How fast would the McLaren go? Well 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds is a good start but 0-100mph in 6.3 is a far better performance indicator. It gets from 0-130mph in less time than it took the Ferrari to reach 100mph but the killer is the 0-150mph time: 12.8 seconds is almost five seconds faster than the XJ220, the very fastest road car I have driven up until now. It’s worth bearing in mind too that, while it took the Jag 11.1 seconds to go from 150-170mph, the McLaren requires just 3.5 to do the same…
Looking back, it was a little bewildering as your body grew acclimatized to forces it simply never expected to encounter in that environment. I remember not just the thrust, but its relentless nature too: in fifth gear the F1 would accelerate from 30-50mph and 130-150mph in the exact same three seconds flat. It felt like it would never end. Someone far braver than me had got the Jaguar to 203mph on the runway by flying around the quick bend that leads onto it as fast as a very fast car could go. By contrast I got the McLaren to 211mph from a standing start, Palmer to 217mph still with space to spare. Had it mattered, 220mph would unquestionably have been achievable.
Sitting here in 2016 our knowledge of the outer limit of road car performance is now defined by the McLaren P1, LaFerrari and Porsche 918, at least for those of us blessed to have driven all three. Thanks not only to their immense power, but also their sticky tyres, traction control system and paddle-shift transmissions, their numbers make even those of a McLaren F1 look a little anaemic, though it’s interesting to note and fair to say they’ve advanced the art less far in 20 years than did the F1 over the XJ220 in just two.
And now, or at least in a couple of years time, it seems we’re going to make another F1-style leap. What will it feel like for those who get to experience it? If the F1 experience is any guide, first it will be incomprehensible and really rather frightening for anyone not used to driving top level racing cars. It will feel less like you’re heading for the horizon and more like the horizon is heading for you. Your world will shrink to the size of the small bubble that is the cockpit as your brain shuts out everything else to try to deal with what it is being asked to process. And then the drugs will flow: the adrenalin followed by the endorphins. Once you’re done you’ll sit there like a fool with a dazed expression on your face, and someone will come over and say, ‘well, what was that like?’ Your mouth may open but no words will spill forth, least none of any value. You’ll look and sound like an idiot. But you’ll feel like a hero.