2009, 16:46

        Hughes, Equally unpleasant (and repetitive as well!) it is when you get so defensive all the time about Hamilton!! :)

      • sato113 said on 10th August 2009, 21:57

        i think some people are STILL very annoyed that he’s had quick success and he won last year’s championship.

    • Gman said on 11th August 2009, 6:55

      You would think that with all his money, Hamilton could just buy the car……

  15. Great building, I see all the pictures were supplied by McLaren, were you not allowed to tack any photos at all?

    • The_Pope said on 10th August 2009, 17:37

      Either that or Keith’s helicopter was in the shop and therefore wasn’t available that day for aerial photography :)

      On a serious note, I can well believe that a) the team don’t allow cameras for security reasons and b) the team are SO thorough about their public image that they don’t want someone’s crappy happy snaps (no offense K!) and therefore only allow official shots without people getting in the way :)

      I live barely a mile down the road – wish I could hit Bish up for a tour too :(

      • mp4-19b said on 10th August 2009, 18:38

        I live barely a mile down the road – wish I could hit Bish up for a tour too :(

        What in the name of Jesus Christ were you doing all these years????? You’ve got undoubtedly the best ever European building ‘barely a mile ‘away, yet it took keith’s article for you to wake up?? :) POPE plz don’t mistake me, i think the MTC is better than your “official” residence at St Peter’s basilica at vatican :)

      • Gman said on 11th August 2009, 6:56

        If you’re a member of the McLaren fan membership program, they do offer occasional tours for club members. I’m in the club but have never looked into tours since I’m on the other side of the Atlantic.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th August 2009, 19:37

      PJA – I didn’t ask to do pictures because I was mainly going along to meet Matt and have a chat with him. I wanted to focus on getting the most out of that instead of trying to do lots of other stuff. Another time, perhaps. It is a stunning building.

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