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The History and Evolution of the McLaren P1


When it comes to high speed and excellent performance, few car manufacturers know how to blend the two as immaculately as McLaren. So when the marque unveiled the McLaren P1 to a mystified audience at the 2012 Paris Motor show, the response mirrored the expected results.

All 375 production models were snatched up faster than Kim Kardashian’s millions in the Paris robbery, with 34 percent of the limited production run being accounted for by US customers. Let’s take a closer look at the history and evolution of the McLaren P1.

Influential Model

When the McLaren F1 was launched about two decades ago, it seemed to break all boundaries. It came with futuristic looks, a dynamic body, and a record speed of 240.1mph.

Even now, the car still looks ahead of its time. The McLaren P1 is its rightful successor from inch to inch. The car pioneered the incorporation of a carbon fiber tub in a road car, a technology developed by McLaren and one that is still highly regarded in current models.

The car also came with a handcrafted V-12 engine, a one-of-a-kind central driving position, and integrated gold foil in the engine bay for heat reflection. Although not initially intended for competition, the McLaren F1 transformed into a magnificently successful race car, subsequently winning the 1995 Le Mans 24 hours.


The McLaren P1 takes automotive design to a whole new level, devoid of cocky styling features and needless ornaments. Every inch has been designed for maximum efficiency, with enough aerodynamic consideration for a Formula One car.

The cockpit is fitted exactly at the center, with the overall bodywork being “shrink- wrapped” tightly over the car’s technical hard points. As a result, frontal surface area has been minimized while still facilitating airflow over the surface, through the roof snorkel intake of the engine, and into the active aero components.

Apart from the looks, the car is extremely resourceful. It utilized unique lightweight seats featuring thin carbon fiber shells. But don’t let their low mass construction fool you: the seats are surprisingly strong and comfortable for long journeys. They are mounted onto lightweight brackets, with their backs fixed at an ideal angle of 28 degrees. Overall, each seat weighs a mere 10.5 kg.

The carbon fiber/alcantara steering wheel was also ergonomically designed, incorporating easy-to-reach IPAS and DRS systems. Three TFT screens were fitted with 4 switchable modes for instrumentation display. Despite its mechanically complex construction, all the systems in the McLaren P1 work seamlessly to ensure impeccable performance and driver satisfaction.


New Technologies

McLaren went all in when it came to incorporating new technologies into the car. The complexity of the McLaren P1 is reminiscent of an aircraft than a typical car, representing the passion and knowledge of the engineering team behind it.

Everything is geared towards ensuring maximum dynamic experience for the driver. In particular, it is equipped with an IPAS electrical assistance system – classified as one of the greatest hybrid powertrains to be fused into a car - and was specifically designed to have a longer lifespan on the track.

The RaceActive Chassis Control (RCC) system provides unparalleled adjustability to the chassis, while the car’s active aerodynamics helps reduce drag and maximize down-force.


The P1 was 5.5 faster than its successor. It could sprint from 0 to 62mph in 2.8 seconds, 0 to 124mph in 6.8 seconds, and 0 to 186mph in 16.5 seconds. Although electronically limited to a maximum speed of 218mph, its top speed was actually 249mph.

With a dry weight of 3,075lb (1,395kg), the P1’s power to weight ratio was 647bhp/tonne. The car also featured specially-developed carbon ceramic brakes and bespoke Pirelli P-Zero tires, which helped it brake from 190mph to standstill in 6.2 seconds.


Models it Inspired

McLaren P1 GTR


To celebrate twenty years since the marque won the 24 Hours Le Mans in 1995, McLaren decided to bring the GTR name back to life with the introduction of the P1 GTR. The car was inspired by the P1, and was a track-only model.

It was only available to the P1 owners, with a limited production of 35 units. In stylish pose, the concept car made its appearance at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2014, but it was only until 2015 that the production model was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show.

It came with a $2.3 million price tag, which included a global owners track-day series. The price was later reduced to around $1.7 million to cater for the P1 owners who were interested in purchasing the GTR variant, but did not exactly care for the track series.

According to McLaren, this should be their most powerful model to date, with a power output of 987bhp. The car featured slick tires and greater levels of aerodynamics, down-force, grip, and performance when compared to the road car. Ideally, the car was meant to offer the ultimate track experience, featuring a new exclusively-designed exhaust, a fixed back wing with DRS capability, and a new fixed ride-height. The P1 GTR can run from 0 to 60mph in 2.4 seconds and achieve a maximum speed of 225mph. Alternatively, it could brake from 60mph to halt in 85ft.

McLaren P1 LM


After the P1 GTR adapted the McLaren P1 for on-track performance, Lanzante – the outfit that geared the one and only McLaren F1 GTR to enormous success at the 1995 Le Mans – returned the car on the road in the form of the transfigured P1 LM. Only 28 units of the F1 GTR were ever produced, and only 6 of the F1 LM have been made.

McLaren kept one and sold the rest. While the car maintained the same specs as the GTR, it was actually designed for road-use. Some of the changes involved in transforming the original P1 GTR into a roadster included re-tuning the hybrid powertrain to maintain the 986hp power output while utilizing 99-octane pump gas at higher temperatures.

The integrated air-jacking system was done away with to reduce the weight, and then the automaker introduced polycarbonate windows, and refabricated the bolts with titanium and exhaust & cat pipes with lightweight Inconel.

The car also benefited from a new steering wheel and rolling stock, as well as an open carbon fiber roof. The interior was trimmed in Alcantara, and a bigger rear wing and front splitter was introduced to increase the down-force by forty percent. The final product was something out of the movies, likely to embarrass virtually anything on the track or road.

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Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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