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 and were not taken on the day of my visit.

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99 comments on Inside the McLaren Technology Centre

  1. Jonathan said on 10th August 2009, 16:14

    The MP4-20 never won a world championship…

  2. I assume Keith meant the MP4/20 does sit in the lobby amongst other championship winning McLaren’s, as Ron Dennis said, Kimi was the “champion” that year, and that the title itself is just a badge.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th August 2009, 19:31

      On the MP4/20 – sorry I might not have been very clear above, but Matt’s closest to nailing it.

      Every recent McLaren car in that room was a championship winner. The MP4/20 was also in there, even though it didn’t win a championship. But there is a reason why they chose to include it…

      • Jonathan said on 10th August 2009, 22:14

        Oh I see what you meant… no, your wording wasn’t very clear!

        They probably included the MP4/20 in the collection because it is the fastest McLaren of all time, and arguably the fastest F1 car.

  3. mp4-19b said on 10th August 2009, 17:50

    I dunno why the Scottish Parliament Building won the 2005 Stirling Prize :( MTC is the best building in the whole of europe imho & ron dennis deserves every possible accolade for consulting Norman Foster and his company for the construction. i’ve never ever seen a building like the MTC, it is a modern engineering marvel. Ron must be throughly complimented for achieving his life time dream

    This was the mclaren factory in 1986(guess who was visiting :) )

    • mp4-19b said on 10th August 2009, 17:57

      proud to be a mclaren fan & member of the british empire & commonwealth. mclaren technologies is the pride of Britain & her commonwealth.

  4. mp4-19b said on 10th August 2009, 18:31

    Good to see that mclaren are using CATIA :) other PLM softwares are crap, NX included. guess what?? BMW uses NX :)

  5. Sush Meerkat said on 10th August 2009, 18:59

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

    A large body of water is called a “Lake”, not a make.

  6. Ronman said on 10th August 2009, 19:03

    I got a nice book about the MTC when i attended a regional launch of McLaren Automotive. although i am not a fan of the F1 team, I am a fan of Ron Dennis’ school of thought, and next time I’m in the UK, i will be visiting their place. Because despite what team you actively root for in F1, i think McLaren are a symbol of the modern Era, and soon it will be evident that they will be the symbol of technological progress, not just in automotive but other sectors as well.

  7. Oliver said on 10th August 2009, 19:34

    Great article Keith. A very magnificent structure and interior. It’s almost futuristic and well worth whatever was spent erecting it.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th August 2009, 19:43

      Thanks Oliver – no idea how much it cost actually, anyone?

      • An amazing place; a far cry from when I used to occasionally deliver to McLaren’s place in Colnbrook in the early 70s. A figure of $600 million for the Technology Centre I’ve seen.

      • Oliver said on 10th August 2009, 23:27

        It was well over 250million pounds. And that was pre recession money. :-)

      • Martin said on 11th August 2009, 12:06

        Hi Keith,

        I was working in Woking at the time of the build. The Financial Times did a brilliant piece on the project to build the MTC which came in under budget and ahead of time. This was credited to Ron’s attention to project management and proper change control procedures. Interestingly, all construction vehicles were washed on and off site daily.
        Keep up the excellent work.

  8. verasaki said on 10th August 2009, 20:01

    Was the mp4-20 the first car built in the new facility? other than being kimi’s championship car that’s tne only other thing i can think it might be.

  9. sato113 said on 10th August 2009, 21:48

    so nice. probably the best place to work EVER! with a gym and a pool! by the way Keith, what’s the ‘autoclave’???

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th August 2009, 22:44

      It’s not a gym, it’s a “fitness and wellbeing centre” :-)

      An autoclave is what they use to create the carbon fibre components for the car. It’s basically a big oven in which pieces of carbon cloth are baked together using a resin to bond them.

      • michael counsell said on 10th August 2009, 23:21

        Is the idea of a “fitness and wellbeing centre” to attract people who would be put off by the thought of going to gym. Once they start going they then say they are going to a gym, but its not like other gyms…

      • Oliver said on 11th August 2009, 0:04

        More often thant not, in a vacuum also.

      • sato113 said on 11th August 2009, 2:12

        thanks. looked complicated!

        It’s not a gym, it’s a “fitness and wellbeing centre”

        ha much like how they call a motorhome a ‘brand center’ lol

  10. Keith,
    I think it’s great that you have got to do these kind of behind the scenes visits lately; Ferrari at Silverstone, now the MTC.What’s next, Bernie’s paddock motorhome? Then I’d be impressed!

    I went to the Red Bull Technology HQ in Milton Keynes about a year ago for an interview. At the time it felt kind of surreal bring there, but from your pictures I hasn’t got. A patch on the MTC. I used to dislike Mclaren for their corporate image around the late 90’s but now I must say I really admire the way they seem to conduct their business in that minimalist, clean cut kind of way.

  11. Antiriad1974 said on 10th August 2009, 22:19

    Is the MP4/20 there because it won the most races in 2005?

  12. it’s like something out out of star wars, so cool!

  13. NomadIndian said on 11th August 2009, 1:49

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

    “Niagra Falls,” he replies.


  14. Gman said on 11th August 2009, 7:01

    “McLarernesque”…’ve invented a new word Keith.

    Quite an impressive tour Keith…I have seen other features on the building but this was excellent. Kudos to whoever supplied you with the photos.

  15. Kenny77 said on 11th August 2009, 15:44


  16. It may be a magnificent piece of architecture but I wouldn’t say that it looks like the cosiest office in the world. It looks cold and built just for the image. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Mclaren hater, I just personally wouldn’t want to work in such a place. It kind of reminds me of the movie “The Island” ( with all those futuristic buildings and fake front-end.

  17. so Keith – all important question no one has asked – what did they feed you for lunch? Was it any good?! :)

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th August 2009, 23:09

      Yeah it was rather special (actually MP4-19 asked me about it above I just didn’t get round to answering).

      We had a spinach and goats’ cheese tart to start – creamy and thick with flavour. The main was salmon which I never order at restaurants – I don’t really like it – but this was stunning, juicy and sweet-tasting.

      Dessert was caramelised rhubarb with a vanilla creme brulee – which, frankly, was sublime! There were some macaroon-sized chocolate souffle biscuits on the side, which dissolved into tiny fragments of intense chocolate when you popped them in your mouth…

      Damnit I’m hungry now!

  18. Ryan said on 12th August 2009, 4:28

    UNBELIEVABLE! What a factory they have there, i’m green with envy keith. I think it’s way better than Ferrari, also the people who work there.

  19. narendra said on 12th August 2009, 11:29

    Wow what an amazing and world class facility.There is a huge pasion for tha sport at Mclarren. I am d die hard follower of the team since last 10 years I have seen transitions Mika hakkinnen to Lewis Hamilton. This is a total team game everybody contributes to the success of the team and Mclaren being no exception
    I Wish best of luck for their endevours.

  20. on a bit of a downer note… Mclaren were supposed to have made the museum open to public access as part of the original planning negociationa. This STILL has not been done. Keith, next time tyou talk to Mr bishop, challenge him about that huh?
    and dont take any excuses…its there, more or less ready to use if they put anything in…THEY JUST DONT WANT TO….they used the spygate thing as an excuse,saying they didnt have the funds to do it as per the agreement…but they still have the obligation.
    pees me off a bit to be honest…it should be open to the public, as Ron has always said, a deal is a deal!!!!

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