We’re in Scotland, so far north that it feels lawless. Any farther north and it becomes godless. We’ve been blessed with bright sunshine for three days straight, but fog is hiding the scenery this morning and photography is off the agenda. Thankfully visibility is good at road level, which means we can at least drive.
There’s just one car I haven’t tried yet: the McLaren 675LT. Its key has been like a ticket to the chocolate factory all week— damned hard to get hold of. But I’ve got it. I drop into the McLaren’s cabin, swing my feet into the footwell, pull the steering wheel towards my chest and, in that moment, completely fall for the LT. The seating position makes me feel like a Le Mans driver.
There’s a bona fide Le Mans driver just ahead of me, in fact. I slot into the line of test cars behind Marino Franchitti, who’s snared the Porsche 911 GT3 RS for this morning’s first run. My palms sweat with excitement for what I know is about to unfold. Over the next 50km or so, following in Marino’s tyre tracks, I drive with more commitment than ever before on the road, trusting his entry speeds and his lines through the corners.
In everything the LT does — the way it grips, steers and brakes, the way it accelerates and corners and the way it sounds — there is certified perfection. If I fell for it at a standstill 50km ago, I’m a zealot for it now. That blast through the far north of Scotland was the single most memorable and exciting drive of my life. I’ve thought about the 675LT, all 497kW of it, every six seconds since that morning last September, and whenever I replay sequences from that drive to myself, I always arrive at the same question: how the hell can the P1 be any more exciting than that?
It’s ten months later. I’m at Anglsey Circuit on a grey day. We’ve spent the past hour or so photographing the P1 on track and with the job done the car’s carbonfibre pendant of a key has been tossed my way. I suddenly find myself with a P1, an empty racetrack and licence to do more or less as I please. The jaded car hack, too seasoned to be impressed by it all. Unflustered.
That’s the impression I should be trying to give. But I feel bloody nervous. I’ve been waiting several years to drive a P1 and I’d sort of written off ever getting the chance to do so. But with the key in my hand, lots of fuel in the tank and the most picturesque circuit in the country at my disposal, the moment is here.
So I get in, swinging my feet into the footwell. Just like the LT, the P1 has that prototype-racer seating position, but even more reclined. The low scuttle, the panoramic view through the windscreen. Racetracks kill all sense of straight-line acceleration, so even the likes of the Audi R8 V10 Plus or Nissan GT-R just don’t feel that fast on circuit. The first time I bury my right foot in the P1 through second, third and fourth gears, though, I’m stunned. With 673kW the rate of acceleration is furious, with a runaway-train sense of panic.
The enormous grip through the banked hairpin, the sheer power of the brakes. The surprisingly playful and adjustable balance. Within two laps my brain is scrambling to keep ahead of the car, ahead of the corners that keep on arriving so suddenly. But I have to stop because there’s real work to be done: out on the road, 675LT behind me, inferior in every single way.
Photo Gallery of McLaren 570LT:
I don’t know what else I was expecting of the P1, but I can’t quite believe how raw it feels. Stones ping loudly into the underside of the carbon tub and tyres slap noisily into the road surface. The soundtrack from behind is the uncultured, tuneless din of industrial turbocharging: whooshes under load and piercing whistles off throttle. The car feels rigid over these bumpy roads in north Wales, dropping heavily into potholes, suspension just about rounding off the edges enough to keep it the right side of useable.