Through the glass front of the curved building, fronted by a broad pond, you can see an assortment of supercars, from vintage automobiles, to Lewis Hamilton’s F1-winning car.
The imposing building is very grand, and looks so modern, almost futuristic; it is hard to believe that it was built in 2005. Nearly everything is constructed from glass and metal, including the wireless tube shaped lifts that travel between the design offices on the top floor, through to the boulevard where cars are displayed, down to the basement where manufacturing takes place.
This is the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey. The premises are so impressive; several of the people I was with when I visited yesterday commented that it wouldn’t be surprising if this was the location of a Bond villain’s base. I was worried that the floor of the lift was going to fall out beneath me and drop me into a pool of sharks because I had seen too much.
I certainly did get to see a lot at the centre. I sat in the Mission Control room where analysts quietly and efficiently observe Formula 1 races and practices to feed information back to the track and the driver. They can then make informed decisions of when the best time to take pit stop is and what strategies to employ on the track.
The centre is also home to an air tunnel, complete with a rolling road and two corners to test out the cars before they go into production. The cars are made at 60% scale and put through their paces in the tunnel along with lasers and smoke to test their aerodynamics.
I was also given a demonstration of how the team changes tires on the F1 cars. The experts can do it in an impressive time of just two seconds. This is thanks to the high-powered pistons they use to remove the wheels. Each gun has the same horsepower as a Porsche 911 Turbo engine.
Along with some other journalists, I was given the chance to partake in a Pit Stop challenge and change a tire myself, although we were obviously given pistons that weren’t as strong! My team managed a time of 5 seconds – not too bad, but I’ll stick to the day job.
I was also fortunate enough to get to sit in the car Jenson Button raced in last season. Being just 5ft4, my feet could barely reach the brake pedals, but I could quite comfortably operate the clutch and acceleration from the steering wheel which was not too dissimilar from a Playstation driving game controller.
It was certainly an impressive collection of technologies and examples of champion engineering and racing were evident to see, from the cars themselves to the extensive trophy case that lined the hallway to the employee cafeteria.
The building is so tidy; there is not a spec of dirt on any of the monochrome surfaces. Even the worker’s desks in the design offices were completely clear apart from a computer and a keyboard. This all echoes Ron Dennis’ obsessive compulsive levels of tidiness and cleanliness. It is rumored that he even has the stones on his gravel drive cleaned.
But it is this level of tidiness that allows such intense focus from all employees, to then achieve levels of near perfection which allows McLaren to stay in pole position in the F1 industry.